From the Presbyterian News Service:
The Rev. Walter Soboleff, one of the first Alaska Natives ordained to ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) died May 22 in Juneau, Alaska of bone cancer and prostate cancer. He was 102.
We met once. It was a few years back, before Walter had turned 100. I had the privilege to attend the Native American Presbyterian Men’s gathering at Cook College in Tempe. It was humbling to be welcomed into the group.
I remember walking the dormitory hall on the Saturday afternoon. As I so often do, I was checking my BlackBerry.
“Don’t you ever quite working?” one of the men asked.
“He never does,” said another.
I smiled. And only now I confess that I was checking football scores. Why disillusion anyone was my thought at the time. Besides, we were in Arizona. I went with that old axiom: in the West, “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Turning the corner in the hallway was Walter. We greeted each other briefly. I took about two steps and then stopped in wonder. I stared at the BlackBerry – seeing the device, not the screen. I looked down the hall at Walter, walking away from me, then back at the BlackBerry, then back at Walter.
Amazing as the BlackBerry was, I could only imagine how much more amazing – how much more marvelous – how much more wonder-filled, Walter’s life must have been. What he had seen – and done – and experienced – during his years. I stood for a time in awe, watching as he made his way back to his room.
I stood in awe again that Sunday morning – as Walter preached – his faith, his grace, his courage, his commitment to justice shone through.
Walter lived over 36,500 days. I was blessed to be with him on parts of 3 of those days. I wish it had been more. It was enough.
For Walter’s life and love and witness, thanks be to God.
See you along the Trail.