STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 11/21/2011

An Open Letter: To the Gordon Community from Jennie-Rebecca (Stine) Falcetta '92

Peter Wilfred Stine, Gordon professor emeritus of English, passed away at age 72 on August 5. He was predeceased by his wife, Betsy, and is survived by his children: Jennie-Rebecca Falcetta ’92 and her husband, Anthony ’92; Sarah McKenna ’94 and her husband, Michael; Nathaniel Stine ’95 and his wife, Rachel; and Zachary Stine; along with five grandchildren. 

Dear Gordon friends,
Almost as soon as I knew of our loss, I called Adrianne Cook ’92, director of alumni and parent relations. After pausing to grieve with me as my friend, she leapt into action as a Gordon staff member, helping to secure the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel for the funeral my father had planned so meticulously—down to the recessional hymn (if you knew him at all, you can’t possibly be surprised).

By mid-afternoon that day, official notice of my father’s death had gone out as a Gordon-wide email. Several hundred Facebook status updates appeared from former students, who posted photos and their pet Stine anecdotes and aphorisms. As the tributes and expressions of sympathy accumulated, we felt we grieved not alone, but with a thousand at our side. 

When I said the funeral was already laid out, I meant it: Participating clergy and reminiscers had been designated, and I had been lovingly exhorted by my father not to deviate. Everyone I invited to take part graciously accepted. Dr. Greg Carmer, dean of chapel, deftly herded the ecumenical cats my father had wanted on the platform, and saw that everyone knew where to stand. Professor and former Princemere Reader Mark Stevick took on, with grace and aplomb, the poem my father had chosen: Tennyson’s (not brief or easy) dramatic monologue Ulysses.

As we fretted over finding available vocalists, Wesley Lawrence ’06, a talented tenor pursuing a doctorate in music, emailed me out of the blue. My father had once expressed hope that Wesley could sing at his funeral. He would be in town that weekend—could he be of service?

On the day of the funeral (August 13), all three of Gordon’s living presidents sat among the crowd of mourners. Dr. Roy Brunner, professor of organ, played the Methodist hymns my father had loved. Professor of Biblical Studies Dr. Roger Green made us laugh with stories of my father from their nearly 50-year friendship. And then, near the end, in the unenviable slot behind five or six very personal eulogies, the Reverend Dr. Malcolm Reid, Gordon professor emeritus of philosophy and also an Anglican priest, gave an eloquent and rousing homily, reminding all present that dying in Christ here means living in Light elsewhere.

Following the service, Dining Services Director Jack Lawrence and his catering staff fed the many guests well and cheerfully. Later in the afternoon the Reverend Patrick Gray ’92, my classmate and another former Princemere Reader, performed the graveside service. It was not lost on me that the voice declaiming the Episcopal rite for The Burial of the Dead had learned at least some of its power and nuance from my father.

Meditating on how much Gordon College and its people had stood with us in our mourning, I couldn’t help but follow that idea to its logical conclusion: how much Gordon College has shaped our lives. Many former Gordon faculty have known me from birth. All four Stine children attended Gordon during the 1990s; two of us met our spouses there. Most of the friends I count closest are fellow alumni.

After his profound and articulate love for God, Gordon College has been my father’s best gift to his children. I can hardly think what my adult life would be without Gordon’s blessed influence. To those of you who stood with my siblings and me through the darkness of our sorrow and reminded us that joy comes in the morning, I offer you deepest gratitude.


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