Remembering FredThere once was a man named Fred,
Some have said that he is dead,
But I say that it cannot be,
for as long as there is memory,
There will always be Fred.
I remember when I was first exposed to the pulpit abilities of Dr. Fred Wolfe. When I would hear that he was preaching at a conference or a revival, I would make sure that I would be in attendance to hear and watch this man deliver sermons in a most unique and profound way. I remember the excellence with which he painted a picture or gave an example which made some passage come alive. Not only were his words filled with wisdom and encouragement, he was a towering man in the pulpit. Tall, handsome and winsome were characteristics of his presence. Fred also had one of the best senses of humor I have ever seen. Out of the pulpit he kept his friends in stitches with not only what he said but what He did! One never knew what would happen when Fred was in the group.
I could fill this article with details but that would lead to a very long read so I am going to relate several events to you that will speak of what it was like to be Fred's friend.
I remember Ice Cream on His Shirt....
Once, when he was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the SBC, a number of us were up in my room in the hotel. We had finished the business of the day and we were enjoying some fellowship and sharing some Ice Cream and Coca-Cola. Those sessions were always fun because Fred made sure of it. This particular evening Fred was being his usual self and was laying across the bed on his side with a generous bowl of chocolate ice cream resting on the bedspread. He was enjoying that ice cream to the fullest when all of a sudden a big glob of the stuff fell off the spoon and onto the right side of his white shirt. After he rescued it and gobbled it down, he looked at me and said: "Bill, what am I going to do! This is the only shirt I brought and I've got to preside in the morning. What can I do?" While everyone was laughing (Fred included) I told him to take off the shirt and give it to me. He fumbled around getting it off and then I took it to the restroom and worked on that spot. I was able to get about ninety percent of the stain out of the cotton fabric and after it dried one would hardly notice it. He put that shirt on the next day to preside over the Executive Committee. I could still see where the chocolate ice cream landed but others didn't notice it. Fred was relieved. All was well.
I Remember A Bloody Napkin in my Drinking Water....
Once when we were in St. Louis for the convention, our "group" of guys decided to go out to the Morton's Steak House for a good St. Louis steak. Brother Fred said not to worry about the long ride out to the restaurant because he was going to get us a Limo to carry us all out there together. He told us that it would cost each of us $5.00 for the ride but that seemed a good deal to the rest of us. So, when the proper time arrived we all gathered so we could get in the Limo and go to the restaurant. It was a big limo. White. Extravagant. A good ride. We could all talk and have fun together. The thing we discovered later is that Bro. Fred made money on the deal! Oh, well, it was so much fun no one cared.
So, we all ordered our choice of steaks and anticipated the wonderful meal that was to follow. Little did I know that Jerry Vines and Danny Watters had conspired to get my seat at the table right next to Fred. They knew that anything was liable to happen when Fred was in attendance so they put me right next to him. Well, as it happened, Fred's nose began to bleed. Right there in that fancy Morton's restaurant we had an emergency! What did Fred do? I will tell you what he did:
he took his napkin, twisted the corner in a little spiral and stuck it up his nose right there is Morton's!!! He kept pulling it out and looking to see how much blood was on it, hoping that it was getting better. But it wasn't! Jerry and Danny were sitting right across the table and they observed with wide eyes what happened next. Fred took the bloody napkin out of his nose, examined it, and promptly stuck the bloody tip of the napkin in my cold drinking water! I saw him do it and so did Jerry and Danny. They said my eyes got the size of quarters. I couldn't believe Fred did that but I knew it was true when my water turned a shade of pink. He then promptly put the wet, cold end of that napkin up his nose and sat there in Morton's Steak House with the thing hanging out of his nose. This went on for several minutes until he got the bleeding stopped. He never said a word about what he had done. I guess he thought that it was a normal way to solve his problem sitting right there in the middle of that fancy establishment. Fred never thought one thing about the whole affair but all of us have talked about that event numerous times over the years. It has been a source of entertainment and laughter for all of us who sat around that table.
I Remember Fred Sleeping at the Executive Committee Meeting.
One of the delightful things about our friend Fred Wolfe was that one never know what he was going to do next. Most of those things were not planned but they happened in the normal course of things. He seemed to be as surprised and we were by them and acted as if he was puzzled as to why we were laughing.
