My Friend, SEMO.net’s Friend, Paul Kidwell (1963 – 2016)

Paul with his 4th grade friend Stacy Garrent (right) and Stacy's wife.

Paul with his 4th grade friend Stacy Garrent (right) and Stacy’s wife.

Today, at Grace United Methodist Church in St Louis, the Memorial Service for Paul Andrew Kidwell was held. As my lovely wife Toni posted on Facebook, “Brian and I said goodbye to a bosom buddy today. It was the hardest time I’ve ever had singing through the emotions, and I’ve sung at many goodbyes. In the midst of the deep grief, though, there were sweet reunions with friends gathered in the majestic sanctuary from another era of all of our lives. We shared a love and respect for Paul.”

Toni and I sang “My Chains Are Gone – Amazing Grace” as Special Music. Stacy Garrett (Paul’s friend from 4th Grade on) and I were both honored to be asked to eulogize our dear friend. Kurt Schuerman, former pastor of First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff, shared an amazing and blessed message of grace and hope.

Paul’s book “Covenants of the Heart” is available for pre-order and will be published in February. He also wrote one article for SEMO.net called – Bleeding Kansas: The True Beginning of the American Civil War

As a way to honor my dear friend, and SEMO.net’s long-time lawyer, I wanted to share my eulogy:

I’m honored to speak today. Paul was a good friend. We met when he moved to Poplar Bluff and joined First United Methodist Church where my wife and I were youth ministers at that time. I took three disciple classes under Paul and enjoyed each of them. During that time and the years following, Paul and I grew closer as friends. He was also my lawyer and represented me on various fronts.

During the very healthy years of my company, I had lots of billable hours with Paul. As a gag-gift one Christmas, I purchased a very nice chess clock. For those who are not familiar with a chess clock, it has a dial for each player for their accumulated time and a button for stopping one timer and starting the other at the end of each move.  Under one clock’s dial I had engraved “SEMO.net Time” and under the other timer dial was engraved “Your Time.”

For some reason, Paul didn’t find the gift as funny as I did, but that chess clock was sitting on his desk every time I walked in.

Family and Friends in Isarael, 1999. From left to right Elizabeth Ellebracht, Dianne Becker, Toni Becker, Paul Kidwell.

Family and Friends in Isarael, 1999. From left to right Elizabeth Ellebracht, Dianne Becker, Toni Becker, Paul Kidwell.

One of the issues Paul and I often discussed was the spirit-versus-the-letter of the Biblical text and Doctrinal teachings. That debate was never more prevelant as during our tour of the Holy Land. Paul wanted to be baptized in the River Jordan, but his Methodist roots did not allow for second baptisms. He asked many people what they thought, he discussed it with his family, he spoke with Dr Notley and he asked me my opinion…several times. It was a war within his heart, and the spirit of the law won out.

Paul, donned in a white robe, walked down into the same river as his LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ, and was baptized. It was an inspiring moment. He glowed afterwards and it was a decision he never regretted and a memory he never forgot.

Of course the robe he had purchased was slightly see-though when wet and believe-you-me his outie belly button was never more proudly on display.

For the last four years of Paul’s Poplar Bluff stint, we had semi-weekly meetings at the Wine Rack. Our meetings would sometimes have 8 or 9 and sometimes it would just be Paul and me. We lovingly named our meetings “Beer and Bible.” It was a wonderful part of our relationship and the highlight of my week.

The typical Hebrew toast is “L’Chaim” which means “To Life”. Practically every Beer and Bible started with “L’Chaim.”

We often discussed the differences between cultural mindsets of the eastern thought-process of both/and versus the more western thinking either/or. We’d discuss things like the difference between rules and laws (rules have exceptions, laws have punishments). The book I’m currently reading is called “Misreading the Bible with Western Eyes” and every chapter I read is filled with ideas I would love to discuss with Paul. In it one author tells how while a missionary in Indonesia he was asked to teach at an Pastor-only Conference. As he taught, he noticed a small group of women in the meeting and was confused because he knew that Indonesian Diocese stated that pastors must be male. He asked the leader, “Didn’t you tell me this meeting was Pastor’s only?” Yes, was the answer. He followed with the question, but there were women in the audience, doesn’t your doctrine say that pastors must be men? The leader said, “Yes, and most are.”

