Dale Fulton: Words of Comfort by Harry Boyd

OUR thanks to our friend Harry Boyd, bamboo rod maker & minister for sharing these words of comfort from the funeral service of Dale Fulton on Friday at Blue Ribbon Fly Shop.


Funeral Services for Dale W. Fulton

February 2, 2018

Welcome and Greeting

I am Harry Boyd, a minister of the Gospel, a bamboo fly rod maker, and a friend of Dale Fulton.  On Behalf of Ronna and all Dale’s loved ones I thank you for being here.  Your presence here today honors Dale Fulton.

Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you….  That where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know… I am the way, the truth, and the life.

We gather here this afternoon to comfort one another and to honor our memories of Dale W. Fulton.  Dale passed away January 25, at the age of 68.  Dale made Cotter his home for the last 39 years. He married Ronna Birrell in 1986 and they owned and operated Blue Ribbon Flies and Fulton’s Lodge. He pioneered fly fishing in this area as is evidenced by where we are meeting today and by the makeup of this crowd today.  Dale loved sporting clays, creating fine furniture, and making violins and knives. He loved his animals as a big part of his family.

Dale is survived by his wife, Ronna; a sister, JoAnn and her husband Brian Peterson; a nephew, Chris Kopek; and his father, Joseph Fulton of Fayetteville.

This is a difficult time today.  A person we loved has gone to be with God.  We are hurting.  We all mourn.  It would be wrong if we did not grieve. The pain of grief is part of the price we pay for enjoying the love of those nearest to us.  Over the next few moments we will share some happy memories and some words of hope.  We’ll begin with three of Dale’s friends sharing their memories, then I’ll offer a short word of comfort and we will conclude.  Dale’s friends will introduce themselves as they stand to speak, and speakers – if you notice me standing then your time is growing short and it’s time to wrap things up!

We will begin with Steve Nelson, then TL Lauerman, then Nick Althauser.

Thank you, all of you, for what you have shared.  One friend wrote this note of the funeral home memory wall:

Dear Ronna,

 This news crushed me, and I’ve been struggling to find words. I’d been meaning to write to Dale and thank him for his enduring influence on my now middle-aged life–fishing was ultimately the least of it. Now it’s too late.

 Dale found value in me at a crucial time in my life, and shaped my development as a result–all for the good. I’ll remember his expansive, unrivaled literacy, and the captivating vocabulary he possessed. I’ll remember his discernment in people–a great ability to sift out the phonies and connivers. I’ll remember his appreciation for those who could make things, and his own great practical and artistic abilities as a craftsman. Most of all, I will remember the kindness he showed me, his patient mentorship, his willingness to listen and to share what he knew, and his sensitive appreciation for the natural world and all its inhabitants. I will be in touch.

 Much love,

Jeff Hill

Isn’t that nice.  I think Jeff Hill says it nearly perfectly… so thank you Jeff, wherever you are.

Though I may repeat a few things you have already shared, I’d like to share a few things I think we can learn from Dale’s life

First, Dale chose a life for himself.  He put it on like a mantle and wore it well.  He made a life doing what he loved and what seemed important to him.  Even though he is no longer physically with us, he will be remembered forever, not only by his loved ones but by so many whose lives are touched through a love of this Ozark world.

The natural world of this natural state fascinated him.  He knew more about the White River than he could ever begin to share with the rest of his.  One cute story…  Dale and I were at the Lodge one day visiting about the impact of high water and how it presented challenges for wading fly fishers.  He made the point that high water created plenty of new opportunities for wade fishing, just in different places than in low water.

I asked him to explain, and he said “C’mon, let’s go look at a few. “ We walked down to the boathouse, jumped in one of the boats there, and took off up river.  Dale had pointed out several great looking fishing holes to me by the time we had gone about ½ mile upriver.  Suddenly, the engine died.

