April 27, 2013

The Rev. Rodney B. Weaver: Then came Willisa

— As Christians we look for examples of Christ-like behaviors to emulate. Far too often we choose presidents, military leaders, saints and social giants to model our character after. We don’t focus on persons that are near and dear to us.

We seek to model ourselves after persons we know are solid, God-fearing individuals with a strength of character to face life’s challenges. We search and search and search. Sometimes it is quite difficult to find that one person who truly exemplifies the ways and manners that we desire to be like.

The Bible shares individuals who rose above adversity to accomplish great things — Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, David, Daniel, Paul, John the Baptist and most notably Jesus Christ.  These persons from the biblical arena withstood adversity and with a single-minded purpose shaped the Israelites. Their purpose-driven lives determined the fate of the Hebrews and the early Christian church.

But when we look around us what do we see, hear and read? Child molestation, drive-by killings, domestic violence, carjackings, gang violence, drug deals gone bad and other societal evils that can cause us to lose confidence in God’s prime creation (man).

Dalton is faced with its own aforementioned societal evils. These evils are chronicled and dialoged in our local newspaper, on street corners, corporate boardrooms, the halls of justice (courtrooms), City Hall, grocery stores, banks (boardrooms), beauty and barber shops, and other places in our city. Because of this, it is easy to lose confidence in God’s prime creation.

Then came Willisa Marsh. Into our midst, some 35 years ago, came a local Dalton citizen who although petite in stature blessed so many. Born to the parentage of Hubert and Minnie Ruth Marsh, she was raised here in our midst. Her father (a Department of Human Resources teen resources director) and her mother (a teacher and funeral home manager) raised her on Croy Drive in East Dalton.

Willisa did not go to private schools, but attended the local public schools (Roan Street, Morris Street, Fort Hill, Dalton Jr. High and Dalton High). She excelled in her studies, then went on to graduate from Berry College in Rome in the year 2000.

Willisa grew and blossomed into a beautiful woman, with a beautiful smile, a beautiful personality, and a beautiful demeanor about her. Willisa was a fine young Christian woman. Although stricken with a disease 12 years ago, she smiled through it all. She was an inspiration not only to her age group but to adults and the elderly as well.

Her zeal for life exhibited itself in her love for children, education and books. Her mother was a teacher so she desired to follow in her footsteps and became a teacher as well.

Willisa got excited about the learning experience. She got excited about history and the authentic presentation of such. Willisa was so excited that she designed and developed a room at the Emery Center. She supplied it with books for children to learn about the civil rights struggle. Her efforts were so impressive that the Emery Center Board of Directors moved to name this particular room in her honor. In the future it will be called the Willisa Harriet Marsh  Children’s Room.

Willisa passed away on Tuesday, April 2. She lived to be 35 years old, far too young to leave us. But she proved to us, the greater Dalton community, several things. Dalton can raise good, solid God-fearing men and women. Dalton can raise strong Christians, with a purpose-driven life in which to bless others. Dalton can be a place where the young can grow and flourish.  

Willisa proved this. Quietly she lived. Quietly she endured. But quietly she blessed others. She made persons of faith proud to live and be from Dalton.

So when you read about our societal evils, about how bad things have corrupted our city, how evil has overtaken the lives of our citizens, how Dalton had been hit with adversity, remember that then came Willisa. Her life gave hope. Her life proves that Dalton can produce persons of faith who grow into adulthood, do the right thing, and live the Godly way. So whenever doubt  arises about the condition of Dalton, just remember that then came Willisa.


Rodney Weaver is the pastor at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church.