Owen Gragg was Raymond Bennight's first cousin
Sunday, June 15, 2008
STORIES OF LITTLE OWEN
I will always remember my grandma telling me that the birth control pill was the greatest discovery of my lifetime. She had lost eight children. (six babies in the eighth month of her pregnancies and she had two more children die before they reached the ages of two). She said she just kept getting pregnant knowing that her children most likely would not survive
Grandpa and Grandma raised one child. This child was a miracle. His name was Owen. When Grandma was pregnant with my father she says she went into a field and got down on her knees and bargained with God. She promised God if he would let this child live, she would dedicate him to the service of the Lord.
Her faith was tested when Owen was born weighing less than two pounds. My grandma and grandpa lived in a coal mining community in Oklahoma and medical needs were difficult to tend to. They kept my dad warm this December 5, 1914, by placing him in a shoe box near the wood stove.
This child grew nicely for two years until he was suddenly stricken by a crippling disease. Polio was the scourge of the nation and thankfully my great-grandmother had read that massaging the limbs of the victim on a 24 hour basis would keep the patient from being crippled by the disease. My dad had a slight limp and a barely noticeable withered hand but overall he came out of the illness with barely any lasting effects.
It was around 1919 when the Swine Flu epidemic hit the United States. At that time my grandparents had relocated to a coal mining community in New Mexico. The family legend has it that my dad was the only person in the small community that did not get the flu and took care of his family as well as running errands from house-to-house for all the people who were incapacitated.
Grandma and Grandpa and little Owen were visiting family one Independence Day. Grandma and Grandpa decided to take Owen to watch the Parade while the rest of the family watched from the porch. While they were gone, a deranged family member pulled a gun and began shooting. My grandparents returned with Owen to find many were killed or injured.
Dad was curious about the coal mines. His dad and his dad’s friends and brothers were all coal miners. One day grandpa took 8 year old Owen into the depth of a coal mine and told him to remember what he saw because it would be the first and LAST time he was ever to be in a coal mine. It was.
My dad died at age 85 on September 23, 1999 after a long, eventful, productive and influential life. He held many college degrees and had advanced in his chosen field to high levels in the United Methodist Church during his 40 ½ year ministry. He was a genuinely good man, reaching out beyond his retirement years to help anyone in need. He did, however, believe in a hand up more than a handout.
My grandma always insisted that she never influenced dad’s decision to enter the ministry and that she never told him of her field dedication. He was a business major in college. He met my mother and she had always vowed that she would never marry a preacher. Dad was on a trip to visit his fiancé when he “felt his heart warmed” and felt the call to the ministry. He told my mother and once she got over the initial shock she said she would marry him anyway.
Dad had some problems in his 80’s with strokes and dementia and his doctor ran many tests. One specialist discovered that dad never had polio. He had contracted encephalitis at age two, not Polio, which caused damage to the right side of dad’s brain. We had to laugh knowing all that dad had accomplished in his life, his continued education, the people he had helped, the family that looked to him and adored him and his tremendous abilities, only to learn he suffered brain damage at the age of two!
He was a wonderful father and I will always miss him.
Did I mention that he was a miracle?
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY ALL YOU GUYS WHO WERE INSPIRED AND INFLUENCED BY OWEN AS YOUR FATHER, GRANDFATHER, FATHER-IN-LAW, GRANDFATHER-IN-LAW. YOU'RE BETTER DADS BECAUSE HE TOUCHED YOUR LIVES.