Saturday, December 23, 2017


Paul and Wilhelmine King

Practically parents, they were a significant part of my life for the last fifty plus years. To understand our relationship, I have attached what I said at the funeral home for both of them. He was a Baptist who attended a United Church of Christ church near his house later in life. She was a Lutheran from birth, but they were equal opportunity church goers when they did go. They attended a lot of my Masses when I had a special occasion - ordination, twenty-fifth anniversary or whatever came up, like parents would do. This photo was a gift  I gave them of their 50th wedding anniversary. I took them to a professional photographer - something they would never have done for themselves. To understand them, I will start with her funeral first. 

July 22, 1999
Rev. Ronald Knott

Wilhelmine!  Mrs.  King!  Monica!  Mama King!  Monie!  Wifey!  We called her by many names, but whatever name we called her by, we knew her as “one of a kind.”  She was a unique woman, if there ever was one!  To meet her was to remember her! She was German to the core and proud of it!  She was Paul’s beloved wife for 51 years.  She was friend to Inge and Lori even longer.  She was friend to Jack for over 40 years. She was my friend and substitute mother for 34 years!  She was a special friend to Connie for the last few years.  She was sister-in-law to Linda and Elwanda.  She was sister to Ludwig. She was friend to hundreds of others too numerous to mention 

We are here today to celebrate her life here on earth with Paul, her family and her friends.  But we are also here to celebrate her entry into eternal life with the God, the God  who made her and sustained her for almost 81 years!  Before we talk about her life, let me say a few things about the God who gave her, not only this life, but eternal life as well.

(1) Who is this God who created such an interesting woman?  Who is this God who has created us and sustains us, even as we speak?  Wilhelimine was a character and looking out over this room, she had an interesting assortment of characters for her friends as well.  The Bible tells us that when God looked at everything he had created, he saw that “it was very good.”  There is a built-in goodness in each one of us: not matter what we think of ourselves or what others may think of us, no matter what we have done or failed to do.  In fact, the Bible says that we are all “created in the very image and likeness of God.”  I have imagined God laughing to himself the day Wilhelmine was born.  I imagine God saying to the angels: “this ought to be interesting!” And so she was----a very interesting woman indeed.

(2) What about the life that Wilhelmine is now enjoying?  St. Paul said to right when he once wrote that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, the great things that God has is store for those who love him.”  People have struggled for centuries in attempts to describe what heaven might be like: more poetry than in prose  No one knows for sure, of course, but the Bible gives us images, metaphors and word pictures that at least try to give us a sense of the wonderful things that await us on the other side.  One of the most common images of heaven in the Bible is that of a “great banquet” to which  all those who love God are invited to share.  I chose our first reading from Isaiah the prophet for that very reason.  Isaiah speaks of heaven as a mountaintop feast of “juicy rich food and choice wine.”  As a woman who loved food, especially sweets, I have no doubt that Wilhelmine could appreciate that image!  She could not have described heaven any better herself:  free food and plenty of it!  I guess it goes back to growing up during the second world war! I learned a long time ago that the best way to her heart was through her stomach.  Her idea of an appropriate Christmas present was a box of food. Very seldom did many of us  visit her without taking some food in hand.  If we didn’t, we lived to regret it! 

(3) And how do we get to heaven?  The gospel I chose today gives us the clue.  I didn’t wear this Roman collar too much when I was with her: more often it was blue jeans and shorts.  But when I did,  she always told me I “looked good” in my “uni-form.” She thought it looked good, but it did not impress her.  She helped me realize long ago that not all spiritual people are church goers and not all church goers are spiritual people.  She was not a church goer, but she was a deeply spiritual person.  She had a soft spot in her heart for the hungry, the orphaned and the hurting: be it taking-in a bashful, backward 21 year old from the country like myself or Edd Roe or giving a bag of stale doughnuts and a slightly old sandwich to a hungry young lifeguard at the spa or bag of trinkets for the lady in the camera department at K Mart.  Her compassion extended even to the birds and squirrels that she fed every day or some mangy dog she found on the street.  She literally talked to the animals! That’s why we will pray the Prayer of St. Francis today in her memory.  He is always pictured feeding and blessing the animals. As tough as she was on the outside, she could be moved to tears by a sad story on TV.    She may not have been a church goer, but in the words of Jesus “as long as she did it to the least of these, she did it for me.”

