By Gary Ruegsegger
Special to the Guide
Sometimes it takes a lifetime to write a book. Chesapeake’s Edwards Family’s “Then There Were Three” took three lifetimes to live and three authors to pen. The book is insightful, honest and never hedges on the facts.
Chapter after chapter, father Rev. Dr. James Edwards III, wife and mother Rev. Delores W. Edwards and daughter Rev. Donita Edwards weave a personal and collective story of life, love and special callings to the ministry. With its relaxed and reflective style, reading the book is like sitting on the back porch talking with old friends.
“Then There Were Three” is not a static document. It advances an open-ended, ongoing story. According to early reviews, the book recounts “three colorful and unforgettable stories about ordinary people who had an extraordinary encounter with God and had their lives changes forever.” The writing lives up to the reviews.
Dr. Edwards was the team’s “guiding star” providing the storyline, motivation and inspiration. He was born to James and Clarestine Davis Edwards Jr. at 1531 Dungee Street in Huntersville on June 15, 1942. It was a small apartment without indoor plumbing.
On that same day, the Battle of the Atlantic arrived on Hampton Roads’ doorstep as three ships went down just off the coast of Virginia Beach. At birth, Edwards weighed over 10 pounds. Today, he stands 6’1,” weighs 230 and hasn’t slowed down a step.
Both before and after college, he worked for the local newspapers. In junior high, he delivered The Journal and Guide (now The New Journal and Guide).
After college and service in Vietnam, he served as a zone manager for The Virginian-Pilot/Ledger Star. Now, writing is one of his many passions.
Edwards, a 1960 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, eventually graduated from Norfolk State College (now Norfolk State University) and earned a commission in the Army. His ties with the university are strong.
Current NSU Athletic Director Marty Miller was in Edwards’ ROTC graduating class. Evelyn Fields Brooks, the wife of President Dr. Lyman Brooks of Norfolk State, was his sixth grade teacher. His co-authors Delores and Donita have degrees from the university.
Edwards was wounded twice in Vietnam. He came home with airborne wings, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts pinned to his chest.
Many credit the retired pastor of Chesapeake’s New Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church with being the driving force behind NSU’s Alumni War Memorial which was dedicated on Nov. 15, 2008. Edwards accepts precious little credit for either the War Memorial or his service in Vietnam.
For many years, becoming a preacher was the furthest thing from Dr. Edwards’s mind and, except for funerals, he steered clear of churches. Yet a voice kept calling to the reluctant minister, a voice he didn’t even relate to his wife.
On an extremely hot day at the Nashville World’s Fair in 1982 that all changed as he listened to the voice and stepped over a small rail and plunged into a fountain of cool water. “People of all ages, most of whom were Caucasian, followed me into this huge pool of water. I could finally stop asking the Lord to prove to me that I was being called to preach,” writes Edwards.
After that dramatic baptism, he finally told his wife and family about his calling.
The writing of the book spanned over 10 years. During that time, the authors earned multiple college degrees and daughter Rev. Donita Edwards even penned her first book “The Man You Are Trying to Marry Is Not Your Husband.” Her parents James and Delores are grateful for “her mammoth sense of humor and incredible devotion and thoughtfulness toward her parents.”
Rev. Donita, the “knee baby” of the three Edwards daughters, grew up “in a three bedroom blue house directly across from Roosevelt Memorial Cemetery” in Chesapeake. Like her mother Delores, Donita is a strong-willed woman with a powerful story to tell and the right voice to tell it.
She recounts her path to the ministry including her childhood sweetheart, her stint as a journeyman pipe fitter at the shipyard and finally her calling to preach. “If there was one word that summarizes my Call to the Ministry, it would be CONVICTION,” she states.
That conviction is mirrored in the eyes of her parents.
Some things just naturally go together: ham and eggs, chicken and dumplings, and Rev. Delores Winfield Edwards and her husband Rev. James Edwards III. Each magnifies the tastes and talents of the other. They’ve been married 51 years and have 7 grandchildren and 2 great grandsons.
For years, Rev. Delores served as Reverend First Lady at Rose of Sharon. She’s an honor graduate of Hampton University and has a Master’s degree from Norfolk State University. She recently retired from Norfolk Public Schools after a long and productive career. The mere mention of her name brings smiles across Hampton Roads.
Rev. Delores sees patience as the key to finding God’s message. “Patience is not easily come by nor is anything else that’s worth having,” she writes. Her co-authors cite her as the binding glue and “the sweet voice of reason.” Like her husband, she takes little credit for her work, but she is in fact “the wind beneath” so many wings.
Dr. James Edwards hasn’t put his pen down yet. He is now in the process of writing a history of Huntersville. “It’s a story that needs to be told,” he said. Expect the same reflective style and honesty in this future offering.
“Then There Were Three” is available online at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $17 plus postage and handling.