Remembering a life well-lived

BRIAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Tuesday, July 28th. 

You’re listening to The World and Everything in It and we are so glad you are! 

Good morning. I’m Brian Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Coming next: honoring a hometown hero. A few years ago we featured a Georgia man on our occasional series, What Do People Do All Day?

After retirement,Vance Luke spent the next 30 years of his life serving both local and international communities. He died one year ago but we just learned of it this month. WORLD reporter Myrna Brown brings his story.

AMBI: OUTDOORS GOD’S FARM: (lawn mower starts)

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: It was the summer  of 20-18. Vance Luke sat on a red, industrial lawn mower, ready to wage war on ankle-high grass. On that warm day in Temple, Georgia, Luke was just a few weeks shy of his 100th birthday. 

LARRY TEEM: I got a friend I want to introduce you to. Myrna wants to interview you because you’re so young. 

Larry Teem owns the 58-acre day and residential campground for underserved children and youth. He calls it God’s Farm. Luke was his grounds and maintenance man.

TEEM: One time I thought wouldn’t it be great if we could get a hydroelectric coming off our creek. I said how do we know how much power we can get from a stream? He goes, it’s the head and the flow and he starts scribbling. And I said Vance when’s the last time you used that formula. And he said back in college, which was in the 30s.

Serving, Luke said, kept his mind and body young.

LUKE: Well I really don’t feel much different than I did when I was 60. Keep working, just keep doing something even when you don’t feel like doing it.

Born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on September 25, 1918, Vance Luke grew up on a farm. Later, he served as a major in the Army Air Corps during World War II. A mechanical engineer, he worked on the fuel system for the B-52 bomber. When he retired, he used his hands and mind to build and repair nearly every building on God’s Farm. But Teem says Luke’s greatest asset was unseen.

LARRY TEEM: He knew who he was in Christ and that was the guiding source of his life. 

LUKE: My prayer is that He keeps me healthy until He takes me home.

On Saturday, August 17, 20-19 Luke had a one-car accident about 15 minutes into his hour-long drive home.

TEEM: He actually picked figs that morning and then cut grass.

 Teem says they believe he had a heart attack or stroke while driving.

TEEM: I called his daughter Kay up in Ohio. And she just said, you know, he went out with his boots on. He worked all day. He didn’t suffer and he didn’t hurt anybody. 

Married 65 years before the death of his wife Mary Gay, the Lukes raised three childen, Ginger, Vance Jr., and Kay.  

KAY MASON: I knew that he prayed for all of us by name every night on his knees. And I counted on that.

Seventy-five-year-old Kay Mason says she and her siblings also looked forward to their annual mission trips with their father—all seven of them. Luke was 93-years old on their first trek to Africa.

KAY MASON: And we said, should we ask dad? And Jr. said, well you better tell him that it’s a 25-hour flight and it’s rough terrain and high altitude. As soon as I told him, he said, yep I’m going.

Luke was in charge of construction. Mason says her father worked harder than any of them. 

KAY MASON: We built two classrooms, a kitchen, and a 350 chicken coop. And we visited families, we got shoes for kids that didn’t have shoes. We started the lunch program and five farms there. So, he was right there in the middle of all of it. Well actually, he was leading a lot of it because he knew a lot more than we did. 

They even celebrated his 100th birthday in Africa.

KAY MASON: There’s this little restaurant in the town of Kajabi and they knew we were coming to celebrate his birthday. And there were a number of Kenyans that had just come pretending that they were having dinner. They wanted to see what dinner for a hundred year old was going to be like.  

Luke was also a grandfather to six, great grandfather to nine and great-great grandfather to three.

BETH: My name is Beth and I’m a granddaughter of Vance Luke. I am the second oldest of six grandchildren.  

A nurse in the Navy, Beth is serving her last tour of duty in Southern Italy. While she wasn’t able to attend Luke’s homegoing service, she says she has another special memory of her grandpa. 

BETH: I had recently transferred to Okinawa, Japan. So, I was getting ready for work one day listening to The World And Everything in It. And I got to the piece on What do people do all day, and thought, this story sounds familiar. And so I started listening a little more intently and then I heard my grandfather’s voice and I couldn’t believe it! It was such a blessing to me being so far away and a surprise you know, to hear his voice and to listen to that story.

Beth says she immediately called her grandfather for more details.

BETH: I said grandpa, I just heard you on a newscast that I listen to every morning. And he just started laughing. He just, you know, started laughing. 

She calls that a classic Vance Luke response. 

BETH: I’ve always just been amazed by his humility and his servant heart.


Back on the farm, a brand new building is going up. It’s the first structure Vance Luke didn’t have his hands on, but Teem says his influence is all over it.

LARRY TEEM: We’re calling it the Vance Luke Training Center.  We realized how many kids don’t know how to hammer a nail or use a screw gun. So we’re taking kids and just teaching them how to build things and paint things and how to take things apart and put them back together again. That’s one of his legacies on the farm. 


Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown.

Vance Luke and his entire family. (Courtesy photo)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Remembering a life well-lived

  1. Lisa Poleynard says:

    This is a fabulous, inspiring story of a Christian saint. Thank you for letting us know about him and conveying the deprh of his ministry to us listeners!!

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