Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Yet another facet

10:16 p.m. Today's project was to grasp the enormity of my late husband Steve's impact and influence on the City of Riverside, particularly on the scores of thousands of students of the Riverside Unified School District.

I received a letter on District letterhead from the current board president Gayle Cloud, stating that the January 22nd meeting of the Board was adjourned in Steve's memory! I was surprised, and tearfully so, as yet another aspect of Steve's life of serving Christ by serving others was brought to my remembrance.

Steve surely forgot the 13 years of public service we were called to as a couple and a family, but Steve himself has not been forgotten. He was a man who himself had not held office, but was seen and known for his smile, kindness, willingness to work with educators, other parents, and civic groups, into whose home the Mayor even came for a sit-down visit. Steve never wavered in wholehearted support for me from the moment in 1990 when I revealed to him that God had told me to run for the local school board. He participated as needed, or stayed home with the kids, through two years of preparation, in order for me to chair PTA and School Site Council boards as president for both Taft Elementary and North High School.

He cheerfully helped me set up PTA meetings and stayed late with me to clean up, making friends and quickly learning to become conversant on public education issues. Our standpoint was biblical and conservative; our purpose was to put parents back in the leadership of the school district, as truly equal partners with the administrators. Above all, we were determined to publicly stand for God and the parental rights guaranteed by law, ie., that parents may determine the upbringing of their children as they see fit according to their strongly held beliefs. And, as God had directed,  I ran for the Board of Education, winning resoundingly, to see the schools return to partnership with parents, as they were when I grew up. Parents didn't worry about immorality being promoted in public schools decades ago. And in my first term alone, many practices were halted, such as condom demonstrations on cucumbers and sex education given without written parent permission; Planned Parenthood was stopped from establishing a clinic at Ramona High School; and solidly legal rights of Christian teachers were upheld, such as being allowed to pray and have Bible studies during off-duty time. And the right for students to gather annually for "See you at the Pole" before school was reinforced.

Student Christian clubs were also given the same rights and standing on high school campuses as secular or academic ones. Our son Sean led the first Christian club established at North High School in 1991, but full rights were granted after my election. Our election, that is, really, it was God's election!

I couldn't have done any of these things without strength and guidance from the Lord, and my tireless precinct-walking husband (and kids); nor without the hundreds of signs Steve singlehandedly put out around the district. Steve and I had it down--he and I could flyer a precinct, door-to-door, selecting registered "high-propensity" voters, with me speaking to voters and him leaving my literature, in a single afternoon.
After grueling times for parents like myself who had to teach our own kids to read using phonics, I rallied hundreds of parents, and made one presentation after another, to get new reading curriculum instated.Steve attended meetings at home and at school as his work permitted.

In the community, Steve was actively involved along with me, with Eastside African-American and Latino pastors and youth workers to bring constructive activities to the youth there. He never missed a Black Republican or Martin Luther King banquet or formal fundraising event, such as the ones that raised enough money for a huge bronze statue of Dr. King to be placed at City Hall. Steve also put on a tux for many Junior League Balls and other community charitable events, and even went on the Home Tour, to raise funds for scholarships. The "quiet man" whose preference was to work behind the scenes, became publicly recognizable, and deservedly so!

I doubt Steve ever wrote "politics" on any essay at school on future ambitions. Yet, because of my right hand man's (or better yet, God's man's) active public involvement, thousands of public school children received a superior education in neighborhood schools; administrators who once dreaded my presence put on fundraisers for me by my third election contest; mayoral committees had solid Christian conservative input; citizen taxpayers were clearly represented.

Now believers here in Riverside have a major challenge before us--to save the cross atop Mt. Rubidoux by raising funds to purchase the .43 acre it stands on. The formerly healthy, committed and enthusiastic Steve would have been with me at the upcoming community rally, and walked up the mountain afterwards without breaking a sweat. (I'll do my best). How he would have willingly joined the fight as a citizen and a believer. His children and I will carry on and honor the faith he professed, you can be sure.

As I thought of Steve's selfless and steadfast service to his beloved Riverside, the Lord brought Nehemiah to mind. In the 5th century B.C., after leading a group to the land of Israel from the captivity in Babylon, Nehemiah directed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. He cleansed the nation of pagan worship and appointed those to serve in leading the worship of the one true God. In the last sentence of the book, Chapter 13:31, he wrote,

Remember me, O my God, for good!

We remember you, dear Steve, and we thank you!

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