Nov 2 2015

Remembering three who made a difference


In Western Christian tradition, Nov. 2 is designated All Souls Day. Coming the day after the Feast of All Saints, it’s an occasion to pray for the dead and commend them to God’s merciful love.

On this occasion Unbound reflects in a special way on members of our community who have gone from us during the past year, and we want to recognize three in particular. These men, each in his own way, helped form Unbound into what we are today. Their love and dedication — not only to us but to the values that guided their lives — gently made our world better.

Joe Grilliot, steward of creation

Joe Grilliot, from the Unbound archives.

Joe Grilliot (photo from the Unbound archives).

Joe Grilliot died on Jan. 27 at the age of 83. A quiet man of deep spirituality and conviction, Joe had grown up on a farm in western Kansas and never lost his closeness to the earth. As a young man he had served as a missionary priest in Chile, eventually leaving the priesthood to marry and raise a family.

Settling in the Kansas City area, Joe became friends with Unbound’s co-founder Bob Hentzen and began a relationship with the organization that would last the rest of his life. Serving as both a staff member and, later, a volunteer, Joe inspired the Unbound community with his dedication to simple living and stewardship of the environment.

Joe is in no small part responsible for Unbound’s ongoing commitment to recycling and responsible repurposing of materials in our Kansas City offices. It is a commitment that reflects the values of those with whom we work in the developing world.

Joe Bergkamp, Unbound pioneer

Joe Bergkamp, from the Unbound archives.

Joe Bergkamp (photo from the Unbound archives).

Joe Bergkamp died in Puerto Rico on July 3. He was 88. Joe was born in southeastern Kansas and had been a priest for the Diocese of Wichita, serving for many years as a missionary in Venezuela. It was there he developed his deep love for the poor.

Joe left the priesthood, married, and returned to Kansas where he and his wife, Carmen Nery, became friends with Bob Hentzen and Jerry Tolle, another of Unbound’s founders. When Joe and Nery later moved to Puerto Rico, they took on the task of developing an Unbound sponsor base on the island.

Over the years more than 14,000 people in Puerto Rico have joined Unbound’s community of sponsors, thanks mainly to the efforts of Joe and Nery, who shared the message of Unbound at churches throughout the territory. Nery preceded her husband in death several years ago, and Joe continued to serve as a gentle goodwill ambassador for Unbound during his final years.

Jerry Menard, joyful giver

In a photo from the Unbound archives, Jerry Menard meets sponsored children during a trip to Bogota, Colombia.

Jerry Menard meets sponsored children on a trip to Bogota, Colombia (photo from the Unbound archives).

Jerry Menard passed away on Sep. 8 at the age of 85. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Jerry had spent his career with a successful construction firm in Illinois, where he continued to live in retirement.

He became a member of the Unbound community fairly late in life while searching for a worthwhile cause to become involved in after his wife passed away. Once Jerry discovered Unbound, he jumped in with enthusiasm, eventually sponsoring more than 30 children and youth.

Jerry took great pleasure in visiting his sponsored children as a participant in Unbound awareness trips. From 2004-2009 he made 20 trips before declining health finally forced him to stop traveling. During those years he made a deep impression on the Unbound community with his infectious energy, good humor and generosity. Jerry knew he had been greatly blessed in life and desired to spend his later years sharing those blessings with others.

Lives of service and witness

These three men were part of a generation of Americans that had seen great suffering and change in the world. They were also part of a generation of Catholics that had embraced renewed hope and purpose. They were raised to believe that their lives were about more than just themselves, and when they were presented with opportunities to serve others, they embraced them.

Not surprisingly, all three were, at different times, recipients of Unbound’s Pilgrimage of Faith Award, presented to individuals and groups who exemplify Unbound’s core values. The criteria for the award are an outstanding commitment to Unbound’s mission to walk with the poor and marginalized of the world, a commitment to creating a worldwide community of compassion through personal outreach and personal and professional integrity.

Well done, Jerry, Joe and Joe. Now enjoy a well-deserved rest in God’s loving arms.

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