Monday, March 31, 2014


     As life unfolds we’re all on unique journeys.  And when you pause to reflect upon memories, some remain indelibly etched in the mind.  Via acquaintances and over time, some of your own unique history resurfaces.  While reliving memories can be painful, often they will bring us comfort and solace.  We might look upon that opportunity as a reawakening, a gift of sorts.  

“Replaying” such memories brings such sweetness to the spirit.  We become not only servants of the past but conduits to mysteries of the future.  
I believe in celebrating life and love so join me in sharing a journey, with the Bishops.

The community of Olney, Illinois was once my residence where Mr. and Mrs. Paul Bishop lived
as well.  At the time he served the community as a County Companies insurance agent, with clients across Richland County and beyond.  In fact, when my husband and I purchased our first place, we took out a homeowner’s policy with his firm.  Gradually Mr. Bishop moved onto corporate management and became Vice President of Country Companies, which is now known as Country Financial.   To numerous friends and acquaintances he was known simply as Skip.   To paraphrase author Zig Ziglar:  “Motivation needs to be a part of your own life for you to be effective in conveying it to other people.”  Those words sum up Skip Bishop’s talents perfectly.  He possessed the demeanor, passion, and drive for coaching and mentoring others.      

His bride Susie is a wife, mother, grandmother, and educator extraordinaire.  She was Skip’s soul mate and the two of them are a duo in every sense of the word.  The couple married in the mid 1960’s while he was beginning studies at S.I.U.   Indeed they both graduated from Southern Illinois University, she with degrees in both elementary and special education. 

I first met Mrs. Bishop at the local park where I worked during the summer as the pool manager.  She was routinely there bringing youngsters to practice or helping at swim meets.  Susie’s energy and friendly smile were contagious and I heard of the wonderful difference she made for youngsters attending schools that were a part of The East Richland Community Unit #1.  Today Mrs. Bishop’s students continue to reap the benefits of her love and devotion as members of a community of learners she took under her wing.  

Whether it was negotiating college, friendships, or their respective careers the duo always made family a priority.  Skip and Susie truly embodied the motto “Love is the bridge between you and everything.”  The Bishops forged a lasting legacy that started with two young lovers from southern Illinois, their progeny, and a passion for helping raise decent human beings.   

Although we never spoke with one another that particular day, I first caught sight of Mr. Bishop during a sultry July weekend at the pool.  He came rushing into an area that was reserved for spectators of the young people involved in an Olney Tigershark invitational swim meet.   

While I cannot recall the teams involved, the excitement and anticipation among the coaches and fans was electric.  The competition’s final event, a freestyle relay pitting the oldest age-group of boys turned out to be the deciding factor in which team would take home the first place trophy.  Susie had been volunteering poolside throughout the afternoon and evening, timing events.  Skip arrived at the midway point of the invitational but the broad smiles he exchanged with his son the moment they spied one another on the deck were unforgettable. Loosening his tie and rolling up white shirt sleeves, Skip turned “cheerleader” and spent the rest of the evening offering encouragement to the Olney swimmers. 

The Bishop’s son was on the relay foursome involved in that final race.  Dad’s enthusiasm reached a fever-pitch as he whistled and yelled “Go Pauly, bring this one home!” Clapping and cheering heartily, he radiated nothing but confidence that a Tigershark would touch the wall ahead of all the others.  Indeed the Olney boys did grab that first place win.     

For this husband and wife, supporting a group of youngsters on a sultry summer day was very simply the right thing to do.  For them nurturing children and their talents was a given, a routine.  Success isn’t always a guarantee but as parents Skip and Susie could help cultivate positive attitudes in kids and support their dreams. 

Several years later Skip Bishop and I crossed paths once again.    That evening he did speak briefly with me, but the circumstances were radically different.  It was Valentine’s Day, a Friday exactly twenty-three years ago.  My husband and I’d planned a weekend trip to St. Louis and arranged to board our cats with a local veterinarian so I was hurrying home to get them delivered to the doctor’s office.  Driving toward our home on Elliott I was surprised to see barricades blocking the street.  I was annoyed because not only was a heavy snow beginning to fall but the vet's office would soon be closing; it was nearly 5:00 P.M.  Suddenly a picture of utter horror unfolded before my eyes, the reason why the police asked me to pull the car over.  Our family home was burning, fully engulfed in flames. 

The one hundred year old brick residence where we resided along with my husband’s parents was actually empty that day.  The two of us were away working at our respective jobs and his parents were both at the local hospital.  His mother Joyce had recently undergone surgery for a knee replacement and her husband Charles was in the long-term care unit as his wife was recuperating.  Toward 3:00 P.M. that afternoon a lady walking her dog past the house noticed the roof beginning to collapse, and bricks crumbling due to the intense heat.  She called the fire department immediately.  

Whether it was because that our house was in an historic section of town or my husband was mayor, the curious group of onlookers was swelling and growing minute by the minute, just beyond the yellow tape surrounding the property.  The scene was a horrible circus.  

Stunned and heart pounding, I found it impossible to take my eyes off the roaring flames coming out of huge gaping holes in the roof and walls of what was once our lovely home.  High winds were hampering efforts to extinguish the blaze, water was freezing as it spewed from  hoses, and the wind was howling.  And whether it was out of respect, fear, or ignorance, no one uttered a single word to me.  It was a nightmare.   

Then I felt a hand on my shoulder.  Turning around I saw Skip Bishop, handing me a cup of hot coffee.  He spoke but a few words.  Yet they were ones that were simple enough for me to absorb in my frantic state of mind:  “I’m so sorry.  Please know that you’ll be okay.

I’ve never forgotten his presence at that moment, nor the significance of his gesture on a February night twenty-three years ago.  The way that both Skip Bishop and his wife Susie live their lives and nurture relationships with others is quite simple:   whatever tasks you undertake, accomplish them with compassion and commitment. Your actions shall speak for themselves, long after the lesson is over and the day is done. 

 One way to make a significant difference for others is helping to instill pride and willing spirit in a child.  Why?  Because someone is always watching, learning, and in turn can be able to help others someday.     

His beloved family lost Mr. Bishop on March 15, 2014.  In the spirit of thankfulness for his unmistakable gifts, let us all strive to do what is right.  Determine to step forward with an optimistic, faithful, and a “can-do,” attitude that Skip and Susie exude for others.  

In fact every March I’m going to send $23.00 to the Skipper Bishop Memorial Scholarship Fund, as a way of ensuring that simple acts and lessons of love and faithfulness will thrive in his honor.  

Join me and mail your contribution to Mrs. Paul (Susie) Bishop in care of P.O. Box 13, Olney, Illinois 62450.  This fund established in Skip's memory is to be awarded to a Gallatin County High School graduating senior from his hometown, Equality, Illinois.