We loved to study and argue about things that made most people uncomfortable. Our goal was always to better understand the bible. We would discuss things like why the Apostle Paul would tell the Galations DO NOT circumcise yourself or you render Christ’s death worthless. And not too long after that, Paul circumcised Timothy.

One spring we used Paul’s own manuscript on The Book of the Revelation as our study guide.

Kidwell-Covenants

Paul’s book which will be available in February.

Anytime we studied the Apostle Paul, we were assured to hear Mr. Kidwell frequently use the phrase “my namesake.” Paul was very proud of his name and held it with honor.

We always had spirited debates. We were each other’s iron and we continually sharpened each other…which often produced sparks. To the point that one person who often came to Beer and Bible said they came for the light show.

Paul’s book Covenants of the Heart comes out in a few weeks. I plan on taking it to the Wine Rack to read the first chapter. Like Elijah’s empty seat at every Passover, Paul will have a chair and a beer. It will be my own little memorial to my friend who kept my iron sharp and enriched my life.

And that night I will clang my glass against his for the last time, I will lift it to the Heavens and say, L’Chaim.

 

Obituary

Paul Andrew Kidwell, 52, of St. Louis, Missouri died surrounded by loving Family and Friends on Saturday, January 2, 2016 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Paul was born on Tuesday, November 19, 1963 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri to Rev. Wayne C. Kidwell and R. Elaine (Bridwell) Kidwell (now of St. Louis) and they survive him. Survivors also include his Son, Ian Kidwell of St. Louis, his Daughter, Rachel Kidwell of Cordova, Tennessee, and his Brothers Stephen (Nancy) Kidwell of St. Louis and Joel (Suzanne) Kidwell of Gordonville, Missouri.

Paul Graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1988, where he wrote for the Law Review. He began his legal career with the firm Coburn, Croft & Putzel in St. Louis working in railroad defense, an emphasis he continued in Savannah, Georgia handling cases for CSX Transportation. When that set of cases was resolved, his career took him back to Poplar Bluff where he raised his family in the small-town Missouri life he preferred, and where he could pursue his passions of hunting, fishing and deep Bible study. In 1999, his Disciple Bible Study Class at 1st United Methodist Church Poplar Bluff was so moved by his Bible teaching that they gifted him with a trip to the Holy Land. He also assisted The United Methodist Church’s district leadership in the area with a variety of legal matters, often pro-bono. Paul was an avid Civil War history buff, and, in full costume, guided Poplar Bluff elementary students on tours of the Shiloh Battlefield. He recently completed a Civil War-era historical fiction novel that is slated for publication, and he was renowned for his excellent culinary skills.

Visitation will be from 9:00–10:15 a.m., Saturday, January 16, 2016 followed by a Service of Death and Resurrection at 10:30, both at Grace United Methodist Church, 6199 Waterman Boulevard in St. Louis. Rev. Robin Roderick will preside, and Dr. Kurt Schuermann will bring the message. Burial will follow at Immanuel (Senate Grove) United Methodist Church, west of New Haven, Missouri on State Highway VV.

Memorials are suggested to: The “Tour Scholarship Fund” at the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, c/o: Dr. R. Steven Notley, 1 Terrace Avenue, Suffern, NY, 10901; The Cemetery Fund at Immanuel (Senate Grove) United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 261, New Haven MO 63068-0261; or the Civil War Trust, 1140 Professional Court, Hagerstown, MD 21740.

Paul Kidwell, Jerusalem, 1999.

Paul Kidwell, Jerusalem, 1999.

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After graduating from Mizzou with Computer and Electrical Engineering degrees in 1985, Brian Becker spent a decade singing Christian Rock and being a labeled artist with Benson Music Group of Nashville. In 1995, he and several investors started the area's first Internet Service called PBMO.net and by 2000 the company was serviing Internet access in over 50 communities throughout Southeast Missouri as SEMO.net.

  • Thank you for sharing, Brian Becker. I’ve ordered my copy of Paul’s book, sad that it won’t be autographed and that there will be no discussion with him about it. He would have loved that.

  • Paul was there for me during one of the hardest times in my life. He could always see things clearly, often annoyingly clear, but there was never a time I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief seeing him at the bar at Castellos, knowing I could lose myself in a few hours of really great conversation and sage advice. He will be sorely missed.

  • What a wonderful tribute to your friend.