Friday, May 24, 2013
Chris Cooper – 1772 Words
Facebook @ CHRISTAL ANN RICE COOPER
BEND AND NOT BREAK
“Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back from even the most difficult times.”
Excerpted from Bend and Not Break: A Life In Two Worlds
Pages 10 – 11.
On December 31, 2012 Portfolio of Penguin Press published Ping Fu’s business memoir Bend and Not Break: A Life In Two Worlds, in which she tells of her life during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, which include being gang raped at the age of 10 as well as years in a dormitory, forced to live apart from her family. She also writes of her rise to become co-founder (with Herbert Edelsbrunner) and CEO of Geomagic, a software development company. Since its publication a group of netizens has gone repeatedly to Amazon and other book review pages giving her book one star and scathing reviews. Some of the reviews have been accusatory, hateful, and ugly.
“These people who attack me have gone from smear to hate – most who have never even read the book. They don’t understand and don’t care I wrote a business memoir with a cross section of my life. This is not a history of the Cultural Revolution or biography of my entire life. They really don't care about the truth; they simply want to discredit me and to damage my reputation and my private life. It’s cyber bullying. I saw that there would be some disagreement and I never thought I would be subject to this kind of attack. It brings back unnecessary emotional trauma to my life.”
Despite false accusations of her being a communist and a liar, she refuses to respond in kind; and instead chooses to respond the way she was taught as a child: with love, compassion, and hard work.
“I see the pain in people’s voices when they attack me. In some ways I empathize with those people because they are probably angry in life. I don’t want to be in a place of hatred but only a place of love. That’s what made me survive my childhood and I’m not going to change that.”
This love, compassion and hard work is how she was reared by her aunt and uncle who treated her as their own – in the three-floor home on a road that was curtained by trees in Shanghai which was also known as the “Paris of the East.”
Ping Fu was born in May 30, 1958 in Nanjing. As a newborn she was sent to live with her uncle and aunt.
She described her family life as peaceful, her parents never fought, being surrounded by books which she read voraciously as a child, and given the nicknames Little Apple and Pearl In The Hand because of how delicate and precious she was to her family.
But in 1966, at the age of eight, that all changed when she was taken from her family and became ward of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and sent to live in a dormitory in Nanjing, with her four-year-old sister Hong as her roommate.
“After Mao’s death in 1976, reformers led by Deng Xiaoping gained prominence. Most of the Maoist reforms associated with the Cultural Revolution were abandoned by 1978. The Cultural Revolution has been treated officially as a negative phenomenon ever since.”
Fu was freed from the dormitory and passed the national exam in 1978, which allowed her to attend Suzhou University (then called Jiangsu Teacher’s College) where she studied Chinese language and literature. For her senior year thesis she travelled to the countryside to research the effects of China’s newly implemented one-child policy.
“I eye-witnessed and documented the practice of female infanticide which was widespread.”
When the authorities learned of this they briefly imprisoned her.
“It was the research material that got me into trouble. A teacher gave the material to friends and then to more prominent people. They took my material and never gave it back to me.”
“In 1982, the world was watching the implementation of China’s one-child policy. A Shanghai newspaper called for an end to gender discrimination. Later that year and in the following year, the Chinese Communist Party made strong statements opposing female infanticide. China’s national paper, The People’s Daily, in Beijing, acknowledged that peasants were killing baby girls. The news spread to the International Press, which used this acknowledgment as evidence of China’s violations of human rights. Theodore W Shultz, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and advisor to the United Nations, denounced a proposed UN award to the Chinese Minister of Family Planning, Qian Xinzhong. Schultz said China’s one-child policy had caused a large increase in female infanticide.”
As a result of her research material on the one-child policy and female infanticide, Fu was told to leave the country and to never come back. On January 14, 1984, after a long struggle to obtain a passport and visa, she departed to the United States, a place that was totally foreign to her including the language: she knew how to speak three English words: hello, thank you, and help.
During her early days in America she worked as a waitress and a-live-in-nanny.
Her superiors were English-speaking Americans, and this helped her learn the English language in six months.
Once she mastered the English language, she enrolled as a matriculated student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where she majored in English as a second language and in computer science.
She then moved to San Diego, and attended the University of California San Diego computer science program. It was here that she got her foot in the door of the career field of computer science and started working for Lane Sharman, founder and CEO of Resource Systems Group. She eventually earned her BA in Computer Science and a minor in Economics and continued to excel in her job at Resource Systems Group.
