By Lindsay Steele
As I walked down the aisle during my wedding at St. Mary’s in Davenport in November of 2012, it was hard not to get a little choked up. I thought about my late father, my soon-to-be husband, my mother holding my hand beside me, my sister in a beautiful dress near the altar, and the flute and piano duet being played in the loft by Becky Pracht and her daughter Laurie Burke.
As I approached the altar, however, my sentimental sobs grew. The man officiating at our wedding, Deacon George Strader, wasn’t just any officiant. He was family.
Deacon George and his wife, Terry, are longtime friends of my mother-in-law, Kay Steele. Terry and Kay had gone to school together at the former St. Mary School, and Kay admired George, both as a spiritual person and a husband to her dear friend. When Chris was born, George and Terry were obvious choices for godparents.
Over the years, they fulfilled their duties tenfold. Chris’s dad wasn’t around much during his childhood, and George served aas a positive male role model. They babysat Chris during the summer, and though Chris was an only child, he had surrogate siblings in the five Strader children, who called him “god-brother.” He grew particularly close to their youngest son, Peter, who would later serve as a groomsman in our wedding. During St. Mary’s father/son breakfast each year, George always saved a place at his table for Chris. George and Terry were a support system for Kay, too.
When Chris started dating me, George and Terry were warm and supportive. Just as they considered Kay and Chris family, I immediately felt a kinship with them. After our engagement, they served as our sponsors. Sure, we learned about problem-solving techniques (sorry, we still aren’t great at them!), but we learned the most just by watching and learning from George and Terry and the love they have for each other and their family.
Having Deacon George officiate at our wedding was extremely meaningful to both of us. Even the fact that he struggled to pronounce my unusual maiden name was special (everyone has trouble pronouncing it), and it seemed like a fitting last hurrah to the oft-mispronounced Schoon. It was great to have George formally announce me for the first time as an easier-to-pronounce Steele. I’m sure it was meaningful for him, too, to celebrate the marriage of his godson.
George and Terry have been there for me, just as they have been there for Chris and his mom. Whether I am struggling with a spiritual issue or just needing advice, they always make time to help.
Most recently, when I expressed an interest in learning to play the organ, I emailed George to see if he knew anyone with a used keyboard to sell. He responded by giving us their old spinet organ — with the condition that I would practice often. He and Terry also helped us move it to our house — a task that was much harder than it first appeared. Two weak 20-somethings and 2 graying middle-agers moving a 400-pound organ with no handles? It was an adventure.
But that’s typical of George and Terry. No matter how busy they are or how much stress they may be under, they are always there, ready to give. Even as they deal with their own hardships, they continue to show God’s love through their actions and devotion to family and each other. They’ve truly proven to be the best of role models for my husband and me, and we have been so blessed to have them in our church and in our lives.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at email@example.com or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)