By Priscilla [Dayton] Tyler, as told by Mary Tyler
Mary reminded me about this story a few days ago, and this morning as I was thinking about what story I could contribute, the following came to mind. It sounds like a very Dayton kind of thing. I hate “losing things!” The story line is simple, but very “Dayton.” The following story is in Mary’s words:
“My mother has always appreciated archaeological findings, especially Biblical artifacts, and she has a few pieces she treasures. Our church is currently doing a 30 week study of the Bible, and she has been looking forward to bringing a very small coin (commonly called a “widow’s mite”) to her study group. The coin was in circulation when Christ walked the earth.
This past Thursday morning, as we were getting ready to leave the house, I heard some scuffling noises coming from upstairs.
I called up to her, “Are you okay? What are you doing?”
She said, “Oh! I can’t find my widow’s mite…”
“Do you want some help?” I replied. It was at that moment my brother and I looked at each other and we both realized “the widow has lost her mite!”
A short time later, the lost coin was found, and there was great rejoicing in our home! (This experience reminded me of the widow giving all she had (two mites) as an offering, and the parable of the woman searching her home for one lost coin. I realize these are not the same story, but it certainly has brought some interesting discussions in our home.)”
When Judy and I were on Mt Carmel in Israel, the tour bus had to stop because a car was blocking the road. A shepherd had stopped his car to pick up a stray sheep. As he returned to his car with the sheep in his arms, I thought to myself, “How cool! Here is the parable of the lost sheep before our very eyes.” Just as I was thinking about the lost sheep, Judy shouted out so all on the tour bus could hear her, “Look, that man is stealing that sheep.” Not knowing the circumstances, either of our viewpoints could be the correct one. I think our minds should dwell more on “lost sheep” and less on “stolen sheep”.
We haven’t written much about Wilber Dayton Jr. He was highly revered by everyone in the Dayton family, but he remained somewhat of a mystery since he moved away from Corinth after college, and we only knew him through letters, phone calls, news clippings and achievements. His wife, Donna [Fisher] Dayton was also highly honored among Dayton women. Whenever we kids thought or spoke of uncle Wilber (AKA Wib), we did so with great respect and admiration. He had an illustrious career in academia, and Christian writing and lecturing. Whenever he announced that he was coming to Corinth, we all counted the days until he and his family, arrived.
Uncle Wib had an infectious smile . It always seemed to me that his smile probably hadn’t changed much since childhood. It was an impish look with an exaggerated twinkle in his eyes. We always had a picnic at Pagenstecher Park in Corinth, and every Dayton relative within 100 miles would attend. The brothers would go off by themselves and laugh and talk. I suspect they were getting caught up on news of Wilber’s latest travels and accomplishments, and reminiscing about a time long past. Wilber was a modest, humble man, but the brothers pried every nugget of achievement they could out of him. It was comical and invigorating to see them exchanging and sharing their affection with one another.
Topping off a perfect day was Mom’s [Ruth Dayton] famous potato salad, and macaroni and cheese, and aunt Lib’s molasses baked beans. We had a huge spread, complete with hot dogs, but Ruth’s and Lib’s contribution was the centerpiece of the feast. As a kid, sometimes I had difficulty understanding what uncle Wilber was saying. He had lived and traveled in academic circles for so long that he no longer communicated as a commoner. In fact, perhaps his brothers strained to translate his eloquent, proper speech too. It was always sad to see him leave, but we all knew the importance of his work and wished him well as he accomplished it.
Some time ago, I wrote a daily email of his accomplishments, and I attached his obituary which was a summary of his accomplishments. It’s included (as follows) again.
Another Virginia story. You have to know the crazy Beltway around the D.C. metropolitan area to appreciate this. My dad, already in his eighties, had a flat tire during rush hour, on his way to our home in Falls Church. He pulled onto the skinny CENTER SHOULDER, those few feet adjacent to the concrete jersey barrier, and changed that tire all by himself.
Sometime between 1979 and 1981 my father, Charles Dayton, brought my piano, the heaviest old upright anybody ever touched and given to me by a widow-admirer of my dad , one of many, decades earlier to me in Alexandria, Virginia, from upstate NY. He pulled it south in his car trailer, arriving in a rainstorm. Our front door was seven or eight steps above city sidewalk level, and there was only my father, my husband, and myself to hoist it quickly, out of the lashing rain and city traffic. Mainly, due to Dad’s prowess, the “three” of us got it into the living room.
Another West Chazy camp note: That row of cottages where the “double” one was owned by Uncle Paul and then Johnny may have always looked (and probably still does) a little rough and tumble, hardly two adjacent siding boards matching, but it represented to “Chop,” my dad, a blessing/bonanza of major proportion. It put people into camp meeting ownership and fellowship cheap, the main cost being his own labor and tired muscles. That row was mostly put together with salvage materials from an agricultural school (Miner Institute) being torn down in nearby Chazy. Dad dismantled as much as he could before the dozers won. He worked in a “quick and rough” manner, and mostly alone. As the material arrived in load after load at the campground, I was recruited to pull nails, stack, draw chalk lines and otherwise help make the stuff usable. This was “utility not beauty,” though many of us have learned now to appreciate the extinct North American virgin woods and untutored DIY products and see great charm in the pre-sheetrock structures. I don’t recall ever being taken to the salvage site; maybe my mother drew a line in the sand. Maybe this is why I always carry a tape measure.
By the way, these campground construction sites were the Conference President’s preferred office space. He would offer tomato soup and a grilled cheese — and a hammer. Psychologically very wise — preachers and laymen alike felt freer to let loose with the truth and accept it, too, man to man in work clothes—always several extra around. No ladies, alas, but Dad always spoke admiringly of a lady in Moores or the Elllenburg area (I forget her name but can see her face) who got up on the barn roof to help her husband.
So, many may consider him a showman, but what he did in front of other people he also did when acting alone for his audience of One.
Dad was the District Superintendent of the Champlain District of the Wesleyan Church in Upstate New York during my high school years. We lived in the District Superintendent’s home adjacent to the West Chazy Campground, our church retreat center. Dad grasped every opportunity to secure furniture and equipment for the camp (for “Free or next to nothing!”). Once he brought a truckload of secondhand church pews complete with cushions he’d bought at a bargain price some place near Albany. All the big churches with fancy pews were located there, not in the country churches in and around the Adirondack Mountains that made up most of his District. It was the dead of winter, and the snow was hard packed. He felt we had to get them into the tabernacle, the camp Worship Center. So we dragged them there. As I remember, it was all the way from our driveway, but that part could be a faulty memory because what I recall is the extreme effort required, since we were on snowshoes. I don’t remember if anybody helped. If so, it was likely Bob (the Rev Robert) Finley who was always ready to “run down” from Ellenburg Depot at a moment’s notice when his DS needed him.