Pastors' Memoirs

Paul James Widenhouse, 1919-1989

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Paul James Widenhouse was born and grew up near Salisbury, North Carolina. He joined the United States Navy at 17. In Portsmouth, Virginia, during the middle '50s he was finishing a 20-year stint of service when he felt a call to the ministry. Just prior to completing his Navy service he began taking night courses at what was then the Norfolk Extension of William and Mary College. At the same time he worked with another young man also interested in the ministry, Francis Dalton, in helping to start a new church in Alexander Park in Portsmouth.

When he finished his Navy career in 1957 he moved to New London, North Carolina where he completed his college degree at Pfeiffer College in Misenheimer while serving a charge in New London. After graduating in 1959 he moved to the Stafford Charge in Virginia where he finished his seminary work at Wesley in Washington, again graduating with honors.

His first full-time appointment was at Warwick Memorial in Newport News. He continued his ministry at Northview Church in Roanoke, Zion Grace in Norfolk, Francis Asbury in Virginia Beach, Benns Church, and East Hampton.

Paul's work was not spectacular but was solid in accomplishments. His personality was quiet and he approached his work in a very thorough manner. Typical of that was the immaculate way he did his gardening, his one hobby.

I worked with him in revival services in several of his appointments and, at one in Roanoke, he and I climbed the Sugar Loaf Mountain north of the city. It was an exhilarating experience though quite a tiring climb. The view from the top was exciting and we both agreed that it would not have meant as much if it had not cost us as much exertion. While we were talking together there I said I wondered what we would see if we could have such a long view into our future. After a little thought we both decided that that was better left to surprises.

In Paul's case the surprises were not pleasant. While serving at Benns Church his wife, Geneva, came down with Alzheimer's disease at a relatively young age. The degeneration progressed rapidly with a number of very difficult side effects. In a short period of time it was necessary for her to be confined to the hospital at Williamsburg where she still is at this writing.

Paul continued his work for a time and then, as if to add insult to injury, he contracted Parkinson's disease and had to take disability. Who can say why such would happen to those two? One word about it needs to be added, however. I never heard one word of complaint from Paul, nor did he feel sorry for himself. He tried to keep busy with things such as photography as best he could, being helped occasionally by his only child, Carole.

It is sad that we find such weak ways to evaluate the life and work of quiet people. I have the feeling, however, that we are in for some big surprises when our Lord shows us the true evaluation of all of our lives.

-Wrightson S. Tongue



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