A Satisfying Life Despite Heartaches
AS TOLD BY AUDREY HYDE
Looking back on over 63 years in the full-time ministry—59 at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses—I can say that mine has been a satisfying life. True, seeing my first husband die slowly of cancer and my second suffer from the dreadful effects of Alzheimer’s disease was devastating. But let me share with you how I have maintained my joy despite these calamities.
MY CHILDHOOD was spent on a farm near the small town of Haxtun on the plains of northeastern Colorado, near the Nebraska border. I was the fifth of Orille and Nina Mock’s six children. Russell, Wayne, Clara, and Ardis were born between 1913 and 1920, and I came along the following year. Curtis was born in 1925.
In 1913, Mother became a Bible Student, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called. In time, the rest of us in the family did as well.
A Wholesome Life on the Plains
Father was very progressive. We had electric lights in all our buildings on the farm, something very rare in those days. We also enjoyed the traditional fruits of farm work—eggs from our own chickens, and milk, cream, and butter from our own cows. We used horses for working the land and raised strawberries and potatoes, as well as wheat and corn.
Father believed that we children should all learn to work. Even before I started school, I was trained to work in the fields. I remember summer days under a hot sun, hoeing long rows in our garden. ‘Will I ever reach the end?’ I wondered. Sweat rolled down my body, and bees stung me. At times, I felt sorry for myself because other youngsters didn’t have to work as hard as we did. Really, though, when I look back on my childhood, I am grateful that we were taught to work.
All of us had assignments. Ardis could milk the cows better than I could, so my job was to clean the stalls in the horse barn, shoveling out the manure. Yet, we also had fun and played games. Ardis and I played softball on a local team. I pitched, or I played third base, and Ardis played first base.
The clear night skies were so beautiful on the prairie. The thousands of stars reminded me of our Creator, Jehovah God. Even as a child, I would think of Psalm 147:4, which reads: “He [Jehovah] is counting the number of the stars; all of them he calls by their names.” On many of these clear nights, our dog, Judge, would put his head on my lap and keep me company. I often sat on our porch in the afternoon and admired the fields of green wheat as the wind blew across them, causing them to look like silver in the sunlight.
Mother’s Fine Example
My mother was a very devoted wife. Father was always the man of the house, and Mother taught us to respect him. In 1939 he too became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We knew that Father loved us even though he made us work hard and did not baby us. Oftentimes in the winter he hitched up a team of horses and treated us to a sleigh ride. How we enjoyed the sparkle of the snow!
It was Mother, however, who raised us to love God and to respect the Bible. We learned that God’s name is Jehovah and that he is the Source of life. (Psalm 36:9; 83:18) We also learned that he has provided us with guidelines, not to rob us of enjoyment, but to benefit us. (Isaiah 48:17) Mother kept before us the fact that we have a special work to do. We learned that Jesus told his followers: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matthew 24:14.
In those early days, whenever I got home from school and my mother was not in the house, I went searching for her. Once, when I was about six or seven, I found her in the barn. Then it started to rain very hard. We were in the hayloft, and I asked her if God was bringing another Flood. She assured me that God had promised he would never destroy the earth by a deluge again. I also recall many times running for the cellar, as it was not unusual to have tornadoes.
Even before I was born, Mother had shared in the preaching work. A group met in our home, all of whom had the hope of living with Christ in the heavens. Although preaching from house to house was challenging for Mother, she let her love for God conquer her fear. She was faithful until her dying day, November 24, 1969, when she was 84 years of age. “Mother, you are going to heaven, and you will be with those you know,” I whispered in her ear. How happy I was that I could be with Mother on that occasion and share my confidence with her! She softly said, “You are so good to me.”
We Began to Preach
In 1939, Russell became a pioneer, as full-time evangelizers among Jehovah’s Witnesses are called. He pioneered in Oklahoma and Nebraska until 1944 when he was called to serve at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses (called Bethel), in Brooklyn, New York. I began to pioneer on September 20, 1941, and served in various locations in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. Those years of pioneering were happy ones not only because I could help others learn about Jehovah but also because I learned to depend upon him.
About the time Russell began to pioneer, Wayne was in college on the east coast after having worked secularly for a while. Later, he was invited to Bethel. He served for a time at Kingdom Farm, near Ithaca, New York. There, food was grown for the small farm family as well as for the staff of some 200 workers at Brooklyn Bethel. Wayne used his skills and experience in Jehovah’s service until his death in 1988.
My sister Ardis married James Kern, and they had a family of five children. She died in 1997. My other sister, Clara, has remained faithful to Jehovah until today, and during my vacations I still visit her at her home in Colorado. Our youngest brother, Curtis, came to Brooklyn Bethel in the mid-’40’s. He drove a truck to and from Kingdom Farm with various goods and produce. He never married, and he died in 1971.
