Born to write, preach and teach
By Amy Roth For The Beacon-News February 20, 2013 3:06PM
Rev. Eugene Frost and wife Hattie Marie have been married for almost seven decades. Hattie Frost is the creator of Christian curriculum series and author of more than a dozen books including “The Hattie Series: Treasures of Childhood.”
To buy a book
To purchase one of the Frosts’ books, call 630-556-3073.
Updated: February 21, 2013 3:08PM
The Frosts of Big Rock, Marie and Gene, have been married for almost 69 years. Gene announces his age, 93, as a badge of honor. Marie, who says she often is mistaken for someone much younger, at first declines to give her age, but then changes her mind. She shares that she is 97.
The small difference in how they react to their ages is a clue to the major differences in their temperaments. But both know one thing. They each married the right person on June 15, 1944.
“You get a glove, and it’s the right fit, and you know it,” Gene said. “Well, that’s what we had. The right fit. You couldn’t have had a marriage that was more congenial.”
“We are totally different people,” Marie chimes in. “I am a blabbermouth.”
She then turns to her husband and says, “I would say you are the most humble man I ever met.”
Marie rattles off the numerous times her husband was beseeched to pastor large churches or teach at prestigious Christian institutions.
“He was begged to join Trinity (College and Seminary, Deerfield),” Marie said. (The college asked him to join the faculty in the late 1940s after he taught part time there for two years while also pastoring West Chicago Bible Church.)
“But Gene said no,” Marie continued. “People didn’t understand why he would rather be stuck in a little church in West Chicago that didn’t even have a bathroom!”
“I just didn’t have the calling to (teach at Trinity),” Gene said in his quiet but authoritative voice.
“I had all kinds of opportunities to teach and to go to big churches, but I never could free myself from the ties I had with people in small churches,” Gene said. “That just held me.”
When Gene Frost became the pastor of West Chicago Bible Church in 1948, 30 people were faithful Sunday morning attendees.
“I left them with 400 in Sunday school and a new church,” Gene said. “In the next church I served, (Westminster Presbyterian Church in Elgin), I started with seven people and left with 200 in Sunday school attendance and a new building.”
Hosting dinners in their home was another connection.
“Our big success,” Gene adds, “was people putting their feet under our dining room table. We spent our Saturday nights preparing meals for people who would be our guests on Sunday. And we entertained this way for years and years. The root of this was that when I was a kid, my folks did that very same thing.”
“Mine, too,” Marie exclaims.
Marie sees the world of dining rooms, restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls, doctors’ offices and shopping malls as her places of ministry.
“All you have to do is smile,” she says. “You let someone go ahead of you in the line at the grocery store. You start a conversation with someone sitting on a bench in the mall. You comment on someone’s scarf in a restaurant. There are so many lonely faces out there, and it takes so little to make a connection.”
Having no fear of rejection and being able to take control of any situation also are personality traits that made Marie perfect for the role of pastor’s wife.
But being a “pastor’s wife” to Marie meant not only helping her husband in his ministry, but also in helping pay the bills for their family of seven, including sending all five of their children to Christian schools from elementary school on up.
She relates in her book, “Hattie Married a Preacher,” self-published last year: “I am by nature more of a career person than a homebody.”
Her writing career began by happenstance, or as Marie and Gene would say, “divine intervention.”
“I was walking in front of a huge building in Elgin,” Marie recounts in her book. “The sign read, ‘David C. Cook Publishing Company.’ Here, I thought, is my opportunity to become a full time, dedicated writer. I confidently walked into the building.”
Marie told the receptionist her name was Mrs. Frost and was surprised by the warm reception she received. She quickly was ushered into an editor’s office. The editor gave her a writing assignment, which she completed and returned.
The editor, after reading over her work, said, “You’re good, but I should explain that the day you came in, we were looking for another Mrs. Frost. She failed to show up for her interview, so you have her job!”
These types of “coincidences” followed Marie throughout her life, from applying to jobs to purchasing family homes.
Gene had his share of divine intervention, as well. He recounts how his engagement to Marie came about in his book, self-published in December:
“During the fall of 1943, my relationship with Marie was a developing one. In fact, I was thinking in terms of possible ‘engagement talks’ with her. About that same time, my twin brother Ernie came by on military leave, and he handed me a little box. ... He made the casual remark, ‘This might come in handy for you one of these days!’ The box contained a diamond ring that he picked up in a store in London on one of his transport trips to Europe ...
Gene says one of the reasons he hadn’t proposed is he didn’t have any money to buy a ring.
“But now, I had one in my pocket! So I screwed up my courage, and went on (Wheaton College) campus looking for Marie.”