She then moved to Illinois where she worked at Bell Labs, and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she received her MS degree in May of 1990. It was here that she met her husband former Geomagic-co-founder Herbert Edelsbrunner, (the couple are now divorced), and gave birth to their daughter.
In 1997 Fu co-founded (with Edelsbrunner) Geomagic, a software development company focused on 3D software and technology for design and manufacturing. Geomagic’s 3D imaging software affords precise replication of complex shapes from custom cranial plate (benefiting ABC’s Bob Woodruff), to heat tiles for the space shuttle, and Invisalign braces, making the exact match to an individual’s tooth in every stage of the movement, and to prosthetic limbs with fashionable faring and human shape.
“The design starts with you, the person. We wanted to combine thousands of years of handcraftsmanship with the Internet. We are a technology company that focuses on the human aspect of things.”
Geomagic is now located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina where Fu resides with her daughter and her mother.
For a few years, Fu spent time researching her own story by coming up with 300 pages worth of material – though she never though of actually publishing a book but rather writing a legacy for her daughter.
“Friends and people who heard about my story and know me wanted me to write a book. I majored in literature in China and I wrote in a journal that was burned so I was writing the book as a way to confront my own fear and continue the process of healing.”
She finally decided to make it official and in 2012, started writing the book with co-author MeiMei Fox. The book took nine months to write.
“I didn’t want to write a self-help book. I wanted to write a business memoir. I have quite unconventional attitudes on leadership – that’s shown through in the book and I wrote this book – in a small way – to illustrate a better way to conduct business, a better way of who you are and what you are and how I came to be who I am today.”
Many successes have come and continue to come for Geomagic. In 2003, Geomagic opened Geomagic GmbH, its first wholly owned subsidiary based in Germany, and completed its first acquisition of Cadmus Consulting in Hungary.
In 2005, Ping Fu was selected Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine.
In 2008, for President Barack Obama’s first Inaugural Speech as President, she was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to attend the speech in her own special box – making Fu one of 15 guests.
In 2010, she served on President Barack Obama’s National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She also sits on the board of the Long Now Foundation. Along with her great success, Fu sometimes finds herself in great isolation.
“I’m one of few female entrepreneurs in the country in the high technological field and it is sometimes lonely.”
Presently Geomagic consists of 100 employees and due to a merger with 3D Systems the employee count exceeds 1200 employees. Fu will become the Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of the 3D Systems, a leading public company in 3D printing.
The majority of Fu’s time is not in her office or on any board but on airplanes traveling the globe.
“I am not in the office enough – my job as CEO is to understand what are the big issues in the outside world and bring those problems inside the company for solutions. On the road – I go talk to customers and analysts and we want to democratize that in the community – kind of bridge the real world problems and issues and come back to help and reform those problems.”
Despite being known as the cream-of-the-crop CEO, the one question that people ask her is how she endured the atrocities she endured and still became such a success not only in business but also in her well-being.
“We know from psychology that half of how we feel is inborn. I was born to have a healthy mental attitude. The mental metaphor of the glass half full and never half empty helps me to think through things. The other half is a healthy mental metaphor. I like to think life is a mountain range – at different peaks, the views are different. However, you can’t reach another peak without going down. In American education we like to use going up as a metaphor “glass ceiling” and corporate ladders are about going up, which is really hard. I like to think of going forward, traveling up and down on the mountain range. There are much more opportunities if we continue progressing forward.”
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Chris Cooper – 2,931 Words
Facebook @ CHRISTAL ANN RICE COOPER
“The Strongest Weapon:
“the ability to create”
February 12, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of when over 140 Prisoners of War were released from the Hoa Lo Prison, more famously known as the Hanoi Hilton Hotel in North Vietnam. One of those POWs was John Borling, at the time a Captain and fighter pilot in the United States Air Force. To commemorate the 40th anniversary, Master Wings Publishing has published Borling’s book of poetry Taps on the Walls: Poems From the Hanoi Hilton by John Borling, Major General, USAF, Retired, with the foreword by Senator John McCain.
What makes this book of poetry different from others is that Borling mentally composed all of the poems and communicated these poems to his fellow prisoners of war via a special, but forbidden, tap code. Unable to use a pen, pencil, or paper to write anything down at all, he committed thousands of words to memory, only to record them upon his release almost seven years later. . . .
Borling became a serious poet when he met his high school sweetheart and wife of almost 50 years Myrna. He’d always been a great lover of poetry – and a fan of the Elizabethan sonnet:
“I’m a lover of the Elizabethan sonnet because of the structure, the meter, the rhyme of that approach. In the book I’ve used the Elizabethan sonnet a lot. The first eight lines establish a theme, the next four counter the theme and the rhyming couplet at the end resolves matters and all done in iambic pentameter and the rhyming scheme that goes with it.” Borling comments that the rigor of construction made for good use of time.
