April is a really busy time in my house, with four kids, school activities, and the plethora of associated functions mashed up with sports, church, and the usual work responsibilities. The month also includes a two-week, end-of-year testing at my wife’s teaching position that demands a lot of her time.
I stand in the gap the best I can. This requires more of my ponytail-forming skills and fixing school lunches. Handy tip: peanut butter and jelly works just fine in a hot dog bun.
At the end of those days when everyone’s fed and at least 75 percent of my children got to where they’re supposed to be, I feel I’ve accomplished something. Then comes along a guy like Horace Sheffield.
You may have heard of Horace, the 88-year-old graduate of Shorter University whose story has been covered by local and Atlanta media. But, you may not have gotten the full scope of what took him back to school after a half-century break. Yes, it was discovering that senior citizens can attend colleges and universities tuition-free. But it was also reflective of an attitude, that stubbornness in older folk which can be equal parts lovable and infuriating, depending on the situation.
Getting that college degree he began toward in 1961 was the only thing he hadn’t finished. Horace wanted to finish.
“Up until about two months ago he was preaching at a truck stop off the Jackson/Barnesville exit,” says his granddaughter, Jill Brazier. “He’d been doing that for the last three years.”
“Pop,” as Horace is known by friends and family, is about as active as a man his age could be. A few years after dropping out of Shorter, he stayed in the Rome area, serving as pastor of Hill Crest Baptist Church until 1976. At that point he accepted the same position at Calvary Baptist in Barnesville, a congregation he’d stay with until 1989. From there, he went on to Toccoa, working with local churches as the director of missions for Tugalo Baptist Association before moving back to be near family in Barnesville.
Now as pastor emeritus at Calvary, where he served previously, Horace keeps a busy schedule. Tuesday nights mean visitation with Pastor Allen Newman. Wednesdays are, of course, for church. Until a few months ago Thursdays were reserved for the truck stop ministry. On football Fridays in the fall you can find him near a radio listening to his beloved Lamar County Trojans. On the first Sunday each month, he hosts lunch at his home.
Like any other great-grandfather, Horace dotes on his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A few weeks ago Dawson, Jill’s son, pitched a shutout for Lamar County. “Pop was so proud,” his granddaughter says. “He and Dawson share the same birthday (Dawson turns 17 and Horace 89 on May 29) and have a connection. Pop’s always at games, sitting on his walker at the fence.”
You’d think after all the hullaballoo over his graduation Friday, he’d take it easy. Nope. The day after Horace earned his degree, he joined his grandson Jeremy, Jeremy’s son Brantley, and Dawson for an annual fishing trip to Helen. They left early in the morning from Barnesville, not returning until around eight that evening.
Some of us look forward to being done with busyness. Others see it as a gift.
And so this weekend Horace Sheffield will put his Bachelor of Science degree in Christian Studies to use. After all, in addition to being pastor emeritus of Calvary, he’s also a Sunday School teacher. His place in life gives him common interests with those in his class.
Yeah, he teaches college students.