My Desire—Bethel Service
My older brothers had gone to Bethel earlier, and it was my desire to serve there too. I am sure that their fine example was what led to my being invited. Listening to my mother talking about the history of God’s organization and seeing for myself the fulfillment of Bible prophecies concerning the last days cultivated in me a desire to serve at Bethel. I vowed to Jehovah in prayer that if he would let me serve at Bethel, I would never leave unless I had Christian obligations to take care of.
I arrived at Bethel on June 20, 1945, and was assigned to work as a housekeeper. I had 13 rooms to clean, with 26 beds to make each day, plus hallways, stairs, and windows to clean. The work was hard. Every day while at work, I kept telling myself, ‘True, you are tired, but you are at Bethel, the house of God!’
Early during my service at Bethel, something very embarrassing happened to me. Having been raised in the rurals, I had no idea that a dumbwaiter was a small elevator that carried supplies from one floor to another. Well, one day I received a call at work requesting, “Send the dumbwaiter down, will you?” The caller quickly hung up, so I did not know what to do. But then I remembered that one of the brothers who lived on the floor that was part of my housekeeping assignment was a waiter. So I knocked on his door and said to him, “They want you down in the kitchen.”
Marriage to Nathan Knorr
Since the 1920’s, Bethelites who desired to marry had been required to leave Bethel and serve Kingdom interests elsewhere. But in the early 1950’s, a few couples who had served at Bethel for some time were allowed to marry and stay. So when Nathan H. Knorr, who at the time was taking the lead in the worldwide Kingdom work, showed an interest in me, I thought, ‘Now, here is someone who will stay!’
Nathan had many responsibilities in caring for the oversight of the worldwide activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So he was very honest with me, giving me many reasons why I should think carefully before I accepted his proposal of marriage. In those days, he traveled a lot to visit branches of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world and was often gone for weeks at a time. So he explained that we would be separated for long stretches of time.
As a young girl, I dreamed of being married in springtime and having a honeymoon on the Pacific islands of Hawaii. Well, we were married in winter, on January 31, 1953, and we spent our honeymoon that Saturday afternoon and Sunday in New Jersey. On Monday we resumed work. A week later, however, we did get away for a week’s honeymoon.
A Hardworking Companion
Nathan was 18 when he arrived at Bethel in 1923. He received valuable training from such old-timers as Joseph F. Rutherford, who took the lead in the work of the Witnesses, and printery manager Robert J. Martin. When Brother Martin died in September 1932, Nathan became printery manager. The following year, Brother Rutherford took Nathan with him when he visited branches of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe. In January 1942 when Brother Rutherford died, Nathan was given the responsibility of oversight of the worldwide work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Nathan was very progressive, always planning ahead for future growth. Some considered this inappropriate, since the end of this system of things was considered to be very near. In fact, one who saw Nathan’s plans asked him: “What is this, Brother Knorr? Don’t you have any faith?” He replied: “Yes, I do, but if the end doesn’t come as soon as we expect, we will be ready.”
One idea that Nathan in particular believed in was that of establishing a school for missionaries. Thus, on February 1, 1943, a missionary school was started at the large farm where my brother Wayne was then serving. Although the school consisted of an intense Bible study course of approximately five months, Nathan made sure that the students had some recreation. During earlier classes, he joined in ball games, but later he did not play for fear of injury that might interfere with his attendance at summer district conventions. He opted instead to be an umpire. The students were delighted when he outrageously bent the rules in favor of the foreign students who played.
Travels With Nathan
Eventually, I began to travel abroad with Nathan. I enjoyed sharing experiences with the branch volunteers and missionaries. I was able to see firsthand their love and devotion, and I learned about their routine and the living conditions in their assigned countries. Over the years, I have continued to receive letters expressing appreciation for such visits.
Looking back on our travels, I recall many experiences. For example, when we visited Poland, two sisters were whispering to each other in my presence. I asked them, “Why are you whispering?” They apologized, explaining that they were used to whispering when the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was under ban in Poland and their homes were wiretapped.
Sister Adach was one of the many who had served under ban in Poland. She had curly hair with bangs. Once she lifted her bangs and showed me a deep scar, the result of being struck by a persecutor. I was shocked to see firsthand the results of the cruel treatment that our brothers and sisters had to endure.
Next to Bethel, Hawaii is my favorite place. I remember the convention there in the city of Hilo in 1957. It was a big occasion, and the attendance was greater than the total number of local Witnesses. The mayor even gave Nathan the key to the city. Many came to greet us, adorning us with leis.
Another exciting convention was in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1955, held in what used to be Hitler’s parade grounds. It is well-known that Hitler had vowed to exterminate Jehovah’s people in Germany, but now this stadium was filled with Jehovah’s Witnesses! I could not hold back the tears. The platform was huge and had an impressive backdrop of 144 large pillars. I was on the stage and could look out over the vast audience of more than 107,000. It was such a long distance to the back that I could hardly see the last row.
We could sense the integrity of the German brothers and the strength they had received from Jehovah during their persecution under Nazi rule. It strengthened our own resolve to be loyal and maintain our integrity to Jehovah. Nathan gave the closing talk, and at the end of it, he waved good-bye to the audience. They immediately responded by waving their handkerchiefs as a farewell. It looked like a beautiful field of flowers.