Gene found Marie, and although she was hesitant about accepting the ring, saying she wasn’t sure she was ready to be engaged, he asked her to at least try the ring on to see if it fit.
“She sat there motionless,” Gene writes. “I was sitting on the bench to her left, and finally she held out her left hand for the ‘fitting.’ It fit her ring finger very well, as though she had been measured for it. I was holding her left hand in mine, and she was gazing at the ring. I said, ‘Why don’t we just leave it there?’ She turned her head to look at me, and I knew from her look, that she was pleased with my overture, and that the ring could stay right there. I leaned toward her and gave her a kiss, and the ‘deed was done,’ we were engaged!”
In his book, Gene recounts many other snippets from his life. In 1943, a young man named Billy Graham was a classmate at Wheaton College. “We were in the same course of study together, and in quite a few classes, which had alphabetic seating, we sat elbow to elbow. “F” is followed by “G”: so that brought us together in our seating assignments — Frost, Graham!
Just after becoming an ordained minister on Dec. 6, 1945, he received his commission to serve as a Navy chaplain. Within a week, he and Marie (and their baby daughter, Sharon) were on their way to San Diego to North Island Air Station at Coronado, where Gene served through the next summer.
The Frosts’ ministry in the Midwest began at Community Bible Church in Berwyn. Gene was a part-time church pastor, but he also enrolled at Northern Baptist Seminary to continue his studies. Babies came along; Marie garnered much success as a writer of Christian materials, and the ministry flourished.
Marie was happy that she was able to take her children along with her when she worked.
“When I was working for Scripture Press, I had (oldest daughters) Linda and Kaye sit on a chair in the living room of Scripture Press’s owner. If they behaved, they were rewarded with a Popsicle. Scripture Press offered me a huge office, but I asked them to let me do my work at home and bring the manuscripts in at night.”
Her “Winkie Bear” curriculum was so popular it was used overseas and translated into many languages. It was on the market for 54 years.
Marie glows when she speaks about the many, many works she has had published. She also glows when she speaks about her children, as does Gene.
But Gene is quick to answer when asked if there is anything he would have done differently.
“One thing I have a little conscience about is that we were knocking ourselves out to save the world and neglecting our own kids. We were slipping by as easily as we could. As I look back, I think my kids paid a high price for some of the times I saved the world instead of my kids.”
Dr. Gene Frost Jr., who serves his alma mater, Wheaton Academy, as the head of school, doesn’t see it that way. Asked about his thoughts on his dad’s parenting style, he said:
“I knew my dad loved me. He was rather quiet and reserved regarding his emotions, but I always knew he loved me because he would never miss my games. He was my No. 1 fan.”
Marie shakes her head and laughs when asked about Gene Jr. She writes in her book: “The teachers at Wheaton Academy often prayed Junior (Gene Jr.) wouldn’t end up in a reform school. I wonder what they think about his being headmaster of Wheaton Academy when his curiosity and creativity doomed him to be a failure in some eyes?”
Gene Jr. said he was certain that his mother loved him as well. “My mom had no trouble expressing her emotions, and she often reminded us kids of how much she loved us and how special we were with a song, poem or a story just about us!”
“I never went to bed without getting the kids together on the bed and talking together and praying,” Marie recalls. “And I always thanked God we were physically strong. I used to carry Linda under one arm and Sharon on the other when I walked to Wayne to teach. If I hadn’t been healthy and strong, I couldn’t have done it.”
The Frosts are proud of all five of their children, and note that they each have been successful in their lives and chosen professions.
“Growing up with my parents led me to believe that nothing was impossible and all that was needed to succeed was a little more hard work, creativity and determination,” Gene Jr. said. “I always knew there was a God because He was so real to my parents. I never really struggled with the reality of God, just whether I would follow him.”
Gene Sr.’s formal ministry lasted 66 years. Twenty-seven of those years were spent at Big Rock Baptist Church, from which he retired in July 2011.
But he continues to connect with and minister to those in the church — and outside. He and Marie still enjoy putting their feet under a dining room table with friends new and old. But now, more often than not, it is in a restaurant.
“Retirement,” Gene writes in Addendum 50 in his memoirs, “has been a blast. Someone asked me how come I waited for so long to retire. I told them, ‘I think I just plain forgot to do it!’ I was having such a good time!”
As for the number of addenda to his memoirs, Gene says it does seem a bit like the “tail wagging the dog.”
But he also says it was “stroke of genius” so that he could keep his chronicles “open-ended.”
Marie continues to write, and is working on a devotional book.
Those interested in purchasing one of the Frosts’ books may call 630-556-3073.