In Memoriam: Peter Tedford Denton, Sr.

My father, Pete Denton, died on Monday, December 30, 2014.  He and my mother came to Durham for Christmas.  He walked from our house to Trinity several times, about two miles.  He cleaned up dishes after our Christmas Eve celebration.  He sang Christmas carols with us at The Church of the Good Shepherd and visited with lots of our friends.  He went to lunch with Bill and Nancy Cobey on the Thursday after Christmas.  And on Friday he drove my mother back to Knoxville, began to unload the car, and suffered a massive stroke.  When I saw him on Saturday, he was paralyzed and couldn’t talk.  He passed from this world on Monday afternoon, after we all in our different ways told him goodbye.  His memorial service will be held next week in Knoxville, where he lived his entire life (except for seventeen months in Korea).  

Dad with his favorite Angus, Bessie
Tennessee Pete in the Radio Station in Korea

He lost his own father when he was nineteen.  He had to drop out of college for a time and grow up very quickly.  He sold the family farm to pay off debts from a bankrupt bottling company.  He became the man of the house for his mother and his younger sister, and then before he could finish his last quarter of college, he was deployed to Korea.  When he returned, he married my mother and got a job at the J.C. Penny Company.  But he met a man named Mr. Tucker, who recognized something in my father, and the rest of his working life was spent at Mr. Tucker’s Power Equipment Company, where he eventually became President.  He and Mr. Tucker’s two sons collaborated on several successful investments and ventures, and in 1989, when he was 58, my father retired.  He spent the next twenty-four years serving on boards, leading as an Elder at his church, enjoying his grandchildren, travelling with my mother and their friends.

Mom and Dad enjoying time in Florida
Pete Denton took care of people.  Before he was twenty, he took care of a family, a business, a farm.  He took care of a company for almost thirty years.  He took care of my brother, Mark, and me in more ways than we can say, providing us with a great home, education, a wonderful faithful marriage, a model of how to live as a member of the body of Christ, and an example of how to live one’s life well right to the end.  He took care of his own mother in her infirmities, and he took care of his grandchildren, who can all tell you stories of his faithful provision.  In the last two weeks many of his friends have said to me, “I don’t know what we’re going to do without Pete. He was always there to take care of things.”  Things like the Homeowners Association, or the Pawley’s Island vacation schedule, or the golf course renovation, or the church’s endowment.  He even took care of his own dying: When we opened his Funeral File, we found almost everything paid for, his own obituary drafted, and copious notes about Scriptures and songs.  And it is fitting, even if not intentional, that on the day he had his stroke, he took care of my mother all the way down I-40 from Durham, NC, six or seven hours right into his own driveway before he collapsed.  

With the family at Jenny and Nick's wedding

Of all the gifts that my father gave me, this may have been his greatest: He helped me believe the simple but profound truth that God my Father would take care of us.  Jesus came to show us the Father, to invite us to believe that our Father in heaven would provide all we need:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6

Three generations of PTDs at Teddy's graduation

I know that I was blessed to have a father who made this truth very believable, very plausible.  I know that not everyone gets a father like that, and I am thankful that mine showed me this profound truth throughout my life.  

I woke up this morning, our first day back at school, and I was overwhelmed by the press of work, challenges, problems, and questions before me: students in trouble, budgets that won’t balance easily, hiring challenges, fundraising challenges.  Providentially, the Scripture I read was from Matthew 6 and 7, and it dawned on me that God was saying to me, “If your earthly father took care of all the things he did, do you not think that I will care for Trinity School today?”  Thank you, Dad, for this wonderful gift.

My father loved Trinity School.  You can see him here wearing his Trinity sweatshirt proudly.  He believed in the mission of Trinity and he was glad to support the school in many ways.  His smile has always been there at the heart of the school, and I cannot begin to imagine what it will be like to have it only in memory.  

Goodbye, Dad.  I love you.


Lenise said…
I am so sorry for your loss. What a comfort, though, that his life was so well-lived. Our prayers are with you all.

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