A couple of years ago my dad decided to start writing his memoirs. And this is how he began…
“On September 20, 1932, I was born in the back bedroom of my grandparents’ house just outside the little town of Corbin, Kentucky.
“My dad was making about $16 a week hauling coal and hay. New houses cost about $6500, and bread was 7 cents a loaf.
“I can’t tell you too much about the first 3 years of my life except for one story that was told to me. When my grandfather, the Reverend John Thomas Lanham, would come home from his day job as a switchman on the L&N Railroad, he would get on the floor and let me ride on his back like a pony.
“One Sunday morning at our little country church, Pastor Lanham invited folks to come to the front and pray. While he and others were kneeling and praying, I jumped onto his back and yelled, ‘Gitty up, Poppy!’ Needless to say, prayer time was pretty much over.”
When my dad was a kid, his parents owned a gas station and diner they called the Moonlight Café. It was next to another gas station and hot dog stand owned by one Harland Sanders. Despite the competition—even a bit of fuedin’—between the Scalfs and Sanders, when Dad’s Aunt Cora and Uncle Bill lost their home to a fire, Cora went to work for Harland. Suddenly people were lining up outside his diner every Sunday afternoon.
The secret? That’s the day Aunt Cora made up a batch of her herb-and-spice laden chicken that had been legendary at church potlucks for years. Now folks could indulge every Sunday. The impact on Harland’s little business was, as you can guess, finger-lickin’ amazing, and the rest is history.
But here is my very favorite passage from Dad’s memoirs:
“When I was 13, we kids would gather in the evenings to play hide-n- seek. One night, one of the girls followed me to my hiding place. Little did I know she had other motives—she wanted a kiss. I’d never kissed anyone but my mother and grandmother. Their kisses were a lot different than the one this girl gave me. It was on the mouth and it was salty. I ran away. After that I made sure no one followed me when I went to hide. Of course, when I met Geraldine Shakarian, her kisses were sweeter than wine and I’ve been hooked on them ever since.”
Unfortunately, it would be another 11 years before he would meet the dark-haired Armenian beauty who would lay claim to his heart—and lips—for the rest of his life.
After high school, Dad moved with his family to California, where he landed a job at a printing company.
In 1953, he wanted to join the Marines. But when the recruiter found out he already had a cryptography clearance—higher than top secret—through his job at the printing company, the man shook his head. “The Marines can’t take you, but the Army has a security agency. Talk to them.”
Gene went through basic training in Georgia, advanced training in Massachusetts, and was stationed in Japan doing top secret spy stuff for the next three years.
Returning home, he had an encounter that changed his life forever. Ever since his Poppy had died, my dad had been living life on his own terms, without giving much thought to spiritual things. After going to church with a friend, he finally admitted to himself that the God he’d once known and loved from his Poppy’s sermons was as alive and real as ever. On that night, he recommitted his life to Jesus Christ.
Wanting to grow in his faith, Dad attended Southern California Bible College. There he agreed to drive the bus that took the college chorale to and from engagements at local churches. Little did he know this would lead to another encounter that would rock his world.
One night after a concert, Gene pulled the bus into the school parking lot after midnight. As the other students were getting off the bus, Gene decided to check his campus mailbox. One of the pretty coeds said she wanted to check her mailbox, too, and asked if she could go with him.
To get to the campus post office, they had to walk through the dark cafeteria. As they made their way through the shadowy maze of tables and benches, Gene offered his arm to the young woman. The story goes that the moment she took his arm, they both felt an electric shock! After they got their mail, Gene suggested coffee. Geri said it was 1am—she couldn’t go with him alone, but if he could get a date for her best friend Anita, she would go.
Gene woke up a buddy and corralled him going with them to an all-night coffee shop, where they talked for hours.
And Gene and Geri fell madly in love.
(For years, Dad told us that what attracted him to Mom was her shoulders, her ankles, and everything in between. In the last years of his life, as he got older and his filters weakened, he sometimes slipped and mentioned what some of those curvaceous in-between parts really were.)
By 1962, they’d married and started a family–and Dad felt overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities! He had bought a milk route and every morning he grumbled and whined. Customers canceling orders. Engine problems with his truck. Could life get any harder?
When a friend gave him a book on positive thinking principles founded on Scripture, Gene was intrigued. Could changing his attitude really change his life?
He wrote about what happened next in an article that was published by Guideposts Magazine.
But if you’ve met my Dad even once since 1962, you already know exactly what happened next. Have you ever, in your entire life, met a man as positive, encouraging, and filled with gratitude as this man?