Borling attended the United States Air Force Academy where he received his engineering degree but with a major in Humanities and a minor in management in 1963.
In his book he describes how as a F-4 pilot he was shot down while he was performing his 97th fighter mission based out of Ubon Air Base, in Thailand on June 1, 1966.
“So, on that bright moonlit June night, it was low and fast over the mountains northeast of Hanoi in an F-4 Phantom. Reaching the target area, heavy ground fire ripped into the jet. Out of control. No controls. Upside down. The jet was dead. I had to get out. Eject. Ejected and hit the ground; it was that close.”
“I hit on a long, steep, furrowed hill and went bouncing downhill like some kind of crazy jumping bean and ended up in a beat-up heap at the bottom. That hill probably saved my life. I was alive, but with disabling pain in my back, ribs, and ankles. There was blood everywhere. I couldn’t walk. I was broken. The locals were all around me, shooting into the bushes and jungle to flush me out. I had to get away. I crawled into a log and passed out.”
When he regained consciousness, he crawled fifty yards to a traffic road with the plan of hijacking a vehicle with his service revolver as his weapon and a tree branch as a crutch. Unfortunately, the vehicle that stopped was a truck full of North Vietnamese regular troops and, in less than 24 hours, he was dragged into the Hoa Lo Prison aka the Hanoi Hilton, where he would be a POW for six years and eight months.
The name Hoa Loa refers to a potter’s kin, but loosely translates to “hell’s hole” or “fiery furnace.” It also is sometimes translated as “stove” since the name originated from an actual street name, which consisted of numerous stores that sold wood stoves and coal-fire stoves along the street from the pre-colonial times. The prison buildings itself was built by the French between 1886 and 1898 when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina, and its intended prisoners were Vietnamese political prisoners. And in the 1960s it became a prisoner of war camp for American soldiers.
By the time Borling was dragged in, the prison consisted of numerous buildings that would later be given nicknames by the POWs: Heartbreak Hotel, New Guy Village, and Little Vegas. The walls were made of brick and plaster, 20 foot long, 2 to 3 ½ feet thick, and topped with barbed wire and broken glass. The entire compound was infested, bricked up, with no ventilation.
The room Borling was confined in was 6-feet-by-7-feet with no windows, no ventilation, an often-overflowing bucket for a toilet, and a mat for a bed. He, like others, was also subjected to very harsh treatment and lived in these conditions, in isolation or semi-isolation for years. He found hope through a Being higher than himself.
“God responds to desperation and either becomes very close or very distant. I believe that faith provided a strong rope to hang on to - not just for me but also for the whole group of us. There were multiple miracles that happened to me where divine providence had to be involved--at least to my mind. I think that everyone who survived that experience knew there was a great supporting factor that religion gave us. People will follow a faith that is in common and in many respects different than others but in the end responds to individual need. The practice of religion was not encouraged, even punished, by our captors. They did not understand it and knew that there was a power there impossible to reign in. Faith for me, and I can only speak for me, was an important component for battling those years and months.”
Borling also found comfort in the tap code that was developed by Colonel Carlyle Smith “Smitty” Harris, who was shot down in 1965.
Borling describes the code in the introduction of Taps On The Walls. “The easy-to-learn code uses a 5 x 5 square numbered from 1 to 5 horizontally along the top and then again vertically down the left side, with the letters of the alphabet running in order across each row of boxes. Each letter is tapped with two numbers. The first tap signifies which horizontal row is being used, and the second signifies which vertical column for each letter. By example, to send the letter “O”, tap three times, quick pause, then tap four times on the cell wall. Roger, or “Got it,” was two taps (normally after every word). “Don’t understand” or “Repeat” was a rapid series of taps. “Call up” was “shave and a haircut.” The letter “C” is used for “K”, or tapped as a 2, 6. For example “pilot” is tapped 3,5 2,4 3,1 3,4 4,4. Nightly sign-off was “GBU” 2,2 1,2 4,5: God Bless You.”
Communicating through the walls, though forbidden and those committing the forbidden act would be severely punished, was the primary factor in keeping Borling and his fellow POWs from giving in completely to the despair, kept their minds sharp, helped them overcome the isolation and loneliness, and was a major tool in how to pass the long days and the long nights. The first thing Borling tapped was his name.
