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October-November 2023

Forging Ahead


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FIRST GLIMPSE: We Called Him Doc


I honestly thought I might die!

It had been a long week of marathon meetings with other Christian publishers to grapple with the challenges of a shrinking Sunday School market. As we walked out of the final, lengthy session, Alton Loveless, my boss at Randall House and travel partner for the week, sighed deeply.
“After all that, I think we need some good German food and a long drive in the mountains.”

In retrospect, I should have agreed to the German food but begged off the trip to the mountains.

Two hours later, schnitzel and sauerkraut threatened to make a reappearance as Doc (as many affectionately called Dr. Loveless) flew around another curve on the snaky Trail Ridge Road through the Rocky Mountains. Never mind he was driving along the highest paved road in the nation, or that sheer cliffs fell away on both sides. Doc drove with one hand on the wheel, the other pointing off toward this peak or waving toward that valley while he talked incessantly about landmarks visited on previous trips. He didn’t watch the road but constantly looked over at me with a broad smile. Obviously, he was enjoying himself.

Heart (and schnitzel) in my throat, I held my breath, prayed, and vowed to myself I would never, ever, ever ride anywhere with Doc again. Thankfully, we survived the trip. While I rode with Doc many times after that, I always drove.

Over the decade I worked for him, I came to have a deep admiration, love, and respect for my amiable boss. He taught me many things, from the importance of retirement savings—handing me ten bucks and giving me an afternoon off to open an account—to making work travel enjoyable, never meeting a stranger, and appreciating small pleasures in life. Four things always stood out to me about Doc.

  • He served humbly. It always made me chuckle to see him in the warehouse packing boxes during busy days. He wasn’t fast. His boxes were crooked, the tape too short, and he often got orders wrong. But his presence reminded every employee no job was “beneath” anyone.

  • He cared deeply. My office at Randall House stood adjacent to the board room. During one tough meeting, when the board broke for lunch Doc stepped into my office, pale and shaking. “Son, you think we could pray a while?” While the board regrouped, I knelt beside Dr. Loveless in my office as he poured out his heart, asking God for wisdom, guidance, direction, courage, and above all, the ability to discern God’s will for our press and the denomination.

  • He led fearlessly. Doc served Randall House through difficult days. The sudden downturn in Sunday School in the late 1980s led to lean times for Christian publishers. Doc arrived to find debt, outdated equipment, and discouraged employees. In a few short years, he turned the department around financially, led us into the digital age, and staged the publisher to leap forward in the new millennium. I have rarely encountered such a visionary and determined leader.

  • He loved passionately. His Lord. His wife Delois. His boys and their families. Employees. Friends. Denomination. Life itself. “Make every second count for Christ,” he used to tell me. He lived his own advice. Doc squeezed every moment from his time on earth—preaching, leading, traveling, teaching, publishing, and finding new restaurants, especially German restaurants.

I was grateful for an opportunity to spend an afternoon with Doc in June, less than a month before he died. Though in the hospital and in great physical discomfort, he still maintained his sense of humor and sharp wit. Before I left, we prayed together. As I turned to go, his words stopped me. “Son, do you remember that ride through the mountains in Colorado?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Like it was yesterday.”

Doc’s eyes twinkled through the pain, and he smiled. “I really thought you were going to toss your cookies.”

“Me too.”

That’s where we left our friendship.

About the Columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine.


©2023 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists