Archive for February 18, 2011

A Crisis of Belief

It is June 19, 1954. The Tasmanian Devil makes his delayed debut in the Warner Brothers cartoon “Devil May Hare,” and Keith Wissman makes his premature debut at William Booth Memorial Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, weighing in at 3 pounds, 13 ounces. Today, Keith is a strapping, 5′ 11” guy; well-educated and well-traveled, with a Master of Science degree in Industrial Technology and Applied Statistics and an accomplished career with internationally positioned major corporations behind him.

Keith’s curiosity about how things work revealed itself in his early years, growing up in Allen Park, a Detroit suburb. From an alarmingly successful attempt at stirring up a batch of homemade gun powder at age ten to blowing up the household fuse box designing his first electrical engineering experiment a few years later, Keith’s patient parents accepted his inquisitive bent, relieved that he and his older brother and younger sister survived their childhoods unscathed. Less adventuresome – or hazardous – were his youthful forays into taking apart radios and watches, most of which were still functional after he’d reassembled them.

Those were also days of putting down roots in the religious traditions of the German Evangelical and Reformed Church – “high church liturgy with classic hymns and pipe organ.” Keith’s family worshiped virtually every Sunday, along with his mother’s grandmother, who lived in their home for many years. “It was pretty neat having a great-grandmother living with us,” he recalls. “I loved the stories, and she let me ‘help’ cook and bake.”

In 1970, classmate Robbie invites him to the Melvindale High School Spinster Hop, and ironically, Keith has discovered his life’s match. The two date throughout high school and college, marry in June of 1976, and set up housekeeping in Sycamore, Illinois. Here Keith enthusiastically dives into product and process engineering, and Robbie plants a foot on the ladder leading to health care administration.

The Welcome to Sycamore sign boasts a population of 6,000; Keith says he’s “pretty sure that included the chickens and pigs.” But this is a place where he can start to build material security for his family, ultimately “designing automotive widgets and being published in technical journals.” Meanwhile, that family begins to grow.

By the time son Andy is born in 1984, Keith and Robbie have returned to Michigan and look forward to raising their children in Royal Oak, closer to their childhood homes. They are also active members of a local evangelical congregation, where Keith serves on the Board of Elders and in teaching and administrative roles.

July 1989. Robbie is pregnant again, and they are elated at the thought of expanding their small family. When Robbie gives birth to a full-term but unexpectedly still-born baby girl, Rebecca Lynn, in March of 1990, those high emotions come crashing down around them like shattered glass in a violent traffic accident. (more…)

February 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

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