June Gibbs Wolfe never made headlines, published books, composed organ music, or amassed a fortune, but Proverbs 10:7 describes her well: “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” Her family rejoices over her life and legacy.
Born in 1916 to missionary parents, she and her older sister Elsie left with the family for Toyko in 1919. Mom Wolfe’s mother, Opal Gibbs, used Calvert Home School materials, but June also attended Japanese school, something that gave her amazing Japanese language fluency. As a quiet middle child, she had difficult high school years and summers back in the USA while her folks and younger sister remained in Japan.
Her father returned to the USA in the late 1930s and pastored a small country church near Gowanda, New York. A young ministerial student from Houghton College came back home on weekends and met June at the church. They married on June 9, 1938, and began the life of pastor and wife in small western New York towns. Dad’s salary was often the two or three dollars folks placed in the collection plate on Sunday morning. But Mom told us they always ate well because eggs, fresh vegetables, a pound of fresh-made butter or other food appeared on their porch during the week. She and Dad raised three boys and then returned to Japan in 1948, restarting the Gibbs’ efforts that World War II interrupted.
The Wolfes returned to the USA in the late 50s and their sons graduated from high schools in New York. Mom worked at home, taught Sunday School, VBS, and Bible studies. On Sunday morning, she played the organ for services. With the boys grown, she and Dad returned to the mission field, this time for a seven-year tour in Honolulu. They took a lot of kidding about suffering for the Lord in Hawaii, but Mom was again far away — this time from grandchildren — seven of them. Later pastoral assignments for Dad brought them back to New York and then to Brooksville, Florida. With children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, June and Gordon celebrated their 60th anniversary in 1998. They would celebrate one more anniversary together before Dad died in 1999.
After five years of living alone, Mom left Florida to move in with her oldest son and his wife in Houston. Mom’s world grew smaller due to her hearing losses and loss of vision in one eye. She died peacefully in her sleep on July 15.
During July I studied Isaiah and on the 15th, chapter 35 was part of my three chapters. Although we miss Mom, these verses give clarity to us about her and about her Savior: “They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold your God…”
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of he mute sing for joy…And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness…the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”