Majestic moments of silence

Published 8:55 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

   The years are many since we’ve been able to count the number of wars worldwide on the fingers of one hand. In the 1950s, a keen observer questioned whether we’d know what to do with ourselves “if peace ever breaks out.”

Today, we are flummoxed by this query, since meaningful peace seems unlikely, far over the rainbow. We are a restless, short-fused culture, warring at all levels.

Christians pray for peace, whether or not the “breaking out” variety. A few dozen of us were of such mind the other day when a wonderful friend was laid to rest. H. Bryan Poff wanted to live to be 105, missing his goal by about three months. Many stories were shared about his colorful, committed life. We agreed that—as in horseshoes, hand grenades and close-to-the-pin in golf—Mr. Poff’s coming close to his age goal counted greatly.

This wildcatter, with a memory that amazed, ate onion rings and pork ribs–full orders, please–as recently as two years ago. Involved in every major Texas oil discovery over a 95-year period, he was active in exploration until his death.

His regimen called for going to bed at 5 p.m., then arising at 3 a.m. for Bible study, usually in Proverbs. During the half-dozen years I knew him, he spoke only positively of his fellow man, taking life “sunny side up.” He found only positives in a world awash in negativity.

At his Rose Hill Cemetery graveside service, he would have noted the nice breeze, shade trees and the tranquility of the setting. He’d have liked the length of the service, too—a scant 20 minutes, as per directions.

Dr. Jimmie Nelson, officiant and close friend, spoke about Mr. Poff’s frequent discussion of drilling 16 straight dry holes. “He thanked the Lord for being with him and went on to the next site.” Mr. Poff believed a “short memory is a blessing in the oil business.” He also considered optimism to be an important trait. “I’ve got both,” he said.

A man of deep conviction and prayer who credited God for his long and fruitful life, Mr. Poff lived out his motto: “Always go down one more foot.”

We were warned there might be gunfire across the street at the Arlington Police Academy. Another “known” commonly accepted were the noises of trains passing by and aircraft flying overhead.

Sure enough, all of this occurred. Mr. Poff would have joked that we should interpret the practice gunfire as a salute to a Texan gone home. He might have mentioned the thrill of watching trains during his youth when automobiles were rare indeed.

From the generation credited with “get a horse” expressions, he’d have marveled at a sky filled with DFW Airport traffic. He’d likewise have been supportive of the police helicopter flying above the cemetery, its noise noticed for mere seconds.

Hitting backspace on life’s keyboard, “what if’s” dominated. Had his burial instead of his birth occurred on Dec. 5, 1910, his grave would have been the first on the rolling hills, several miles east of the city. There was no Rose Hill Cemetery at the time; it started in 1929, 19 years after Mr. Poff’s birth.

A promoter of peace for the Prince of Peace, he learned long ago about the importance of being still. Despite unavoidable noises during the service, we were of like mind to be still. We shared Mr. Poff’s ever present faith in God, who has intervened in the affairs of mankind throughout history and is still in charge.

After 9-11, Mr. Poff sponsored a twice-monthly prayer breakfast at his beloved Petroleum Club, where he was a charter member. It met until his health rendered him unable to attend early last year. Attendees were from all walks of life—it was a “whosoever will, may come” time for food, fellowship and Bible study led by Dr. Nelson, who was the teacher for a half-dozen years.

To end the memorial service, Dennis Bell, a bible study participant who visited Mr. Poff regularly, voiced the closing prayer. He’s a BNSF Railway executive. As he spoke, a train passed by. No one seemed to notice. For a few brief and shining moments that afternoon, peace had broken out.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Web site: Columns archived at