|Pastor and Mrs. H.A.Kauffman|
The world has seen many previous influenza epidemics and one of them, a century ago, created a major change for my family and my heritage.
The 1918 flu pandemic (January 1918 – December 1920) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people around the world and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million (three to five percent of the world's population), making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.
To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. But papers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain. This created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, thereby giving rise to the pandemic's nickname, Spanish Flu This pandemic has been described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history" and may have even killed more people than the Black Death
Even in areas where mortality was low, so many were incapacitated that much of everyday life was hampered. Some communities closed all stores or required customers to leave orders outside. There were reports that healthcare workers could not tend the sick nor could the gravediggers bury the dead because they too were ill. Mass graves were dug by steam shovel and bodies buried without coffins in many places.
Pastor Horace A. Kauffman, my grandfather, was serving a church in Spring City, PA, during the epidemic. He insisted on caring for his congregation and continued to visit them and help them. As a result, he also caught the flu and died. They could not hold a public funeral for him, so his body was displayed inside a building where folks could pay their respect by looking through a window.
HAK was married to my grandmother and my dad was only 16 months old when his father died. She was also pregnant with my aunt who was born several months later. So they were left without any income. And they had no place to live since their home had been the church parsonage. I think that they soon moved in with relatives.
Sometime later the district superintendent came to my grandmother and told her that she could not live as a widow with two children. She needed to remarry and he had two names of men for her to consider. The first man said that he was in love with another woman and could not marry my grandmother. The second, Pastor Norman Henry Wolf, was a very close friend of Pastor Kauffman. He said that he would be honored to marry her and raise Horace's children.
And so they were married and God gave them a fruitful ministry together for many decades. And two more daughters were born to them. These daughters carried the name of Wolf, but the stepfather chose to have the other two children carry the name of Kauffman.
The family did face many challenges in those difficult days. One of these, which is hard to believe, is that the N H Wolf family was soon assigned back to the Spring City church where H A Kauffman had been ministering. And they had to return to the same parsonage where he died. My dad often remarked that when they moved there, as a youngster he didn't understand why he was given the large bedroom and the Wolfs chose a very small room for their bedroom. Later he learned that his mother could not return to the bedroom that she and her first husband had shared.
So the Spanish Flu, a century ago, created some real changes in my family. I often wish that I knew more about my real grandfather. I do know that I share a few things with him. He went to college. For a brief time he was a school teacher before he became a pastor. He liked to write. And I can imagine that we share a few other things. I do look forward to meeting him for the first time when I get to heaven.
But God's provision is always amazing, even when our situations may seem impossible. God gave me a very special step grandfather and I thank Him for that. Grandpa Wolf was a major influence in my life. He is probably the most godly man I have ever known. Over my life I spent many times in his homes especially during my college days. For a few years he was my pastor and he married us. I've always called him my grandfather, not my step grandfather, for he was a real grandfather to me.
God gave my father two great fathers and they are both part of my special heritage, one of the few positive things that came out of the Spanish Flu, one hundred years ago. It is amazing how God leads our lives especially when we can't see the future.