90 Years Old and Counting

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jun 19, 2010

"Great men stand like solitary towers in the City of God."

"The family of the Reverend Robert A. Krempels invites you to celebrate an incredible man on the occasion of his 90th birthday: Saturday May 15th, 3:30 PM piano recital by Dad at Life House Church Bethel, Hagerstown, MD." 

From the moment we received that exquisite invitation, Evie and I knew we absolutely had to attend. We learned later that anything the Krempels family ever did was done with a touch of class. And we were not disappointed. 

Upon arrival we were struck by the warm dignity of the occasion graced with just the right touch of formality. Why would about 100 family and friends make it a priority on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to attend the piano recital of a 90 year old man unless he was deeply loved and admired. 

After a brief welcome, Rev. Krempels explained why he wanted to present this recital. First of all, he explained his heart of gratitude for God's faithfulness to him over all these years. 

Second, the recital was dedicated to the memory of "my dear wife Mary. But don't feel sorry for her. Now that she is in heaven I can only imagine her saying that if you knew how beautiful this place is, you wouldn't take so long getting here. Of all that God gave me, she was the greatest gift. Though we had just over 63 years together, I loved her more as the years rolled by." 

Instead of opening the recital with prayer, Rev. Krempels played Malotte's rendition of "The Lord's Prayer." The song ended with such a holy hush that not one person applauded. 

I cannot adequately describe the next 90 minutes. I will never forget the sight of that 90 year old saint playing out his life on that grand piano. Decade after decade came cascading out of his fingers, out of his heart, out of his soul. It was like the sound of music from heaven. We were indeed on holy ground. 

Rev. Krempels played all 12 songs from memory. I wish you could have seen and heard the energy and poise and skill of that concert pianist. I could have closed my eyes and easily imagined a master at work in Carnegie Hall. 

Yet with all that skill, Rev. Krempels described with gentle humility the memories of battles fought in sunshine and rain. Those hymns were the anchor for him and Mary and especially now since her home-going. As we listened, Evie and I were transported back to our own spiritual heritage where the foundations of our entire lives were planted in small country churches. 

The recital included Rev. Krempels at the piano while one son, Douglas, sang a solo and later another son, David, played the harmonica and after that a daughter, Deborah, played the oboe. Esther, Rev. Krempel's sister, and her husband, Al Wallace, sang a duet as he accompanied them. 

The afternoon was not entirely serious. They likened it to a typical "Krempels Jam Session." Short stories were told which made all of us laugh. 

The concert ended with one more rendition of the old hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness." Only this time, after the song began with Rev. Krempels at the piano, Douglas joined and then David then Deborah and then Esther and Al. The music of the piano, harmonica, oboe and voices was the perfect capstone to a perfect recital. 

Yes, we enjoyed meeting the family. Yes, we enjoyed a delicious meal with special friends which followed in the fellowship hall. Yes, we enjoyed the memory stories which were shared by family and friends. Yes, we are glad one of our buildings at VFCC is named after Rev. Krempels who chaired our Music Department and wrote the music for our college Alma Mater. 

But we will always remember those 90 minutes by that 90 year old man. The family ended the event by inviting us to mark our calendars 10 years from "today" for his 100th birthday recital. We are already planning to attend. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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