“I wanted people to know that I was alive. No one thought I was alive anyway due to the certain circumstances in the crash. My wife said she could feel me. Three years later – at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night – she was feeling particularly down and there was a knock at the door and there were a couple of guys in uniform, which is not a good sign. They told her that I was alive. She had to labor without any contact with me for many years more. And I labored without any contact.”
Borling epitomized the saying “art saves lives” during those almost seven years of captivity by mentally creating poems and tapping them to his fellow prisoners of war. Borling described the poems as very private and a piece of his soul. His intention was to keep them private and as a legacy for his wife Myrna and daughter Lauren, who was three months old when he was shot down and 7 1/2 when he returned.
“The need was to keep faith with your fellows so you did this through the walls with your chain of command, make sure people knew you were alive, what demands were upon you, and keep your mind working to fill the long hard days. Every morning you face that interminable 24-hour period where you had to fight the way through it. To make time your ally – and one of those ways was to pass poetry through the mind and through the walls.”
After many years of harsh treatment, Borling and his fellow POWs found conditions improving to an extent. The POWs were placed in larger groups. Even still, the POWs did experience some punishment.
“While the Geneva Conventions were never fully respected, conditions approximated a more POW like experience but the captors never relented that we were war criminals and deserving to be punished and killed."
On February 23, 1973 Borling was officially no longer a prisoner of war, and part of the 140 POWs, the first group, to be set free. Those men to be released first were those who had been shot down first, still injured or wounded.
Borling, along with the other POWs, were flown to Clark Air Base in the Philippines where all were greeted with a celebratory reception, then placed on busses and driven to the Clark Field Hospital. The first meal was a buffet with rice and vegetable as well as good old American food. Borling along with his fellow soldiers wanted the all American meal – breakfast.
“When you are really hungry you think of the meal you want to have – steak and eggs and bacon and potatoes and toast and coffee like a bunch of lumberjacks coming in from the field. They thought we were going to be basket cases but were just a bunch of fighter pilots wanting to get back to serious living.”
The first person he spoke to on the phone was Myrna, which he described as a very odd conversation.
“We dealt with my absence much like I went out to the store for groceries.”
It was agreed by the couple that Borling hopefully would be competitive enough to rejoin the force and go back to the fighters. If not, then they would join the civilian world. Fortunately, he was competitive enough and would remain in the Air Force until August 1, 1996 when he retired as Major General after 37 years.
At the hospital he was pleased that he and Darrell Pyle were in the same room. He and Pyle had shared the same small cell for 3 ½ years at the Hanoi Hilton and then were separated. They didn’t see each other until just before their release.
“Darrell Pyle – and I were extremely close – and we got together at the end. We moved in together again.”
The two men also snuck out of the hospital to go to the Base Exchange to get a tape recorder so Borling could download his poems into the device and hopefully preserve the poems. Borling told the clerk that he wanted a tape recorder.
“The man came back with a shoe box thing and I told him I wanted a tape recorder and not a radio.”
Borling and Pyle had experienced a small bit of culture shock – he was expecting the only tape recorder he knew of before he became prisoner of war – the kind with the reels.
“An hour after hitting Clark Air Field Base in the Philippines I owned a cassette tape recorder. That was how we conserved the poems initially.”
He continued to experience culture shock but only mildly, and with the help of the Reader’s Digest special issue geared toward the POW While You Were Away, Borling was able to overcome it and adapt.
“While You Were Away tried to capture the six or seven years we were gone. There were elements – the mini skirts came and gone, the cars were different, the feminist had reared up, technology had changed, and there were a lot of stuff that was the same, and a lot of stuff that was different. Myrna hung in there and we were still there and we were able to put our life together.”
Borling’s primary goal was to return with honor. He dreamed of walking his little girl to school. His daughter Lauren, who was three months old when he became prisoner of war, was now 7 ½.
“The kids gave her a hard time because she didn’t have a father and she wanted to show me off. The Chicago Tribune had stalked us and got a picture of me walking her to school.”
Neither Borling nor his daughter Lauren was aware of the photo until November 2010 when they attended the exhibition Service Over Self. Someone had found the photo and turned it into a big banner.
“We walked in and saw that picture for the first time and my forty something daughter collapsed in my arms crying. Of course, I’m a big tough guy so I was totally unaffected, right? I collapsed in her arms crying.”
When Borling returned that February of 1973 he told Myrna about his poems he had tapped all those years. It was agreed that the poems would remain private.
“It’s all very private stuff and that is why we kept it buried and just to ourselves for all these years.”
