Monday, June 18, 2012

R.I.P. Hall Derkin

A friend of mine passed away last Monday (June 11, 2012).  Hall Stewart Derkin was born in the city of brotherly love on April 27, 1918.  He served in the US Army during World War II, attaining the rank of Captain.  He was married for 65 years, raised three sons and helped to raise an unknown number of grandchildren.  He owned his own business and was one of the three founders of a church; Bethany Community Fellowship in Sylvania, Ohio.

That's the facts.  Here are a few things I admired about Hall, along with a few links.

Hall was an honest man.  In fact he was so honest I'd shoot dice with him over the phone.  For instance...

In 1965 Hall Derkin and two other men were holding Church services for about six or eight families at the Toledo Tennis Club.  The three principals decided that a church building should be constructed, and after some consultation they estimated the initial cost at $100,000.  I believe it was Hall who found the site at the North East corner of Flanders and Alexis in Sylvania Township, which was being used as a corn field.  The land was owned by Walter Klewer and was being farmed by Old Man Merce (I knew the Old Man's son, Dickie Merce, who was real nice).  Anyway, Hall got hold of Walter and told him that he wanted to buy the land for the church, and the two men came to an agreement.  Hall was pleasantly surprised by the closing price, because Walter Klewer had something of a reputation for shrewdness.

After Walter had accepted earnest money from Hall and the two shook hands, somehow Walter commented that he was surprised that the church would build out here in a remote area, but he was glad to see it.  Walter had been a staunch Catholic all his life and was glad to sell his property to The Church.  Hall corrected him, telling Walter that the new church building was going to be Bethany Baptist Church.  Walter was surprised and maybe a little dismayed.  When Walter heard that the church wanted to buy the land, he'd naturally thought that Hall meant The Church, as in The Catholic Church - there is only one Church, after all.  Even though money had already changed hands, Hall offered to let him back out of the deal, as Walter had sold the land under a false assumption.  Walter considered the offer and finally refused, saying that "A deal's a deal."  And that was that.

Hall had a dry sense of humor coupled with a very large working vocabulary, and he wasn't a bit afraid to use either one to make a point.  I believe there was one instance when a parishioner remarked to a church elder that that the young children "seemed to be a bit too obstreperous" as they left the sanctuary after service.  Seeing a large question mark over the elder's head, Hall enlightened him.  "He means the kids are too vociferous."  Hall said, keeping a straight face.

Hall was a temperate man, which I admired.  When he and his wife Aurel finally had to leave their home in Sylvania and move to an assisted care facility, Hall didn't like it.  Objectively, Hall and Aurel moved to a luxury hotel.  Kingston Residence of Sylvania bears as much resemblance to the average assisted care facility as the Luxor bears to Hollywood Casino in Toledo, but nice as it is it still isn't home.  Shortly after they moved in Hall got into a heated discussion with a nurse's aid who was insisting on passive, docious cooperation from a man who used to run a five million dollar a year corporation.  After a few terse verbal exchanges, the young man stated hotly, "If you don't like it, why don't you leave!"  This was followed by a long silence while Hall glared at him, probably not trusting himself to respond.

When Hall related this to me, I joked that he'd finally found a good use for the .45 he carried during the war.  Hall agreed.

When Hall was in WWII he and the other officers were issued the standard sidearm: the Model 1911 autoloading pistol in .45 ACP.  Instructions for field stripping the pistol were given to the new recruits while they were standing in line near a hotel swimming pool, as back then quarters were scarce and many hotels were rented and used as barracks for soldiers enduring basic training.  After ejecting the clip and ensuring the pistol was empty, the slide was dropped.  The left thumb was used to depress the recoil spring plug while the fingers of the right hand rotated the barrel bushing ninety degrees to the right.

Once the barrel bushing is rotated ninety degrees to the right, care must be taken not to lose control of the recoil spring plug (and the recoil spring under it), because if you do the damned thing will take off and land somewhere in the swimming pool.

After the instructor had exhausted his considerable invective, he inquired just how the worthless maggot was going to find the spring.  The man in question said he had a plan, which produced the expected result (any of you reading this who have been in the service know what the result was - any others are free to describe this situation and ask any veteran), but as it turned out the plan was a good one.  The recruit borrowed another .45 and duplicated the disaster several times with all the men watching.  Eventually the lost pieces were found and the gun reassembled.  Hall commented that he couldn't hit anything with the .45, but that the pistol could be fired until it was empty and then used to beat the enemy into submission.  He wasn't alone in this belief.

When I was in town I used to go and visit Hall and Aurel at their home.  Oftentimes I'd drive us all out to lunch, Hall having a license but preferring not to drive in Toledo traffic.  I was fortunate to have Hall and Aurel during a tumultuous period in my life; Hall was never too busy to listen and offer sage advice or a word of caution.

Here are a few links which you can read or not as it amuses you:

Hall S. Derkin, 1918-2012: Co-founder of distribution firm fabricated products to meet needs

Hall Derkin

Hall Stewart Derkin

Derkin & Wise, Inc.

Company Overview of Derkin & Wise Inc.

Hall S. Derkin, 1918-2012

Bethany Community Fellowship

Today at the funeral services there were 36 cars that tied up traffic on the way to the cemetery.  Hall would have loved it.


North said...

Sorry about your loss.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks, GBBL. The family is doing pretty well, all things considered.