- Before long, Dad was giving motivational speeches to companies across Southern California, sharing success principles rooted in Scripture with men and women in every industry.
- He opened his own printing company, printing high-end brochures for real estate developers, but also printing inspirational literature for free. He wrote a booklet—Guard Accordingly—based on a verse in Proverbs and provided boxes of the pamphlets at no cost to the folks at the Trinity Broadcasting Network, who distributed them for years.
- He also served as the President of the Downey chapter of the Christian Business Men’s Committee.
But for even greater opportunities to serve, he didn’t have to look very far at all.
His father-in-law, Demos Shakarian, had founded a ministry called the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International. In the ‘70s, thousands of men were meeting in restaurants and banquet rooms across the nation and globe to share what God was doing in their lives. They regularly invited newcomers to hear the powerful testimonies, and men were dedicating, and rededicating, their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ.
Dad became the president of the Santa Ana Chapter, where up to 150 believers and seekers met weekly to talk about God’s miraculous intervention and provision in their lives.
Dad had met his forever sweetheart and love-of-his-life in Geraldine.
He met the ministry love-of-his-life in the FGBMFI.
When Gene and Geri moved to Colorado in 1999, Dad ramped up his interest in investing in real estate—and continued investing in people.
Many of you have experienced, firsthand, what it was like to be loved and encouraged by Ronald Gene Scalf. And my guess is that the experience left you changed in ways you may still be figuring out.
Do you know that’s exactly what he longed to do?
Here it is, in Dad’s own words:
“Early on Geri and I wanted to do something for God. From the book Faith That Prevails, written in 1938 by Smith Wigglesworth, I read the words that stirred my heart and established the direction for my lifetime avocation: ‘Now, beloved, I am out for men, it is my business to be out for men…I have a message from heaven that will not leave men as I find them…A man filled with the Holy Spirit is no longer an ordinary man.’
“I knew then that I no longer wanted to be an ordinary man; I wanted to become an extraordinary man and encourage other men to become extra-ordinary men—in their homes, on the job, in their churches and communities.”
You did it, Dad.
On March 14, this remarkable, huge-hearted man fell ill and underwent emergency surgery. He met Jesus face to face, in heaven, four months later, on July 8, 2017.
He has left behind (for a spell until we are reunited in Heaven), his beloved Geraldine, daughters Karen and husband John, Michelle and husband Mark, Renee and boyfriend Chris. He is also survived by his adoring grandchildren (in order of appearance, sort of): Kaitlyn and husband Joel, Connor, Hunter, Kacie, Isaac, Gabriella, Abby, Molly, David, and great grandson Micah.
For all of us who knew and loved him, I have one last thought…
As you find yourself missing him in the coming weeks and months, do this one thing: Ask Jesus to make Himself real to you in an entirely new way.
- If you don’t know Jesus, see what He’s all about. Ask Him to make himself real in your life and heart as Lord and Savior.
- If you once knew Him but have walked away from the God of your youth, it’s never too late to come home.
- If you have a vibrant relationship with Him, ask Him for more—more of His presence, more direction, more intimacy…
Because as you allow yourself to receive and embrace the love of Jesus in your life, you just might find yourself thinking, “Hey, this feels sort of familiar!”
Because if you were blessed enough to spend any time at all with our Dad, you’ve already experienced the love of Jesus Christ, emanating from a man, an ordinary man, whose love for God–and for each of us–made him absolutely, positively, extraordinary in every sense of the word.
One of his granddaughters, Kaitlyn Rose, wrote these words on a birthday card to her Poppy a couple of years ago:
We love your gun-totin’
Big Mac eatin’
We love you, Dad. You’ve always been our hero. Can’t wait to see you on the other side.
Photo captions from top to bottom:
- Dad and Mom blow kisses to each other across their parents. (L to R): Geri Shakarian Scalf, Demos Shakarian, Rose Shakarian, Minnie Lanham Scalf, Ronald Scalf, and Gene Scalf.
- Dad as a baby with his father, Ronald Scalf.
- Dad in the military.
- Mom and Dad on their wedding day.
- A young Scalf Family (Kids from L to R); Renee, Michelle, and Karen
- May dad as a motivational speaker.
- Steve Shakarian, Gene Scalf, and Demos Shakarian praying over Rose Shakarian during a meeting of the FBGMFI
- My folks, sweethearts until the end, taken about three weeks before Dad’s graduation into heaven.
- Collage (clockwise): 1. Dad always had a great perspective on life. 2. Dad looking dapper at our wedding. 3. Mom and Dad–love those mischievous smiles!
Additional blog posts about Dad: