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Stmattsaustin.orgSt. Matthew’s Sages
Carolyn and Chuck Huffman
Places lived: TX: Houston, Austin, Corpus Alamo Heights Methodist Church, San Antonio, TX Children: Carl (deceased), Beth Ann, Heather, Laura Grandchildren: Megan, Benjamin, Mark, Kailynn, William Among the strong themes in the lives of Chuck and Carolyn Huffman are protection and tragedy.
Looking back, Chuck sees that the hand of God was protecting him from very early in his life, through World War II, where continual y he was just a step away from combat. As we know, tragedy struck this young couple with the premature death of their only son.
Although Chuck and Carolyn both began their lives in Texas, their backgrounds were very different.
Chuck’s Dad, Ben Mashaw Huffman did not have the option of finishing high school; instead he went to work at a young age for the railroad, eventual y moving to Houston with American Republic Oil Company, eventually becoming their Treasurer. There, he met Chuck’s mother, a graduate of teachers college. With a very spare budget, and a five-month-old little boy, Chuck’s mother did not welcome the news that she was pregnant again. She tried jumping off a chair a few times to see if she could terminate the pregnancy, but, fortunately for all of us, her efforts were unsuccessful, and Chuck was born when his older brother Ben was just fourteen months old. Chuck’s younger brother, Alan, was born when Chuck was eight years old. He is presently a member of St. Matthew’s. There was much sibling rivalry between Chuck and his older brother, Ben. Not until Ben was boarding a train to report for duty in the Army Air Corp in 1941 were they reconciled, and a friendship began.
Chuck’s grandfather was a strong influence on him as he was growing up. “Granddad” moved to Center, TX, from Indiana where he owned a city block off the Square. He was an entrepreneur who owned a saw mill and a filling station. An early Texas Professional Photographer, his main business was the Loving Arts Studio. Chuck refers to him as an energetic “fireball” kind of a guy. As a sideline, he built treasure- finding devices, built-up and traded farms, and had a stack of Popular Mechanics magazines in his studio, which helped spark Chuck’s later interest in science.
Carolyn’s grandfather, Walter Anthony Barlow, was a judge in Taylor, TX. Her father, Carl Anthony Barlow, a CPA with Ernst and Ernst, came from a large family. All of the siblings were college-educated.
They were all published writers which may explain Carolyn’s gifts as an author. Carolyn was a twin, but her brother did not survive. Her mother was warned by the doctor never to get pregnant again, as it would be very dangerous. However, when Carolyn was ten, her brother, Tony, was born.
Carolyn’s family moved to Houston when she was one year old. Her mother was a gifted seamstress, and designer called “Honey.” It would be later in her life that Carolyn would begin to appreciate her mother’s spiritual gifts, as she was a true “mystic.” Navy and College Experience
As a Boy Scout, Chuck hated camping-out (in a large part because the campground near Houston tended to flood). So he became a Sea Scout and discovered a love for the ocean. When WWII started, Chuck knew the Navy was for him. He planned to join the V-12 officer training program before he was 18. He had already completed a semester at the University of Houston, and was enrolled at the University of Texas which had a V-12 program where he assumed he would be stationed. Through a misunderstanding, he arrived at Hogg Auditorium too late to take the test. Fortunately, he found that he could apply to the V-5 program (Naval Air Corps). He went to Dallas for the tests, and enlisted December 24, 1943, about a week before his 18th birthday. He was ordered to report on March 1, 1944, to Doane College in Crete, NB, for one year of pre-engineering college courses. In March 1945, because he had some college prior to joining the Navy, he was given three options: to go to the Naval ROTC in Madison, WS; to continue with the V-5 program and go to pre-flight; or to go to Midshipman's School. Since the third option offered the quickest way to get to sea, Chuck chose Midshipman School and was sent to Ft.
Schuyler, New York. There, he was commissioned an Ensign in the USNR in July 1945. Before his training ended, the war with Germany was over, and Chuck went to Advanced Line Officer School in Miami, FL, preparing for an invasion of Japan. Before that training was completed, however, the war with Japan After additional schooling at Pt. Hueneme, CA to become a harbormaster, he was sent to Guam, where at the age of 20, he headed the operations for the loading of the ships that came through that port.
Getting to Know Each Other
By 1948, Chuck was back at UT and was the social chairman for the Kappa Alpha (KA) fraternity.
Carolyn’s sorority was running her for Varsity Carnival Queen. To introduce her to as many fraternities as possible, the social chairman of Alpha Phi called Chuck to get Carolyn a date for a Fraternity Picnic the KA’s were having. After meeting Carolyn, Chuck decided to take the “girl in the pink raincoat” to the picnic himself. They continued to see each other, and in the spring of 1950, after Carolyn graduated, they were engaged. They were married in the spring of 1951.
The first six months of their marriage, the newlyweds lived in Corpus Christi, but Chuck found a better opportunity with Electro Technical Labs, a small company in Houston that manufactured geophysical instruments, so they moved to Houston. Chuck was Sales Manager, but in 1953 Texas Instruments made him an offer he couldn’t refuse in their newly formed Industrial Instrumentation Division as a Senior Sales Engineer. It was an exciting time to be in instrumentation technology especial y because of miniaturization using transistors, and integrated circuits, and because digital data processing was beginning to replace analog. His work was Popular Mechanics come to life.
Receiving a Call from God in the Midst of Tragedy
God had not been of particular interest to either Chuck or Carolyn during those early years. Carolyn felt a spark of interest during college, and read some religious books, but didn’t pursue the subject further.
Chuck was raised a Baptist, but he felt toward God like he did toward his parents, he ceased to be dependent on both when he left for college. Although he had felt a stirring to know if there was more, the feeling was always philosophical and abstract rather than theological.