And so, as we gather to say goodbye to her today, we thank God for all the goodness he has shown her over 80 years.  We thank God for all the blessings that came to us through her.  I believe that even now she is “chowing down” at the heavenly banquet table and this time she won’t have to sweat for hours in the sauna before she get weighed in by her TOPS group at the church behind her house.

And, yes, she could be a tough old lady.  I would describe her as a tough woman with a big heart.  She could be blunt, gruff, demanding and unyielding.  She described herself as “open schpoken” and didn’t particularly care whether you liked it or not.  There are several of us who have hung up the phone on her more than once, right Inge, Lori, Jack, Connie?  But the things is we could never stay mad for very long, could we?   There was something about her that made us know she did not mean it, so we forgave her and she forgave us seventy-times seventy times.

As most of you know, she was born and raised in southern Germany, in the Alps, not far from the Austrian border.  Two of her favorite movies were the Sound of Music and Heidi.  God only knows how many times she watched those movies.  It was her way of revisiting her beloved Alps and remembering her home in Bavaria.  She loved schmaltz.  So we will sing “Edelweiss,” from the Sound of Music, at the end of this service as a final send-off!  “Edelweiss” are small white flowers that grow in the Alps. She had some real ones, dried and framed, on her kitchen wall.

Another song from the Sound of Music was “A Few Of My Favorite Things.” I sat down this week and tried to remember some of her favorite things.  Let me share them with you.  She loved Christmas and Christmas presents.  She has enough Christmas decorations in her basement to decorate New York!  She loved sweets, especially chocolate, if it was German chocolate, all the better!  She loved food in general, but in particular she loved spaetzele, weiner schnitzel, swartzewalder kirsch torte, sauerbraten, a beer once in a while, coffee and kuchen in any shape or size. She loved her junk.  I believe she must have the world’s largest collection of plastic beads.  She loved her car, her daily shopping trips and nice lunches out, especially if she could get somebody else to pay for them!   She was Queen of the Discount!  As a matter of principle, she never paid ticket price for anything.  She knew where the senior citizen discount coffee deals were.  She knew the restaurants where they gave out small free birthday cakes.  She had a coupon for everything.  She could get salespeople in any store to take back anything, no matter how many years ago she bought it.  She loved photos.  She has boxes and boxes of them.  She hated beards.  She told me to shave this off, at least once a week for 30 years!  She didn’t get jokes, no matter how hard Paul and I laughed. She loved her friends and loved interacting with them.  Finally, and most of all, she loved her “Paulie,” the perfect partner for such a unique woman.  Paul, there has never been a man who has treated his wife as well as you have yours!  You are so lucky because you have nothing to regret. I am sure that all of you could add a hundred other things to this list.  In short, she loved her life, her Germany, her husband and home and her friends in a million small ways. 

Finally, allow me to be even a little more personal. The first time I met her was the day I showed up 34 years ago to rent her basement apartment.  She was sitting in a plastic “kiddy pool” in her back yard.  She could not understand why I would not take off my clothes and get in there with her!  Many nights she would call, just to say “goodnight.” I wished I had saved some of her messages on my answering machine.  They were a riot! The last meal we had together was at my house on the Fourth of July.  I made her a German chocolate cake.  The last time I saw her well was waving at me from her back porch.  No matter which way I left, she always came out onto the back porch and waved till I got out of sight! The last time she spoke to me was last week when she first got to the hospital.  I leaned over and asked her she if she knew who I was.  She cocked her one good eye up at me and whispered, “You’re my baby!” She always said that when we would have a little falling out.  She’s call and say, “You’re still my baby!” Man, am I going to miss her!

Paul, we are all here to support you!  Thanks for everything, Wilhelmine!  It’s been a wonderful adventure!

DECEMBER 21, 2017

Rev. Ronald Knott

I met Paul King a little over 50 years ago. I started renting his basement apartment first, along with other “orphan children” like Edd Roe. Once we were “taken in” by Paul and Wilhelmine, some of us have been involved in his life, to one degree or another, ever since. Even when I quit renting the basement, I basically had a “home away from home” upstairs. I would stay with them when I came to Louisville, like they were my family, when I was first ordained and living in Somerset and Monticello. I think one of my main roles was to “take Wilhelmine off Paul’s hands” so he could have a few hours of peace watching TV in the other room. More than 50 years! Wow! Edd, we were all young back then – even Paul and Wilhelmine were in their early 40s!

