I was rather proud that my tribute to Reverend William Duitsman made the front page of the prestigious Life and Leisure newspaper.
Remembering Reverend Duitsman
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In February of 2004, I wrote a tribute article to one of the most wonderful ministers whom I have ever known, Reverend William Duitsman. The story made the front page of the prestigious Life and Leisure newspaper. L&L had a circulation of well over 50,000 copies per printing. It was circulated to over a dozen different towns in northeast New Jersey.
For myself, the tribute article to Reverend Duitsman was an important milestone to me. It gave me the golden opportunity to play tribute to a gentleman who profoundly touched my life when I was a boy. Particularly back when I was 12 years old.
Reverend Duitsman served as the Minister for the First Reformed Church in Lincoln Park for many years, from the 1950s to the 1980s. He was a most dedicated minister. He had a great compassion for people. He had a sincerity that seemed to manifest in his eyes. He was an honest man, a kind man, a good man.
A photo of Reverend Duitsman with his two sons standing beside him. I took this photo of Reverend Duitsman at the alter of the First Reformed Church in Lincoln Park.
When I was 12 years old, in September of 1965, I became very ill and was diagnosed with a case of full blown rheumatic fever. For one full year of my life, my feet never touched the ground. I was in and out of the hospital, five times. Each hospital stay was no less than two weeks in length. I even spent Christmas Day in the hospital. This was a traumatic thing for a 12 year old kid.
Reverend Duitsman came to visit me, either at home in my bedroom or in the hospital, every single Wednesday afternoon, like clockwork. Generally speaking Reverend Duitsman would visit me between two and three o’clock in the afternoon. I cherished his visits.
Reverend Duitman would say a prayer for my healing. I kept my Bible on the bed stand beside my bed. Reverend Duitsman would sit down at my desk chair, next to my bed and read a few Bible passages to me.
This is the Alfred E. Neuman poster that hung in my room when I was 12 years old. I was afraid that Reverend Duitsman would disapprove of it.
Posted up in my bedroom was a big poster of the mascot of Mad magazine, Alfred E. Neuman. I was so afraid that Reverend Duitsman would disapprove of the poster. But instead, Reverend Duitsman chuckled at the Mad poster. He told me that it was important for my healing for me to be able to laugh.
This is a close up of the section of my tribute to Reverend Duitsman article that focused on my Alfred E. Neuman poster.
Even though it has been over 12 years ago that I wrote my tribute article for Reverend Duitsman, I still remember writing about my Alfred E. Neuman poster. It was funny. Now. looking back, over 50 years ago since Reverend Duitsman had given me the okay for the Mad magazine poster, I still recall that anxiety I felt in that moment. I really was nervous as to what Reverend Duitsman was going to say about my Mad magazine poster. It’s funny, after that point in time, I saw Reverend Duitsman more as a friend than as a minister to be a little bit afraid of.
When my tribute to Reverend Duitsman story hit the pavement and was mailed out to over 50,000 homes in northern New Jersey, I received countless compliments about the tribute. I cherished those positive feedbacks. I felt I had accomplished something worthwhile. For I knew in my heart of hearts, that I was on the right path by writing for a regional weekly paper as opposed to writing for a big daily paper. Despite the criticism that I had received from many folks as to why I didn’t move on and write for a big daily paper, I am glad that I stayed writing for regional weekly newspapers. For the truth of the matter is that an editor working at a big daily paper would have stuck his nose up at my tribute to Reverend Duitsman.