Carolyn and Chuck’s first child, Carl, was born December 10, 1952. He was smart, kind, handsome, and very loveable. Except for earaches, he was very healthy. In April, 1959, he had another bad ear infection.
The pediatrician put him on the antibiotic, Chloromycetin. This drug had already been linked to bone marrow damage and death. Carolyn sent a telegram to Chuck who was in South America on a business trip for Texas Instruments: “Come home immediately. Carl critically il .” It took 24 hours for Chuck to get to Houston from Colombia. The next day a pediatric hematologist at Texas Children’s Hospital confirmed that Carl had aplastic anemia and the prognosis was grim. Chuck and Carolyn could only hold each other and cry. Their daughter, Beth Ann, had been born a blue baby in 1956. So now, there were serious health issues with both children.
Chuck and Carolyn turned to friends for comfort, who suggested that they go to St. John the Divine Episcopal Church to hear a visiting speaker. The Rev. Sam Shoemaker, an Episcopal priest who helped form Alcoholics Anonymous, was preaching from a practical standpoint on the “Experience of the Holy Spirit.” He truly spoke to the Huffman’s needs. Sam spoke three nights and, after the last session, he stressed the importance of small bible study prayer groups. Chuck and Carolyn joined four other couples One evening, after the group had met at the Huffman home, Chuck went into Carl’s bedroom and knelt beside his bed to pray for this sleeping child. While praying, Chuck had a sense of not being alone—that something or someone was behind him, communicating the words “You are going to become an Episcopal priest.” At that time they were not even Episcopalian. The seed was planted, though Carolyn was not receptive to the idea. So he filed the thought away.
The Holy Spirit continued to be openly present. A week before his death, Carl was in a coma in the hospital. At this time, Chuck and Carolyn attended a healing service at St. John’s. Coming back from the altar rail, each was independently seized with great joy, and they began laughing and crying. Many thought that they had received word that Carl had recovered, but he was just hours away from dying.
During Carl’s il ness, Carolyn had been led to believe that if one prayed hard enough, the prayer would be fulfil ed. When Carl died, she was heartbroken, and was also furious at God for not healing her son.
One day the rector of St. Johns, Tom Sumners, perceived the anguish she was experiencing. He asked her about her prayer life, and she answered that she had no prayer life for she was much too angry with God. He asked her to pray this prayer daily, “Dear Lord, help me to love you more.” She did it for Tom, not for God; but after a year of daily praying this one prayer, she did begin to love God more.
Answering the Call
In the summer of 1959, Chuck was asked by Paul Wil iams to begin a new company in Houston. Although still grieving for Carl, he eagerly agreed. He was somewhat conflicted since he was still considering his call to ministry, but had always wanted to have his own business. He thought perhaps this would take the place of being a priest. Chuck and Paul began the company, but the call to ministry still haunted him.
In the spring of 1962, he went to talk with Bishop Hines. Although he was accepted, Chuck still held off, not sure whether it was what God really wanted. He requested a year’s postponement.
In the fall of 1963, Chuck and his family, Carolyn, Beth, Heather and Laura, moved to Austin. He entered the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (ETSSW) in Austin, and experienced the shock of academia. Carolyn also took many Bible classes at the seminary during this time. Three years later, Chuck completed the Bachelor of Divinity degree, and two years later the Master of Sacred Theology degree. His first pastoral assignment was as curate at St. David’s in Austin, where he happily served for Following this period, Chuck was considered by several parishes in different states. But in the end he felt called to be the Assistant Director of “The Pittsburgh Experiment1,” an inner-city ministry which had been started by the same Sam Shoemaker who had turned their world upside down. Carolyn would have preferred a parish close to home in Texas. However, the experience of homesickness, coupled with living in a cold, alien land, led her to discover her gifts of ministry as an author, public speaker, and retreat leader. Carolyn found inspiration from a poster of a flower growing in the snow, with the phrase, “Bloom Where You Are Planted.” She poured out her heart, writing what would later be her first book, Bloom Where You Are. Later she published Life between the Questions, and Meditation on a Rose Coming to St. Matthew’s
After two years, on Carolyn’s birthday, April 1, 1973, the Huffmans returned to Austin as rector of St.
Matthew’s. The Vestry and Search Committee told Chuck they wanted a rector who had experience and gifts in leadership for church renewal. The most significant event in the early part of his ministry as rector occurred in the second year, when the Faith Alive2 Weekend was held. The Spirit was moving in St. Matthew’s, and the congregation was ready for other innovations such as the Folk Mass.
As the congregation began to grow in numbers, expanding St. Matthew’s became an issue, and parking, in particular, became a significant problem. Located on a dead-end street without much land, the only option was to move, which has proven to be the wisest of decisions - being at Steck and Mesa.
Enjoying Hobbies and Talents
Carolyn, with significant nudging of their friend, Keith Miller, became a public speaker, much to her surprise. She is a published, highly regarded author of three books. She has led many Bible studies and currently leads two classes at St. Matthew’s. She is compiling a collection of memories, talks, and Chuck’s sermons, as well as family information. Could there be another book in her future? For Chuck, music has always been a big part of his life. He loves to sing and was happy that the congregation wanted him to lead the Folk Mass as a regular feature of the Sunday Services until he retired. Chuck enjoys singing in the choir as well as singing occasional solos. He is very happy that his 1 The Pittsburgh Experiment encourages men and women in the workplace to seek and share Jesus Christ in every 2 Faith Alive weekends have been affirming and energizing congregations for more than three decades. Faith Alive has an extraordinary record of parish participation!
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