I am going to read a Scripture, talk about it a bit and then invite you to share a few comments, but first I want to say a few words to his sister, Linda. I want to start there.

Linda, we can’t thank you enough – me, Edd and Vicki, Jack, Inge and Lori – for all you have done to help Paul at the end of his life. We all know that it was not easy. Paul was beginning not to be Paul about the time you took him to Hopkinsville. You had your own losses and your own health problems, but you gave him a good ending and we appreciate it. He deserved it. None of us wanted Paul to suffer in any way. You did a good job under very difficult circumstances. God will bless you for it and we thank you for it.

The Scripture I have chosen is the call of the apostles from John’s Gospel. I want to focus on one of them – a disciple named Nathaniel, called “Bartholomew” in the other three gospels.  When Jesus saw Nathaniel, he said, “Behold a true Israelite (a true man of God)! There is no duplicity in him!”

This was Paul King, as we knew him! (1) He was a man of God. (2.) There was no guile – no duplicity – in him.

Paul King was a man of God. I heard many times from Wilhelmine that he would kneel beside his bed every night and say his prayers. He was a Baptist at heart, but went to the United Church of Christ right down from his house on Eastern Parkway out of convenience.

As a Baptist, a profession of faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and adult baptism were important to him. He told me in the early 1980s that he had never been baptized, but would love to be baptized. That was before he joined the United Church of Christ near his house, so he did not have a church home. I told him that I would baptize him, not in a Catholic Church, but the way that meant something to him. I baptized him in my hot tub down at the lake. I filled it with fresh water. With Wilhelmine  looking on with pride and a good amount of disbelief, I ask him to profess his faith in Jesus Christ. Then I immersed him under the water three times – in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Besides being a man of God, a “saved" Christian, there was absolutely no guile– no duplicity in him. He was almost childlike – not childish, but childlike! Did Jesus not say, “Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God?” Unless you become trusting and innocent, you cannot really know God.

Of course, the other side of being without duplicity, being childlike, is that you can be naïve. I can remember the story of him working for that post-depression work program out west somewhere when he was a young man. He had made several gold coins, I believe, when someone stole them or cheated him out of them on the way home! He sent money to probably some suspicious charities and worst of all, he got into that scam toward the end that none of us could talk him out of!   He was convinced he was on the verge of millions of dollars. It aggravated us, and probably scared Linda, but we need to remember that it came from that “good place” inside him, a place of innocence, childlikeness and no duplicity!

Before I open this up for a little sharing, let me say thank you to Linda again. Let me say thank you to Edd and Vickie who were so faithful. Jack cannot be here because of his health, but send his good wishes. Jack was so good to Wilhelmine and Paul. He was so faithful for many years, so helpful taking him to appointments during his last years. Inge and Lori were there for him in a thousand ways – being his friend, playing cards, going to the German-American Club activities, taking him food and visiting him.  Thank you, especially, for being patient with him when he began “losing it.” Not one of us wanted to do anything to hurt Paul or see Paul hurt. I know I am going to miss some things, so that’s why I thought I’d ask you each to share your favorite PAUL KING STORY before we close with a prayer.  Remember, he was a Baptist so we are not listing things so that we can prove that he earned salvation. Salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned. The good that he did was always a response to that free gift of salvation. By the way, despite what people say about us, we Catholics believe that too! Good deeds are a RESPONSE to free salvation!

(Now, let's hear from some of you here today! Some shared stories.)

(Front row) Inge Holl of Louisville, friend from their days in Germany when Paul was a US soldier in World War II. (Gray sweater) Paul's sister, Linda, from Hopkinsville. (Black sweater) Paul's neice, Jackie. (Man in gray coat and tie) Mr Daniels, son of Inge. Jack Anderson, very close friend and helper, could not be there. He resides at Nazareth Home. Neither could his good friend and neighbor, Lori, who lives in Florida. Edd and Vickie Roe of Paducah are in the picture below. 

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