One day during an Executive Committee meeting, I was sitting with Jack Wilkerson on the first row when I happened to notice that Fred, who was sitting at the officer's table on the platform, looked as if he were asleep. He was! I pointed it out to Jack and we began to watch Fred. He would regain consciousness every few minutes and try to look as if everything was normal but he couldn't control himself and would drift off again. The way it was apparent that he was about to lapse into unconsciousness was that his face would begin to sag. The muscles in his cheeks and eyes would start relaxing and his face would begin to sag. Then his head would start bending over and slanting to one side a bit. Jack and I began laughing uncontrollably to the point of embarrassment. All of a sudden, I noticed that Fred's forehead was about to touch the table when, mercifully, he awoke. By this time, others had noticed the sideshow going on and were joining us in having a good laugh. When he awoke, he tried to fake the whole thing by grabbing a pen and beginning to write something. But, it was all over. The word was out about the Chairman going to sleep during the meeting.
I Remember Fred at the Convention in Nashville....
When the SBC met in Nashville, TN a few years ago several of the guys met in Dr. Jerry Vines room at an old renovated hotel. It was different and unique in its architecture and atmosphere. We were in the process of playing a gag on Len Turner. It would take too long to tell you what the gag was but just be assured it was hilariously funny. Len took it like a man. Suddenly someone said, "Where's Fred." We called his room and he said he was on his way down to join us for the fun. In about ten minutes there was a knock on the door and someone opened it. In walked Fred. Here's the scene. His hair was disheveled totally and he was clothed with the white bathroom robe and slippers that the hotel furnished. It was a long robe almost down to the floor. We suddenly realized that he did not have on pajamas or such underneath the robe. All he had on was his tee shirt and boxers under that robe. He had ridden the elevator down to our meeting room dressed that way. We all laughed at the situation but he thought everything was fine. I asked him what if someone else had been on the elevator or what if he had met someone in the hallway? His reply was: "But I didn't". Typical Fred logic.
In a few minutes he got a phone call and had to return to his room. Out the door he went with the robe almost totally open in the front. I followed him and got a picture of him standing in the elevator, leaning against the wall with the robe and slippers on. Thinking nothing of it, he pushed the button and ascended to his floor. Someone said: "Does he do that kind of stuff often?" I think it was Len Turner who said: "You just don't know what he is going to come up with." The whole thing was hilarious and a typical Fred adventure.
There are many more things I could relate but I will conclude this little tribute to our friend Fred Wolfe by relating this little event with you.
I Remember Chewed up Toothpicks in my New Car....
A number of years ago, Fred developed a difficulty with his heart and had to undergo open heart surgery. We were all very concerned about our old friend and prayed earnestly for him. Well, he came through o.k. but it took him some while to recover such that he could take preaching engagements. I talked with him about coming to our church, Abilene Baptist, as soon as he felt like it. I told him not to rush things but when he was ready, we were. So, one day he called me and told me that he thought he was ready to venture out and do some preaching.
We set a date for a revival engagement and he came to Augusta at the set time.
Even though Fred was obviously weak from his medical ordeal, one would never know he felt bad when he was in the pulpit. He came alive. Sounded just like Fred always sounded even though he looked tired. As usual, I had him in a wonderful hotel and I would get him back to his room as soon as possible so he could rest. Every day I took him to a nice restaurant and then back to his room for rest. One day we went to The Red Lobster and enjoyed a meal and some fellowship after which I returned him to his hotel. I remember I rode up to let him out of my new Q45 Infiniti. We said a few "see you later" things and he got out to go in the hotel. After shutting the door, I was about to drive off when I caught something out of my peripheral vision. It was laying in the passenger side floorboard. I thought: "What in the world is that?" I reached down to remove this thing from the floor of my car and when I did, I discovered that it was two toothpicks that had been chewed to a pulp and were sopping wet with saliva.
I said: "My soul...its toothpicks with spit all in them." I rolled down my window and discarded them as quickly as I could throw them away.
Then, I thought: "My Lord....why did he do that." Now, I consider it a privilege to have known Fred and called him my friend.
Recently while writing a sermon and, in the process, reflecting on some people I have known in the ministry and beyond, I noticed that when I thought of some people I would automatically smile. The Lord gave me something I call the "Smile Factor." Some would ask what that is and here is what I call the "Smile Factor." When you are gone from the scene and a person thinks of you, they would automatically smile. Some people have a low smile factor while others rate a 10. I will have to say that my old friend Fred Wolfe rates a 10 on my "Smile Factor" scale.
Some have said he is dead,
But, I say that it cannot be
for as long as there is memory,
There will always be Fred.
William F. Harrell