D’Wayne Eldridge is the father of Rockbridge Seminary Cofounder and President Daryl R. Eldridge. The dedication of the course “Lead Like Jesus” was made possible by the generous financial donations to Rockbridge Seminary by Drs. Daryl and Carole Eldridge, other family members, and many friends.
D’Wayne Eldridge loved Jesus. Not just that love you sing about in church, but that deep, intimate, relational kind of love that most of us spend our lives looking for. His life exemplified his devotion to Jesus. He was known throughout his community for his servant spirit, demonstrated by the repairs, yard work, and odd jobs he performed without charge for widows and many others. Always putting others before himself, he was the consummate servant leader.
D’Wayne was born April 19, 1932, in Osceola, MO, where he spent his childhood and adolescence. He married his high school sweetheart, Venita Harris, on October 22, 1950. As a young adult, he worked at a petroleum pump station, owned and operated a gasoline station, and owned a dry cleaning store before joining Burroughs Corporation (now Unisys), where he worked as a banking machine technician for 36 years. He moved his young family to Springfield, MO in 1959. During his years at Burroughs, he watched banking machines go from mechanical adding machines to motorized machines to computers.
D’Wayne became a follower of Jesus shortly after he and Venita were married. He loved Jesus and He loved God’s Word. He taught Sunday School for more than 50 years, the last 25 years with the Harmony Class at Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Missouri. He was an excellent Bible teacher, spending 10-15 hours a week in preparation.
He was also an effective minister. He was often the first person his Sunday School members would call when they were sick or needed help. He sat in hospital waiting rooms while members were in surgery. He visited the sick and helped members’ families make funeral arrangements. When a class member needed house repairs, or a flower bed cleaned out, he was there. A fellow teacher and friend in their Sunday School department wrote,
After I had known them about a year and a half I had a little sick spell. One night I had a tummy ache and had to go to the E.R. I ended up spending 91 days in that hospital, very ill. There were very few of those 91 days that Dwayne and Venita or at least one of them were not with us. They supported and encouraged my family and comforted me and prayed with us.
Tommy Chapman wrote the following in a letter:
Your father is the only person I remember coming to my home and sharing his faith with my dad. I was a little boy, and your dad came representing the church about something. However, I realized that it wasn’t “church” your dad talked about, but his faith. I was impacted because I knew that this was someone my dad greatly respected and though my dad didn’t make any noticeable changes in his life (and church attendance) at that point, I have to believe it was the beginning of the change that would come.
It wasn’t until years later that my dad expressed his own faith in Christ, but I know your dad’s life was instrumental in his salvation in that he always held your father in high regard and found in him a man who truly lived his faith every day. I am so glad that during their last years in Springfield, mom and dad had your dad as their Sunday School teacher. Really, he was their pastor and I know they were so appreciative of the care provided by both your dad and you mom.
For D’Wayne’s 75th birthday, Kevin Compton wrote:
I will never forget how you reached out to me as a struggling, young, cold college student who thought the world would be better if I was a mechanic. Turns out I was wrong — but you hung right with me, fixed my goofs (many times) and kept smiling. Your warmth to me was more than just a heated garage. Thanks for your kindness, support and friendship! You are one-in-a-million.
He was a Christian role model to many young men as Larry Chapman described,
D’Wayne, you may not have known it, but you were my first role model as a Christian father. In those brief years when Daryl and I were hanging out together you were one of two Christian men in my life (the other being my future father-in-law). With my own earthly father I had learned what it was to be a good man, but there was no pretense of being a man of faith or the Spirit. You were one of the two men God used to show me what a believing Christian man, husband, and father looked like up close and personal.
In you I first saw (up close and personal) a man who was unashamedly a believer in Christ. I can’t tell you what an affirming and freeing thing that was for me. In my experience to that point faith was never masculine, always feminine or wimpy or worse. And there you were, a real man who enjoyed sports and cars and God, of all things. You read the Bible for more than information. You read it because you met God in it. You prayed and believed in praying. You let me see your faith. By opening your home to me and allowing me to sit and talk with you about the things of your life, God, my life, and life in general you mentored me in Christian manhood.
He served his church in many volunteer capacities, including deacon, usher, and video camera operator. He helped fix and maintain equipment around the church, and he was a strong supporter of mission programs. At 74 years of age, he was still replacing 600 air handling filters in the church, twice a year. This service required getting up and down a ladder throughout a huge building and going on top of the roof.
D’Wayne L Eldridge died June 2, 2007. Over 600 people attended his visitation and funeral, demonstrating how many had been touched by his life. Many believers say they want to do something significant for God. His life is a testimony that by serving others, you can make a difference in the world. Significance comes when you lead like Jesus.