Rudy Clay, former mayor of Gary IN was buried today.

I didn’t know Mayor Clay.  It was thirty years ago this summer that we entered our final season as Salvation Army corps officers in Gary.  We lived on Pierce Street, a half mile west of the corps building on Harrison.  A person could walk through the swampy, brushy dense woods between the two places.  We didn’t.  To us it looked like a jungle.  And there were other reasons.

We had arrived late June 1981.  During our first week began a series of night break-ins at the corps building.  The security alarm alerted Lake County Sheriff’s deputies.  Who would wait for me to arrive at the building to open and disarm the system.  They would search the building.  No one.  Someone was breaking in and leaving before police arrived.  And their escape route certainly led into the jungle.

I remember the deputies standing with me, staring into the woods.  Their lights aimed into and swallowed by the jungle.  Them?  Me?  Going in there?  No way.dark woods

I had a solution.  Denny Kellenburger can tell you.  Denny who bravely accompanied stupid me on a night vigil.  I can’t claim that our efforts caused it, but after a month the break-ins stopped.

Another reason we didn’t walk through the jungle was because of what had happened out there months before we arrived in 1981.  A young boy had been murdered after being tortured, left tied to a tree.  The police weren’t able to make an arrest though I think that even then they knew who they suspected.  It would take almost twenty years before they arrested a man for that murder.

During our years in Gary we felt dread.  Over an unsolved murder.  Whenever I wasn’t home and Gail began receiving phone calls with a silent caller on the other end [a correction from Gail:  he told me that he was going to kill me].  When we came home one evening to find our belongings scattered all over the house by someone.

Whenever I stood with deputies staring as far as a person can out into a dark jungle.

The death of a former mayor brings to mind his city.

And when I recall more of our three years in Gary I see faces of young people, so many of them teenagers, who had nothing better to do than go to the Salvation Army building on a Friday night to play in the gym.  Then participate in whatever we could conjure up with the little money we had.  Often with the help of the NW Indiana Youth for Christ Director, Roger Pavkov.  So many people stepped up to help.  And it was great.  We had a great time with these kids, and then with their parents.  At times it was wild.  But it was great.

Death and dread has a way of hanging over a place.

But, yea, though I walk through the jungle of the shadow of death.  I will not fear evil.  As to be frozen into doing nothing.

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