I received news just recently that one of my heroes had left this land for the better one. It was not unexpected, he had been in failing health for many months, needing more and more care from his family to stay in the home he loved at age 91.
We, my wife and I, became friends with his daughter and son-in-law many years ago when we all attended the same church. They invited us to St. Ignace to visit Glen Memorial Baptist Church, a small church in the small town where she had grown up and the church that her dad had pastored for many years.
We drove to St. Ignace one Sunday morning to witness for ourselves the church that was so important to her. I remember the services, the welcoming people, the great music and I remember the minister at that time giving a nice message. But the part of that day that sticks in my mind most of all, is that we were invited over to her parent’s home after church. My wife and myself and our three children. An important part of this story is that this is way out of my comfort level, to go to someone else’s home for any reason, people I had never met before, and to eat with them without vetting the food we would be obligated to eat. (I think those are the three strikes that should have kept me out of a situation like that. They did not.)
Wayne Foote was a “retired” pastor in name only because he continued to shepherd the family of God for his entire life. And his wife, Margot. And our friends. And us.
Five of us, strangers to everyone on “that” side of The Bridge. (The Bridge is the suspended highway that joins the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. Appropriately, and with only a hint of disdain, people who live below the bridge are called “trolls.”) But in spite of our “below the bridge” status, we were welcomed with open arms, kind of like we were some part of the family.
I don’t remember what was on the menu for lunch. I don’t remember much of that afternoon, but I do remember spending time talking one-on-one with Rev. Foote. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember thinking how much I liked and respected this man even though we had just met.
He was graciously disarming. He was more at ease asking about my life and what was important to me than pontificating on his accomplishments. I felt “liked” by someone who had no reason to like or dislike me yet. We went up to St. Ignace a few more times to church but never went to their home again. Since that initial meeting, I believe I only saw Wayne Foote one more time in the intervening nearly 40 years. But I have never forgotten that day, in his home, alone for a half-hour, feeling like he really liked me—almost loved me. But whether it was “like” or “love,” I knew that this was a special man.
Love. It seems to be just another four-letter word that demands definition like all other words. It seems to be easily defined and the Internet does just that: “an intense feeling of deep affection, a great interest and pleasure in something, a person or thing that one loves (as in: “their two great loves are tobacco and whiskey”), feel deep affection for (someone), like or enjoy very much (as in: “I just love dancing”).”
The family that I grew up in was not welcoming to strangers and foreigners. I remember friends of the family stopping in at my parent’s house but not being invited in. Visitors were thought to be an interruption, an intrusion into the really important stuff like the daily schedule. Ruth and I experienced it, even with my own family, one of whom told us, “After this, if you want to see us, call earlier in the day before you just ask if you can come over” (we had called ahead but only by about ten minutes). I did it myself to a nephew from Grand Rapids. He, his wife and their small daughter walked across the yard to our house. I met them in the yard and made small talk, never inviting them in. As much as I remember Wayne Foote’s welcoming me in to his home, I remember me not welcoming my nephew.
Our two towns, St. Ignace and Petoskey, are less than forty miles apart. In my job, I have contact every so often with people from St. Ignace. I always say, “Do you know Wayne Foote?” I drop his name as I would drop the name of any celebrity, wishing to use their fame to make me look good. Thinking, “If you like Rev. Foote, and I know him, maybe you will think well of me.” And, unless they only sped through St. Ignace on their way to some far-off corner of the UP or Canada, they know Wayne Foote. And I have yet to hear anyone say a bad word about him, or even say a good word about him sarcastically.
Not too long ago, his daughter told me that her dad had sent money to a scam artist. Of course he did. Because he thought the best of people and his love for people demanded that he help them. The scammer promised that the money would go to help the church. And a 90-year-old man fell for it.
A pastor-friend told me one time that as people age and lose some of their grip on their mental faculties, that they become who they have always been but have been able to keep hidden. Even though Wayne Foote lost a little bit of judgment or discernment, he was who he always was, a man who loved the church and who loved people, and who knew that love demanded action. After all, in his world, people were far more important than money.
The Bible, as usual, gives better definition to the word love than the Internet: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” Love is not defined by other words, or even strings of them. Love is defined by action. God defined His love by loving unlovable people enough to send His Son. Wayne Foote defined love by welcoming five trolls into his house for an afternoon and making at least one of them feel loved. Wayne Foote defined love by the way he took care of Margot, the woman he met when they were both young teenagers, caring for her long after her dementia kept her from recognizing him. In ministering to her every day, he became the unofficial chaplain of the nursing home, showing everyone who took notice a little glimpse of “Jesus with skin on.”
