A Hero Among Us - By Frank Hyland

On Friday, November 16, 2012, Good Shepherd marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of The Rev. Dr. Conrad Raker, who served as administrator for 39 years, with a memorial service at the Conrad W. Raker Center of the Good Shepherd Home in Allentown. Frank Hyland, vice president, rehabilitation services, worked closely with Dr. Raker for many years and was deeply impacted by his compassion and dedication to serving people with disabilities. Below are Frank's eloquent remarks which we hope you'll find as inspiring as we do.

 

"Many of us in this room have something in common and that is this: Dr. Raker was and is a hero to us. I want to share with you some of my memories of Dr. Raker. Dr Raker was blessed with many gifts. He was blessed with the gifts of kindness, compassion, and caring. He cared deeply about so many. Some of my fondest recollections are of seeing him in the hallway. When he saw you, his hand would shoot up to wave, then that smile would come across his face and he would have a twinkle in his eye. You know, his eyes, they really, really twinkled. When he would greet us, he would always put his hand on your shoulder and ask you how you were doing, ask about your family. He had that unique ability that whenever he left you, you always felt better; better about yourself and better about the world. And by doing so, he blessed us with his gift of love.

"Dr. Raker was blessed with the gifts of strength, faith, and humility. He taught us about the power of humility. But it was his faith and strength and his strength and faith that were so reassuring, especially when times were difficult for individuals faced with their trials and also for Good Shepherd when it was challenged. He would talk to us, reassure us, and always end his message of reassurance to us by saying strongly - - 'This too shall pass.'  We then knew then that if we kept at it everything would be okay. And by doing so, he blessed us with his gift of faith. 

"Dr. Raker was also blessed with the gift of vision. He had the ability to see into the future and he boldly shaped the future of Good Shepherd. In the 1960s, Robert F Kennedy, Jr. said, 'Some see things as they are and wonder why? I see things as they could be and say, whly not?'

"That was Dr. Raker; why not?

"He saw the paralyzed person who wanted to walk,'Why not?' Hee saw the person who had difficulty communicating and wanted to communicate fluently, 'Why not?' He saw the jobless disabled person who wanted to make a living and be self-sufficient, 'Why not?'

"He focused on everyone’s abilities, not their disabilities and challenged each of us - individually and collectively to find solutions. And by doing so, he blessed us with his gift of hope.

"Dr. Raker was also blessed with the gift of oration. He was the most remarkable public speaker that I ever heard. During the recent presidential campaign – I couldn’t help but think that President Obama and Gov Romney paled in comparison with his public speaking abilities. I was always in awe of his ability to speak extemporaneously. He had the ability to weave stories and lessons into his speeches and always kept the attention of his audience. His speeches always taught us something new.

"I thought that the most remarkable speech that I ever heard him give was on February 21, 2002, at Founder's Day. It would be his last Founder's Day.He  was 89 years old and was beginning to decline. But he spoke strongly for 20 to 25 minutes without any notes. In it he presented the history of Good Shepherd and then prepared us for his departure and our future responsibilities.

"He began, by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson said - 'An Institution is but the lengthened shadow of a man.' For me, that is a very powerful statement. He then said that Good Shepherd is the lengthened shadow of John Henry Raker, his father, Papa Raker. 

"Dr. Raker then paid tribute to his parents, Mama and Papa Raker, and lovingly spoke of their many accomplishments and contributions to Good Shepherd and how much he cared about them. He then turned attention to himself. I would like to read to you the last couple minutes of this speech.

"'When I was at the helm of Good Shepherd, I often thought of my father. I thought I worked hard, but I knew it wasn’t nearly as hard as he had worked. It’s easier to keep something moving that’s already in motion…….it’s easier to have new ideas, begin new services, take on new ventures…..than it is to start it from scratch, to start it from nothing.

"'I used the phrase Presenting the Cause. This was a phrase we used within the family; it meant talking to people about Good Shepherd and getting them interested.

"'In 1941, we knew my father was dying. I was by his side constantly. One day, it occurred to me that I had an appointment to speak about Good Shepherd to a woman’s group in New Jersey. I was torn! Should I go or should I stay? I didn’t know what to do, but I went. On the way back I wondered if I was too late. I was in torment. Would I get home in time? I drove like the wind, coming up Route 309. If the car had had wings, I would have been airborne. Would I be too late? Fortunately, I returned in time.

"'When I got back to my father’s room, he asked, 'Where were you Conrad? I missed you.' I said, 'Papa, I was Presenting the Cause.'  'Oh!' He understood. That made everything okay. I had presented the cause. I had been out preaching the gospel of the Good Shepherd Home.

"'My father died on May 8, 1941. There was no doubt about it. John Raker served his time and age well. He broke the ground for Good Shepherd. He laid the foundations. He pointed the way!

"'But what about us in our time? All of us in this church. We are the Good Shepherd Home of today. Into our hands has been placed a sacred obligation. We have a noble heritage, but we have much to do.

"'We are each allotted a certain amount of time. Compared to the full sweep of human history it is indeed short. We are something like the beautiful insects we see fly around us on a lazy summer day. They live but one day and are gone. Our allotted time is a little longer, not very much, but we do live, we do have life.

"'He then quoted the Latin poet Horace. 'Dum vivimus vivamus.' While we live, let us live

"'He was telling us to embrace life – always keep moving and to serve.

And while we live, let us serve, never forgetting the sacred motif, the sacred theme of Good Shepherd: to love, to care for even the least of these and to do it in the name of our Blessed Lord. Let us never forget we are serving under Divine orders spoken by our Lord himself…'For in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'

"'I am positive that Dr. Raker is with us today and I know that he is with us every day. I am going to tell you a secret about myself. After I do, you may think that I am crazy, but I don’t care. For the past 10 years I have talked with Dr. Raker just about every day. I have told him my worries. I tell him my fears and I have shared with him our accomplishments. I can’t tell you that he hears me. I can’t tell you that he has spoken to me, but I can tell you this: I can still see the smile on his face and I can still see the twinkle in his eye and sometimes, sometimes I can feel his hand on my shoulder. And for me, it is reassuring; it gives me hope and it strengthens my faith.

"'If anyone needs proof that Dr. Raker is among us today, I ask you this. The next time that you move about this campus, look at the shadows cast by our buildings. Those shadows have life.I say to you that these lengthened shadows are those of Mama and Papa Raker and the lengthened shadow of our Rev. Dr. Conrad Raker.

"'And if you are very quiet and if you listen with your heart, you will feel their voices and they will say:

"'For in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'"