OP-Ed: THE IDLE AMERICAN: In remembrance of Kornegay Hall

Published 11:04 am Wednesday, June 24, 2020

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Don Newbury

“We’ve never done it that way before.”

The expression was well worn before the pandemic came along. Lately, creative juices have been milked dry for new ways to conduct commencements, weddings and funerals.

The late Roy Kornegay, a church leader who died recently in Amarillo, might well have observed, “So what?”

Not much fazed this multi-talented theologian who often “found new ways.”

When softball nudged against worship, he wore his uniform under his suit.

Ever humble, he kept “first things first,” though, “quick-changing” only when necessary. Surely his humility was challenged when–at age 14–he pitched for the San Antonio Pony League team which won the first-ever World Series Championship (Washington, PA, 1952).

He loved the Bible, music and opera, as did the former Janette Sewell–his wife of 61 years. They met as students at Howard Payne University.

She and their three daughters–Kari, Karla and Kathy–faced planning his graveside services– the first for Amarillo’s Cox Funeral Home when rigid COVID-19 rules began.

Dr. Howard Batson, FBC pastor, presided. The 45-minute service included recorded remarks by the late Winfred Moore, on whose FBC staff Roy served for 15 years as Minister of Education, and Roy’s stirring solo rendition of “The Holy City,” a recording he made years ago.

Graveside seating was limited to eight persons–including Janette, the children and sons-in-law–plus his dog, Lucky. Grandchildren–ages 23-34–recounted memories of their “Big Daddy” through car windows.

As a train passed nearby, loved ones smiled, recalling his “railroading” dad and granddad, and Roy’s specific instructions for burial near the tracks.

Also remembered were Roy’s “on-the-train” references during his final week battling Alzheimer’s. His family prefers remembering his lucidity and joyful spirit evidenced during their final visit permitted two weeks before his passing March 6.

Serving six churches after receiving two master’s degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Roy was the Amarillo Area Baptist Association Director of Missions for his final 17 years.

His life was a “book,” not a column.

Honors and memberships would fill several pages.

He valued nothing more highly than missionary opportunities. (Vacation Bible schools were a close second. At one attracting 1,000+ youngsters, he claimed to be “principal of the biggest elementary school in Amarillo.”)

Collecting pins from 64 countries visited on every continent, he attached them to his big orange hat.  Soon, he was known worldwide as the “man in the orange hat.”

He and Janette made dozens of trips to the Holy Land, where he delighted in giving away “fake money” for more than 40 years.

Once in Egypt, his family arranged for his “counterfeiting arrest,” even though the fake bills clearly included an introduction to the four spiritual laws leading to salvation.

The security guys played along, and Roy thought he was “hoosegow bound.”

He even extended his wrists, ready for handcuffs to be attached, as the Apostle Paul did. Soon, though, Roy learned it was a joke. (He led hundreds to the Lord over the years with his “fake money.”).

He will be long remembered by many, including Dr. Richard Jackson, on whose staff Roy served at North Phoenix Baptist Church. “I know absolutely no one who didn’t love and respect Roy,” he said. “His brilliant mind and commitment to ministry were off the chart.”

Roy’s extensive theological library was given to the association for use by area ministers and Sunday school leaders.

Don’t expect to utilize the Dewey Decimal System. He didn’t use it, developing his own.

In 1995, a tornado heavily damaged the High Plains Retreat Center. He led ongoing restoration efforts.

Now, guests arrive at “Kornegay Hall,” recently named in his memory. There’ll be folks joking about their “appearances at Kornegay Hall.”

Farewell, my friend from college days. Thanks for punching so many tickets on the glory train, and for always keeping “the main thing the main thing.”

   Dr. Newbury is a former educator who writes weekly and is a longtime public speaker. Comments/speaking inquiries to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury