Pat Sirois lives in apartment 201 at Woodland Garden. I don’t recall how Spirit, Wisconsin entered our conversation. It was one of those small-world moments.
My life of church-related work began the summer of 1945 as student pastor at Spirit Baptist, a small, white church surrounded by fields. Dan and Tillie Nelson and their young children lived on the farm adjacent to the church. Their oldest son was Loren. Turned out, Dan Nelson was Pat’s cousin! Tillie was the faithful church pianist. She didn’t much like me, and for good reason.
When Pat learned of my Spirit connections, she invited me to a cousins’ reunion held last Thursday at a restaurant near Pike Lake. She seated me across from Loren Nelson and his wife Lois. Now 79, Loren was too young in 1945 to remember me, but we filled two hours talking about people we both knew. I turned 22 that summer.
Memories flooded in. I told Loren about the Green Lantern episode that stirred Tillie’s ire. I also told him about a near-tragedy when four young men took their novice pastor shining deer.
I recall the drive to Spirit the first Saturday of June, 1945, I hooked up a rented trailer and pointed my ’31 Chevy for Spirit 200 miles away. Aboard were my family (Sally was not quite three) and two college-age VBS teachers. I planned to preach on Sunday. We reached Spirit Monday, dead broke from three flat tires and two nights in rustic accommodations.
Our family moved into two small rooms in the back of the church, no running water. As summer progressed, the church invited me to continue with them through Christmas. Without a reliable car, I would commute from seminary on the Soo Line, then a steam train, departing Saturday afternoon and arriving at Prentice, 13 miles from Spirit, about two Sunday morning. The return left Prentice at 1:00 A.M. Monday, reaching St. Paul about 8:00 A.M. Clergy fare: $13 round trip. The church paid $25 per week.
My crippled Chevy waited at a garage near the depot to transport me along a winding country road to Spirit. When freeze-up came, adventures began. I abandoned the car on the church drive. Lloyd Nelson gave me ten dollars for it.
The Spirit congregation will celebrate its 125th anniversary in October. I’d love to attend, but I’ll settle for written greetings and reflections. I’ll not mention the Green Lantern.
Old Grandpa Lloyd