Steve began preaching at Central in 1975 and right away we met Geneva Nordhoff. Geneva had two daughters, a son, and a husband who was a non-practicing Catholic. Her daughters were grown with families of their own, but her son Bud, age 42, still lived at home.
As Geneva explained to us, during delivery Bud had had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, cutting off oxygen for so long that he, throughout his life, lived with cerebral palsy, not speaking clearly or walking as others do. As it happened, that life was much longer than the doctors predicted.
Geneva was a fighter, diligent to defend her faith, her family, and the Democratic party. (She wouldn’t recognize today’s Democrats.) When Bud was born on Groundhog Day, 1933, no special accommodations were made for children with disabilities—or adults, for that matter. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s polio and his policies helped raise awareness, but not in time for Bud to get the services offered to a child today.
Geneva trained him herself, teaching him when he couldn’t go to school. He learned to read a little and write even less, but his brain was active and productive. He always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, so when Geneva was 66, she learned to drive solely so she could take Bud to the Grand Canyon. They loved the trip so much that they did it again a year later! They loved telling about the trip.
One of my favorite stories about Geneva was the thank-you note she wrote after she had come to one of our Christmas parties. It began snowing just about the time Jeff and Althea Edwards picked up Geneva and Bud and brought them to our house. It was a blizzard by the time they drove home. Her note read: “Thank you for the party. It was a terrible night.” So Geneva! Straight to the point.
Bud did all he could to help at home. He mowed their large yard on Selim Avenue and helped Geneva inside as well. He loved Lawrence Welk and never missed a show. He also had a large collection of vinyl records, from Lawrence Welk to polkas.
He loved Octoberfest in downtown Cincinnati and never missed. He especially loved the polka music and watching the dancers.
He adored playing Rook, but he had his own rules. We played Rook with him more than with others, so when we tried to play a normal game, we discovered Bud’s rules had us all messed up. But it was fun!
Another activity he enjoyed was bowling and he was good at it. To watch his poor, misshapen body fling that ball down the lane was quite an experience—funny, touching, and inspiring. He always had a good score. Geneva exposed him to everything she could, and much of it took.
Bud had always gone to church with Geneva but had never been baptized. The week after his father, Joseph Nordhoff, died, Geneva called Steve. “Bud wants to talk to you,” she said. Steve and I went to their house as requested.
“I want to be baptized,” Bud said. “I haven’t done it earlier out of respect for my dad’s beliefs.” Before long, a small group had gathered at the church building at 4430 West Eighth Street to witness his baptism. It was an awkward affair and Steve was uneasy about Bud’s breathing for even such a brief time underwater. But Bud was determined and proudly said, “I do,” when Steve asked if he believed that Jesus is the Son of God. Once he had confessed Christ as Lord, he was buried in baptism (Romans 6:4) and we all rejoiced with him as he rose from that watery grave.
When Geneva died in 1992 at the age of 86, Bud’s sisters, understandably, worried about “what to do with Bud.” But Bud knew exactly. His aunt was moving from her apartment to a nursing home and he took over her apartment. No matter to him that it was on the second floor of the apartment building. He managed the stairs as he did everything else: by hanging on for dear life.
His special hobby of growing night-blooming cereus plants expanded once he had his own place. The picture window in the living room was obscured by all the huge plants Bud nourished so faithfully. Many were sitting in buckets so he could water them freely without getting water on the floor. I can only imagine the contortions he went through to get water to those plants!
More than once, he called us around 10 p.m. to ask us to come over and see his blooms. Two distinctive attributes of the night-blooming cereus: a bloom lasts only one night and the fragrance is delightful.
Each night that we went over, several plants were blooming and the pleasant odor filled the small apartment. Bud was proud of his plants and loved sharing the gorgeous blooms with whoever would venture out late at night to see them.
Bud eventually had to go to a nursing home to live, giving away his beloved plants, but he was willing to do so after several years of independence. We loved visiting him there, though the nursing home his sisters had chosen was a 50-minute drive from our house.
For his 75th birthday, friends brought him to the church building for another big party celebrating Bud, his faith, and his friendship.
Our beloved Bud passed from this life on August 9, 2010, at age 77.
Amazing the impact of this one life, this remarkable man, Bud Nordhoff. He was born 88 years ago today and lives on in our hearts. I’m so glad the Bible tells us we’ll have new bodies in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-2, Philippians 3:20-21); I can just see Bud jumping and running and speaking clearly with his new tongue in his new body while Geneva looks on with joy. Can’t wait to see that someday!
“The memory of the righteous is a blessing….” Proverbs 10:7