The Christmas holidays were different. On Monday, Dec. 23, Ruby Slay Heil expired, and one week later on Monday, Dec. 30, Dr. Donald N. Bowdle passed.
Ruby was indeed a one-of-a-kind, unusually proficient person. She suffered a great deal in the last months. Nonetheless, she knew well that God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Those at her bedside at the end said that her vital signs became weaker and weaker and finally stopped. At that moment, she slipped into Heaven. However, she was such a saint that she must have had one foot in Paradise hours before.
She had a long and unusually productive life, all the while bringing glory to the Lord Jesus. As a person, Ruby refused to settle for mediocrity; instead, she strove for and insisted on excellence.
Some knew her as a former pastor’s wife and a fellow missionary to Africa with her dynamic and capable husband, Dr. James L. Slay.
Cleveland knew her as an unsurpassed educator under Dr. Donald P. Yates, former superintendent of city schools.
Ruby Slay Heil was supervisor of instruction over all elementary teachers in the Cleveland school system where she served for many years.
She insisted that teachers go the second mile in reaching and involving every student; she refused to accept the status quo. She led by example and worked harder than anyone else.
The Bible says of the deceased, “They may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation 14:13). Now Ruby is resting and the remarkable effect of her labor follows today.
As mentioned, another educator died during the holidays. Dr. Donald N. Bowdle was unsurpassed as a university professor and Christian leader.
Many of us who did not study under him at Lee University knew him as the best Sunday school teacher we had ever heard. Too, he was an unexcelled pulpiteer.
Don Bowdle was the highest academically trained person most of us have known. He held a doctor of philosophy degree from Bob Jones University and a doctor of theology degree from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and a master of theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. Though highly trained, he was one of the most truly humble persons we have known.
Dr. Paul Conn, president of Lee, said Bowdle “is an individual whose impact on the life of our institution is virtually unequaled” and “the distinguished senior member of an increasingly excellent faculty.”
He was a longtime resident of Cleveland, coming to Lee first as a student from 1953-57 and returning in 1962 to teach. His two children grew up here.
Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, a peer of Bowdle’s, said of him, “For all his mild-mannered professional ways, he has never shrunk from the fray.”
She continued: “Generations of his students have experienced the liberation of the liberal arts and have learned through his teaching and his example, that God loves stewards of the intellect.”
How far to eternity? Only a breath or a heartbeat away. But fear not. The Lord Jesus has promised to be with us to the end here — and then throughout eternity.