Dale sort of scratched his head and mumbled a little, and restarted the engine.  We rode up another 1/4 mile when the engine died again.  At that point he grabbed the gas can and gave it a shake… We were out of gas.  Mr. White River who owned and operated the fly shop forgot to check the gas when he got in the boat. Thank goodness there was a paddle in the boat, and we were upstream of the lodge!

Ronna, you and Dale were a team.  It’s hard to think of either of you without the other.  This past Fall Dale and I discussed some major decisions and your well-being was always at the top of Dale’s priority list.

You were always at the top of his priority list, but, and take this as it is intended please – your dogs and horses were right near the top of that list too.  They are more than pets, they’re family.

Dale loved to learn, and to create things with his own hands.  There is something about the process of creating something from nothing which pleases God.  The Hebrew scriptures say that God created the world in is days.  Then God stopped and gazed upon what he had just created and said “This is good.  This is Very Good.”  The words in the Hebrew language are “tohu va vohu.”  Good and very good.  That desire to make something, to create something with out own hands, is built into us.  It’s part of our DNA.

When we create something of utility and beauty, if tills us with a healthy pride, whether it’s a bamboo flyrod like I make or a table or cabinets or wall sconces or a lapboard, or a knife like Dale made.  When we create something, maybe, in a small sense, we mirror what God felt when he looked at His creation and said it was good, and very good.

Any opportunity to learn something new was fascinating to Dale.  He loved the challenge of doing things he had not done before.  He tended to dive in whole heartedly and master whatever it was that grabbed his attention.  And master it he would…  Whether it was the flies he tied, the knives he made, his fiddles, his furniture, he did it well.  Quality workmanship, real craftsmanship which bordered on artistry, on creation, was important to him.

If Dale told you he was going to do something, you could count on it.  He meant what he said.  He would move heaven and earth to get done what he promised you he would do.

Maybe what was most important to Dale though, was the people he met through the shop, the lodge, and through living life every day.  His passion for the things that were important to him rubbed off on everyone who knew him or had a conversation with him.  I can’t tell you how many times I have walked in the door of the shop and he stopped whatever he was doing just to say hello and act interested in me.  And then I probably tripped over one of the dogs.

I’ll cherish that always, and won’t ever pass this building without thinking about how Dale Fulton treated me.  It was all about you to Dale.  You were what was ultimately important to Him.

Christian faith is rooted and grounded in hope.  We hope that one day, when we are with God, we will understand things a little better.  I don’t know why Dale left us, far too soon and too young.  Jesus told His disciples at one point, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Later, we will be able to bear and understand this better.  That is a very real part of our hope.

God is not responsible for tragedy, or death.  God is not happy that we hurt so deeply today.  God knows the pain we feel today.  God knows our pain.  He knows our sorrow.  You and I today are His children.  And as we, His children hurt, He hurts.  If we trust in God, we must believe that.

I have one pressing burden today.  I want to share a word of comfort with you,   From a human viewpoint, this is a difficult time.  On the wall of my office hung a fine needle work reproduction of a Clementine Hunter painting which my wife made for me.  From the front, it is beautiful.  But if you turn that needlework upside down, it is just a mass of tangled threads.  Today, we are looking at the back side of the weaving.  There are some dark, menacing threads mingled with the bright ones.  Someday, when we are with God, we will understand better what good things God has in mind for  us.

To his young friend Timothy, Paul wrote:

 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness…

In times like these, we need help.  We need comfort.  We need consolation.  We need encouragement.  God Himself, can, and will provide comfort.  In facing death, we often feel isolated and alone, but really we are not.  God is with us,  He lives in all of us and will calm and heal our hurts.

We also need to understand that we draw strength and comfort from each other, and from those who love us.  People really do care.  We’re not the only ones to have ever experienced these losses and emotions.  The end of life is just as much a part of life as is the beginning.  And God, and good people, make the pain and sorrow a little easier.

Take strength from the fact that you brought great joy and pride and pleasure and much laughter to Dale Fulton’s life.  Know that you offered him the best of yourselves.  And just as he gave you the best of himself, you gave him the best of who you are.

And now, a happy fiddle tune…