Unforgettable, too, was our visit to Portugal in December 1974. We were in attendance at the first meeting of the Witnesses in Lisbon after our witnessing work was legalized. It had been banned for 50 years! Although there were only 14,000 Kingdom publishers in the country at the time, over 46,000 were present for the two meetings held. It brought tears to my eyes when the brothers said: “We do not have to hide anymore. We are free.”
From my days of travel with Nathan until today, I enjoy informal witnessing—on airplanes, in restaurants—and street witnessing. I always carry literature so that I am prepared. One time when we were waiting for a plane that was delayed, a woman asked me where I worked. That led to a conversation with her and others around us who were listening. Bethel service and my preaching activity have kept me busy and very happy.
Sickness and Parting Encouragement
In 1976, Nathan fell ill with cancer, and I, along with the Bethel staff, helped him cope. Despite his failing health, we would invite to our room various members of branch offices from around the world who were then in Brooklyn for training. I remember the visits of Don and Earlene Steele, Lloyd and Melba Barry, Douglas and Mary Guest, Martin and Gertrud Poetzinger, Pryce Hughes, and many others. Often they shared with us some experiences from their country. I was especially impressed with the experiences relating to the steadfastness of our brothers under ban.
When Nathan realized that his death was near, he gave me some good advice to help me cope with widowhood. He said: “We’ve had a happy marriage. Many people never experience that.” One thing that made our marriage happy was Nathan’s thoughtfulness. For instance, when we met various ones in our travels, he would say to me: “Audrey, if at times I don’t introduce them to you, it’s because their name has just slipped my mind.” I was so glad he told me beforehand.
Nathan reminded me: “After death, our hope is sure, and we will never have to suffer pain again.” Then he urged me: “Look ahead, for there is where your reward is. Don’t live in the past—although your memories will continue. Time will help you to heal. Don’t become bitter and feel sorry for yourself. Be glad you had these joys and blessings. After a while, you will find that memories bring you joy. Memories are God’s gift to us.” He added: “Keep busy—try to use your life doing something for others. This will help you to find joy in living.” Eventually, on June 8, 1977, Nathan passed off the earthly scene.
Marriage to Glenn Hyde
Nathan had told me that I could live in the past with my memories or that I could build a new life. So in 1978, after I had transferred to Watchtower Farms in Wallkill, New York, I married Glenn Hyde, a very handsome, quiet, and gentle person. Before he became a Witness, he had served in the Navy when the United States was at war with Japan.
Glenn had been on a PT (patrol torpedo) boat and was assigned to the engine room. Because of the noise of the engine, he lost part of his hearing. After the war, he became a fireman. For years he had nightmares because of wartime experiences. He learned Bible truth from his secretary, who witnessed to him informally.
Later, in 1968, Glenn was called to Bethel to serve as a fireman in Brooklyn. Then, when Watchtower Farms got their fire engine, he was transferred there in 1975. In time, he was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. After we had been married for ten years, Glenn died.
How would I cope? The wisdom Nathan had given me when he knew he was dying was again a comfort to me. I kept reading what he had written me about dealing with widowhood. I still share these comments with others who lose their mate, and they too have been comforted by Nathan’s advice. Yes, it is good to look ahead as he encouraged me to do.
A Precious Brotherhood
What has especially contributed to my happy, satisfying life are dear friends in the Bethel family. One in particular is Esther Lopez, who graduated in 1944 from the third class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. She returned to Brooklyn in February 1950 to serve as a translator of our Bible literature into Spanish. Often when Nathan was away, Esther was my close companion. She too is at Watchtower Farms. Now in her mid-90’s, she is in failing health and is being cared for in our infirmary.
Of my immediate family, only Russell and Clara are still living. Russell is over 90 and is serving faithfully at Brooklyn Bethel. He was among the first to be allowed to remain at Bethel after marrying. In 1952, he wed fellow Bethelite Jean Larson. Jean’s brother Max came to Bethel in 1939 and succeeded Nathan as printery overseer in 1942. Max continues to carry a load of responsibility at Bethel, including helping to care for his dear wife, Helen, who copes with multiple sclerosis.
Looking back over 63 years in the full-time service of Jehovah, I can say that mine has truly been a satisfying life. Bethel became my home, and I continue serving here with joy of heart. Credit goes to my parents for instilling in us the meaning of work and the desire to serve Jehovah. But what really makes life satisfying is our wonderful brotherhood and the hope of living with our brothers and sisters on a paradise earth, serving our Grand Creator, the only true God, Jehovah, for all eternity.
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My parents on their wedding day in June 1912
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Left to right: Russell, Wayne, Clara, Ardis, me, and Curtis in 1927
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Standing between Frances and Barbara McNaught, while pioneering in 1944
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At Bethel in 1951. From left to right: Me, Esther Lopez, and my sister-in-law, Jean
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With Nathan and his parents
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With Nathan in 1955
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With Nathan in Hawaii
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With my second husband, Glenn