By Don Bassett
On September 13 Wayne Earnest passed from this life. He and his wife, Linda, were in Tampa, Florida, at the time. They had traveled there, taking their youngest son, Stephen, to enroll him as a student at Florida College. During the family’s stay in the Tampa area, Wayne was stricken with a massive heart attack. He was hospitalized immediately, and the family was informed that all vital signs were failing and there was little hope. Linda and Stephen were joined quickly by David, Wayne’s eldest son, and Cathy Osment, Linda’s sister, both from the Memphis, Tennessee area. Wayne lingered for several days as the family kept their painful vigil at his bedside. He never recovered consciousness.
At his passing arrangements were made to conduct funeral arrangements in Memphis, Wayne and Linda’s family home. On the day of the service, September 16, a host of friends and brethren from several surrounding states filled the chapel of the Memorial Park complex in that city. Among them was a large group of brothers and sisters in Christ from the East Central church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with whom Wayne had labored some six years at the time of his passing. Scores of gospel preachers traveled great distances to pay tribute to a highly respected fellow-laborer in the gospel and to offer comfort to Linda and the boys. I was honored by the family with a request to conduct the service.
At this point I find it difficult to continue writing. The same emotions that overwhelmed me and all who were in attendance at the funeral are once again as vivid and heartrending as they were on the day of the service. The tears flow unbidden down my cheeks as they did on the day I tried to speak to the friends and family of this good man. He was only fifty years old. He was in his prime, ready to accomplish, in the years of his maturity, even more for the Lord than he had in the days of early manhood. I recall the words of one of the aged brethren from Tulsa: “We don’t even know where to begin to look for someone to replace him,” and I am made to feel anew the sense of tragedy and loss that all of us felt on that day.
Wayne was a giver. He gave himself to the Lord, to his family, to his brethren, and to his fellow man generally. He gave of his talents in his preaching, and he gave of his material goods, over and over again, to any of whose need he had knowledge. I recall a day in Bowling Green, Kentucky, when I thought my troubles were too many for me to take much time or give much help to a young man traveling through that city. I sent him from my study with nothing. About an hour later I received a phone call from Wayne explaining that a young man (the same young man) had come to him for help. Wayne said he had put the fellow up in a motel room in town (at his own expense, of course) because his house was full up-and asked if I thought there was anything I could do about feeding the man because Wayne had spent all he had! That was Wayne Earnest. I am certain I could find many brethren who would testify that Wayne was taken advantage of, occasionally. But I am equally certain that none is to be found who knows of an instance in which Wayne allowed covetousness, under the guise of caution, to withhold his hand from a neighbor. He simply did not think of himself if he felt others were in need.
As a preacher Wayne was a happy combination of congeniality and courage. On the day of the funeral I heard one preacher after another say, “Wayne was just about the best-natured fellow there ever was, but he would not back off from the truth for anybody.” And that is certainly so. He was always courteous and cheerful. Yet I have seen him work under conditions that would infuriate many of us. His delightful sense of humor seemed never to desert him, even in the most trying circumstances. But his honesty and his unequivocal commitment to God’s truth would not suffer him to compromise it. In all the places he lived and worked locally and in the numerous communities where he preached in meetings there is no question what he stood for nor his willingness to tell it.
I can scarcely write of Wayne’s relationship with his family. On the day of the funeral the depth of Linda’s love for Wayne and the respect and esteem in which he was held by his two sons was so plainly written on everything they said and did that the hearts of all in attendance were rent with grief for them. In this day of troubled homes and shaky marriages it needs to be said that Wayne set an example for all of us. To see Linda standing by the coffin, stroking Wayne’s hair, hour after hour, weeping inconsolably, was to know that she loved him with all her heart. And to see David and Stephen attending their mother’s every need while choking on their own tears was to know that Wayne was appreciated in his own home. He practiced the same gospel there that he preached in public. He was the same man in the privacy of his home that he was in the pulpit.
Wayne Earnest was a simple man who made no pretense of being a person of great importance. As Walton Weaver said, on the day of the funeral, “Wayne just did a good work wherever he went And by thus humbling himself he became the person of great importance that it was not his primary aim to become. How many mountains Wayne moved by “just doing a good work” we’ll have to wait for the judgment to know for certain. But there were many, as those whom he taught, baptized, trained and befriended testified on the day of his burial. I know all who knew Wayne and read this join with me in extending their genuine sympathy to Linda and David and Stephen.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 19, p. 587
October 3, 1985