Wayne Foote defined love by the way he lived his life in a small town where everyone knew everyone, and everyone knew if “everyone” was who they purported themselves to be or if they were a hypocrite living a lie. Wayne Foote’s humble life was no lie.
That long ago Sunday in their home Wayne Foote shared shelter and food with the trolls, but he shared for more, he shared his time. The house is still in the same place as when we visited. Grocery stores are still selling food every day. But the time he gave to me is gone. He gave me a part of him, of his life. There was a tiny part of me, that day and since, that wishes I were more like him, but the age of miracles, at least miracles that big, is over.
I admire him. For the life he lived, and not just for a year or a string of years, or fits and spurts, but for his entire life. I admire him for the family he helped raise. For some, Christianity is something that they put on and take off as it best suits them. For Wayne Foote, it wasn’t Christianity, a religion that he put on, it was living like Jesus, his Savior that he wore humbly.
Wayne Foote was my hero because he lived a life of truth and grace, not for a few moments, or a few months, or a few years. He lived his entire life that way. All of it. He didn’t live his life at the expense of others, using them to gain advantage for himself. He lived to serve others. (Matthew 20:25-28 KJV But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. (26) But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; (27) And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: (28) Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.)
I am thankful to have met him. In this day, when it seems as though character no longer matters, I am thankful for meeting a man who took seriously the life that Jesus calls each of us to. I am a better man for knowing him. If not actually being a better man, I am challenged to be so. I thank you Wayne Foote, for living a life like Jesus did—a life of grace and truth with skin on.
Obituary for Rev. Wayne Eddie Foote
Rev. Wayne E. Foote passed from life unto life on December 13, 2022, at the age of 91.
Wayne Eddie Foote was born in Eaton Rapids, MI on April 20, 1931, and was raised there. When he was 14 years old, on March 18, 1946, he understood that Jesus died on a cross to save him from his sin, he accepted that free gift and prayed to receive Christ as his Savior and Lord and was reborn as a child of God on that day. He has spent the rest of his life sharing the Good News of Jesus’ love.
At the age of 15, he met the love of his life, Margot Ralston (13), who was a student in his mother’s Sunday school class. After high school graduation, Wayne and Margot attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. Wayne graduated on July 31, 1952, and Margot and he were married two days later, on August 2.
After their honeymoon at Thunder Lake, where Wayne’s family had vacationed since he was eight years old, they moved to St. Ignace to begin their lifelong work at Hiawatha Baptist Mission Church, which later became Glen Memorial Baptist Church (GMBC). The original church was a little log cabin in Evergreen Shores, and in October of 1953, construction began on the church building that stands to this day on Truckey Street. Much of the construction was done by Wayne’s own hands, men of the church and men who came to town to build the Mackinac Bridge.
Wayne also worked for 33 years as a letter carrier for the United States Post Office. He knew practically everyone in St. Ignace and was often found singing his way through town. He loved St. Ignace with all his heart and was the biggest fan of all things St. Ignace Saints, especially basketball and football! He was even honored with the title of Honorary Captain of the girls’ basketball team.
Wayne served as pastor of GMBC for 29 years and retired in 1981. Sadly, Margot suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and Wayne spent the next 20 years caring for her. When the disease progressed to the point where Margot was admitted to Mackinac Straits Long Term Care, Wayne lovingly visited her every day to feed her lunch and dinner. He told her until her dying day how beautiful she was, how soft her skin was and how much he loved her blue eyes. It has been said that the best sermon he ever preached was his loving care for Margot: feeding her day after day, caressing her cheek, and kissing her tenderly.
He is survived by his five daughters, Judy (Merv) Wyse, Janet (Steve) Peterson, Jeanne (Rick) Litzner, Jacque (Dick) Ward, and Jessica (David) Davis; 20 grandchildren and their spouses; 26 great-grandchildren and two on the way; as well as Margot’s sister, Nancy Livingston, of Sheridan, WY; three nieces and three nephews.
Visitation will be held Wednesday, December 21, 2022, from 5:00 PM till 7:00 PM and Thursday, December 22, 2022, from 10:00 AM till 11:00 AM at the Glen Memorial Baptist Church, 219 Truckey Street, St. Ignace, MI. The funeral service will follow at 11:00 AM. A luncheon will follow in the church fellowship hall.
Memorial contributions can be made to the GMBC new church building fund.
Burial will be at Lakeside Cemetery in the Spring 2023.
The Lord said unto him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:23(a)