Blessed are the Ornery

Hilda Demuth-Lutze and Gottfried Krodel at the launch party for Kingdom of the Birds on March 6, 2010.

After reading the Beatitudes, the Gospel lesson for All Saints’ Sunday, my pastor held up the Book of the Names of the Dead and told the congregation that all of our blessed ones could be found in these pages: the peacemakers, the pure of heart, the meek—and also the ornery.

Yes, “ornery” certainly describes my mentor and friend Gottfried Krodel, whose name is written in that book.

Doc Krodel was so ornery that he frightened undergraduates. When I was a freshman at Valparaiso University, I watched a classmate scrub the metal letters of his typewriter with a toothbrush because Krodel would not accept a Reformation history assignment blotched with ink-filled a‘s and e‘s.

Doc Krodel was so ornery that even though he was an internationally acclaimed Luther scholar, he declined to learn to use the Internet. Instead, when he and I met to discuss early drafts of Kingdom of the Birds, he would marvel at the research that I had conducted online: “My dear, how do you know such things? Where did you find these sources?”

Doc Krodel was so ornery that even as he began putting his affairs in order, knowing that failing health would soon force him to give up his house, he decided to paint his living room a brilliant peacock blue. After all, he told me, his sainted wife had been quite fond of this particular shade.

Doc Krodel was so ornery that in spite of chronic pain, he continued to work at his desk for hours each day, even beginning a long-cherished project on Albrecht Dürer he knew he was unlikely to live to finish.

Doc Krodel was so ornery that during his final hospitalization when he was placed on a liquid diet, his daughter Christine watched him bow his head and give thanks to God for a bowl of Jello, which she knew he detested.

Blessed indeed are the ornery.