A Quiet Leader

This past weekend, a true leader was honored in my town on his 100th birthday.

Rev. John R. Winter (known as “Rev. Dick Winter”) was surprised with a community celebration by the Warrenton Volunteer Fire Company at the fire house. Rev. Winter was the minister for the Warrenton Presbyterian Church from 1953 until his retirement in 1987. He baptized me as a child then my own daughter thirty years later.

He was in the Rotary Club with my dad and sat next to each of my parents’ hospital beds countless times over the decades. He did all the things a good minister does. He preached the gospel, taught Bible classes, officiated at weddings, baptisms, funerals, enjoyed church picnics, potlucks, and coffee hours, comforted the sick and offered counseling, kindness, and encouragement to all. But there was more.  

Before we all had instant access to local news, he seemed to know where to go to offer support, comfort, and compassion in the community at large. He didn’t need, or seem to want, a lot of fanfare. Even as a child I remember his steadiness; calm demeanor and how he got things done. I realize now how much I learned by being brought up in that church. Growing up in a small town you saw…everybody. And I remember watching how Rev. Winter greeted people on the street, always with a broad smile and open heart. It never mattered your color, gender, status, or age. He had a kind word for all.

Rev. Winter not only was our minister and with his wife raised five children, but he was a lifelong volunteer fireman and their long time chaplain, sat on the local hospice board, was active in Jaycees and other civic organizations. I even remember my mom and a neighbor talking about how Rev. Winter always was one of the first in line to give blood when the Red Cross had an event.

Leadership expert Robin Sharma says,

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence, and inspiration.”

A grateful fire company honored Rev. Winter on Saturday by presenting a framed letter of praise from the governor and by naming the fire station the “Reverend John R. Winter Building.” The guys then gave him a ride home in Fire Engine #1 which had been dedicated in his honor in 2008.

Before the internet, social media or cable news Rev. Winter demonstrated quiet leadership that still offers impact, influence, and inspiration.

What a living lesson of love.


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