By Mike Willis
During the week of 27 June, the Guardian of Truth Bookstore was moved from Fairmount, Indiana to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Brother O.C. Birdwell had moved to Bowling Green on I June and I had moved on 20 June. Between June 128, fifteen, twenty-two foot Ryder truck loads were moved to Bowling Green in order to move the Birdwells, Willis’, and the Guardian of Truth Bookstore into our new homes.
The new manager of the Bookstore is O.C. Birdwell, faithful gospel preacher for many years and member of the Board of the Guardian of Truth Foundation for many years. He agreed to operate the Bookstore with the assistance of his son Alan, his wife Frances, and his daughter Lisa. My former secretary, sister Dorothy Kalt, also is working in the bookstore. We feel that this staff will provide you excellent service and that you will be pleased with our new facilities located at 420 Old Morgantown Road in Bowling Green.
The change of managers of our bookstore should not pass without an expression of gratitude to brother and sister Whitehead who have managed the bookstore since 1971. I want to pay tribute to this fine, Christian family whom so many of you know through telephone conversation with our bookstore.
Managers During A Period of Rapid Growth
When Robert and Marilyn Whitehead began operating Truth Magazine Bookstore, they moved it from Orlando, Florida into their garage outside of Marion, Indiana. The business for a month, compared to now, was small. They provided excellent service to our customers and the business continued to grow.
During these years, Cecil Willis and Roy Cogdill lead the merger of the Gospel Guardian Foundation and Truth Magazine to form the Cogdill Foundation. The old Journeys Through the Bible literature series was purchased and renamed Walking With God. In the meantime, arrangements were made to write and publish the new literature series Truth In Life. These years for the foundation involved heavy indebtedness with little collateral to secure the loans. On more than one occasion, brother and sister Whitehead, sometimes alone and sometimes in cooperation with others, signed their names to loans at the bank to guarantee that the Foundation would repay the note.
The work of operating a bookstore grew. What was once a small business began to become a larger business. Sister Whitehead’s mother, sister Hazel Maley, was hired at wages too low to even mention to help in the bookstore. From time to time, part time help was necessary to operate the business. By and large, however, the Whiteheads operated the bookstore by working long hours – many beyond the usual eight-hour work day. They lived with the bookstore, thinking of what would help our business rather than what was best for them.
Cooperative and Dedicated
There were times during the operation of the Guardian of Truth Bookstore that brother Whitehead disagreed with Board decisions. Whether one agreed with his judgment or not, every Board member would have to admit that they thought brother Whitehead was acting on the basis of what he thought was best for the Foundation and not what was best for the Whiteheads. I remember board meetings in which decisions went against brother Whitehead’s judgment. On the way to the board meeting, he would say, “This will never work; we cannot allow this decision to be made.” After the decision was made, brother Whitehead would return saying, “If we all work at it, maybe this will work.”
Brother Whitehead operated his end of the Foundation on a shoestring. He never spent extravagantly. He never had adequate facilities or sufficient help to operate a business the size of our operation. Yet, he never complained of his heavy burden.
I have had the privilege of working more closely with the Whiteheads than many of you. I want to mention their conscientiousness as Christians. I know of the work which they have done with prisoners; of the books which they have given to those in need; of the help which they have been to those who are less fortunate than themselves.
I have discussed church problems with them. I have known of situations which they confronted in which they bit their lips for months before finding it absolutely necessary to discuss the matter with elders. In times such as these, they were not wishy-washy members who had no backbone; instead, their position was known and they could be counted on when the battle raged.
Brother Norman Midgette worked with the Marion, Indiana churches and wit the Whiteheads for about fifteen years. His words of appreciation for them speak highly of the kind of people they are. He wrote to me saying.
Myrna (brother Midgette’s wife) and I have been close friends with Bob and Marilyn for the fifteen years we have been in Indiana. We have had no friends who have stood by us continually through the good times and the bad more faithfully than they . . .
When we first moved to Indiana their generous hospitality opened their doors to our family more than once . . . . In the church at South Marion and later at Woodland Hills, Bob’s voice was listened to and res ed for its soundness and common sense . . . . Their respect resilience to bounce back after deep disappointment and heartache is another asset to their character. I believe the times of emotional pain and mental suffering they have endured has helped them understand more than most the human problems individuals and families can face. These problems have made them better able to sympathize with others and show the compassion needed to help others through difficult times . . . I am glad to know them and have them as friends . . . . Thank you for the opportunity to give these two deserving people a few roses while they live.
Appreciated And Loved
Our board members wrote letters of appreciation to the Whiteheads. Here it what some wrote:
“There is no doubt in my mind but that the Foundation would have faltered, and might have failed had it not been for your efforts to keep it afloat. You have spent many long hours in operating the business to bring in the income to what we have been able to do in printing material and keeping the magazine circulated . . . . We not only regard you as dedicated, hard-working people, but outstanding Christians, whom we count it a privilege to know and call friends. We treasure your interest and support . . . ” – O.C. and Frances Birdwell.
“Above and beyond all the good things you all have done through the years to make the store grow and serve the customers throughout the land, I more deeply cherish the friendship and brotherhood we have had and continue to enjoy . . . .” – Earl E. Robertson
“Your contribution to the foundation is without question the greatest of all that has been made. Others have made great contributions but your devoted work has been so great and for such a long period of time. Your work, in fact, made all of the other good possible . . . .” – James D. Yates
“Next, let me thank you for the warm relationship we have shared in the work of the Guardian of Truth Foundation. I long ago recognized that you put in long hours and many many sacrifices to improve the bookstore business. Bob, your suggestions and advice in Board meetings have often been helpful to me and to the Board as a whole. Marilyn, you have been not only Bob’s companion in the affairs of your home but also his right arm in the work of the bookstore …. Bob and Marilyn, the two of you have made a fine team and have established a wonderful record. If I could boil it all down to one expression, I would say, ‘Thank you for setting an example in life of serving others!. . . – Ron Halbrook
For over a decade and one-half you labored hard long hours, not watching the clock for quitting time, nor even the calendar for a long vacation with pay etc. and being human, like the rest of us, suffered the frustration of your personal lives; the disappointments; the lack of good facilities to do your work in and with for the greater part of all those years . . . .” – Theron N. Bohannan
Brother and sister Birdwell have a pair of big shoes to fill. I am confident that they can do a good job in their work with the Foundation. However, to the Whiteheads, I want to say publicly how much I love and appreciate them for their work’s sake. They are truly deserving of our honor.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 16, pp. 482-483, 505
August 16, 1984