A Hero Turns 90

Yesterday one of my heroes turned 90 years old. That man is my dad, Julian Altrogge.

One of the reasons he?s my hero is for the way he cared for my mom.? The last seven years of her life, she slowly but steadily declined with Alzheimer?s disease, until she died in 2001.? Because of his love for her, he kept her at home for those last years of her life. He could have put her in a nursing home, but chose not to. It wasn?t that he couldn?t afford it. Dad kept Mom at home and cared for her because he loved her.

In the last couple of years of her life my dad changed her soiled bed sheets every single morning. He fed her. He cleaned up after her. He took her everywhere with him. I never heard him complain even once. I never saw him depressed. He served my mom cheerfully.

Why did Dad served Mom so heroically? First of all, because he loves Jesus, and he knew that whatever he did for my Mom he was doing to Jesus. Secondly, my Dad is a man of his word. In 1946, when he vowed to take Mom as his wife ?for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, in good times and bad? he meant every word of it.

It?s been 7 years since Mom died. Dad?s still serving the Lord with all his heart as cheerfully as ever. He paints hundreds of beautiful birthday cards every year for friends, family and church members. He regularly takes Bill and Bobby (not their real names), two old mentally challenged brothers, to pick up their baskets at the local food bank. For years he paid bills for a blind woman. He delivers blood to a nearby city for the Red Cross. He leads weekly Bible Studies at a personal care home ? he likes teaching ?the old folks.?

Dad?s never expected any thanks or recognition for doing what does. But yesterday Bill and Bobby decided to surprise him. They wanted to take him out for breakfast on his birthday to thank him for all he?s done for them over the years. So they took him to McDonald?s ? because they had a coupon.

Happy birthday, Dad.? I want to be like you.

photo by Satin Marshall

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.