The town fathers of Rockford approached Borling and Myrna about the Service Over Self project and asked if they would consider submitting his poems as an exhibit at the Memorial Hall in Rockford, Illinois. The exhibit was geared toward Borling and his 37-year career in the United States Air Force.
The couple agreed to make the poems public at the exhibit due to numerous reasons – they wanted to help out with the exhibit, pieces of the poems had already been leaked over the years, and close friends and family wanted them to share the poems with the public.
It seemed only fitting that when approached by Master Wings Publishing, the new imprint of the Pritsker Military Library in Chicago, to publish the poems in book form to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of the POWs – the answer would be a positive and complete yes.
Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton is divided into four sections. The first expresses a passion for the sky and the great missing of the freedom that flying provides. The second section speaks of the dark, hard days, when an awful loneliness and punishment and pain were routine. The third section deals with “the Holidays” and the need to remember, and be grateful but offset the enormity of prolonged and uncertain incarceration. Finally, the fourth, SEA Story (South East Asia Story), is an epic poem that took many years to compose and, as Borling notes, “offers commentary on just about everything.” The book includes a glossary of military, aviation, and historical terms as well as substantial introduction and other supplementary material that gives insight into the total work.
Borling’s friend and colleague Senator John McCain wrote the foreword to the book.
“John did the foreword which was very generous. We lived together for a time in North Vietnam. I support John politically. I think he’s a fine American. Don’t agree with everything he says but who does? I think he has the best approach which is country first.”
There will be a 40th year reunion with all the POWs on May 23 to May 26 in Newport, California at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. This will be the second time the POWs have come together – the first was at the White House in May of 1973, when President Richard Nixon invited all of the POWS to tour the entire White House, including his own personal and family quarters. Six months after that event 50 children were born, one of which was Borling’s daughter, Megan.
“This is the one where we will have an informal accounting of what we all have done for our community, city, state, and nation. There is a sense of lifelong commitment and the need to give back to country."
Presently, Borling is working on another book titled Comrade and Emperor: Be Your Own Best Friend and Ruler of Your Soul. In the book he takes quotes from Russia’s Vladimir Lenin and France’s Napoleon Bonaparte.
“I take quotes from these two historical figures, adding my own words and philosophical spin around those quotes, with a view to offering themes of renewal and encouragement and some humor too.”
Borling not only writes but he also gives speeches around the country. He speaks on the “Eight Virtues of Leadership”, four principles from the Greeks and an additional four that he added himself. He maintains that here is one principle that stands out and is represented by Taps on the Walls.
“It is the seventh principal that I commend to you because it is the essence of the human condition – and it is the ability to create. And I argue, I would hope, persuasively, that we need to put an emphasis on the study and practice of liberal arts because that is what democracy needs in terms of an informed and an involved electorate. We need to have people who are thoughtful and are comfortable with the thoughts of the millennium. And to project those thoughts into our own experiences in families, communities, cities, countries, and nations.”
Friday, May 10, 2013
Chris Cooper – 2,689 Words
Facebook @ CHRISTAL ANN RICE COOPER
OF THE STORY
Dawn believes in the
Triangle of Love. Jesus is at
the top, the husband at the far left,
and the wife at the far right. As the husband
and the wife love Jesus more, they climb each side
of the triangle, growing closer together, loving each other more.
“When God is at the head of the relationship then everything falls into place.”
It was Mother’s Day, May 11, 2008, and Dawn Allen Pollock had so much to be thankful for: her husband Dr. Forrest Pollock was the senior pastor of Bell Shoals
Baptists Church in Brandon, Florida, and their six children, Courtney, Brooke, Preston, Hope, Blake, and Kirk were happy and healthy.
The day started out beautifully. Brother Forrest preached a sermon and there
was a quick, private celebration of Mother’s Day for Dawn. Early that Sunday afternoon, Forrest, Preston, and Brooke boarded Forrest’s private plane, the single engine Piper PA-32-260. Forrest piloted the plane to Ashville, North Carolina, to spend part of the day with his mother and stepfather.
The next day, Monday, May 12, at 5 a.m., Forrest and Preston were strapped
in the Piper PA-32-260. Brooke had stayed behind to spend more time with her grandparents. The plan was that Forrest would pilot the aircraft to Arkansas to pick up a preacher friend, and then the three were to fly to Texas, to attend a conference.
Dawn remained in Brandon, Florida with their other four children. All was well, until a phone call, which literally changed her life. The preacher friend was on the other line asking her if Forrest had changed his mind about attending the conference. At first, Dawn thought it was a joke, and then she realized, he wasn’t joking, and began making phone calls, one of which was to the FAA. Five FAA representatives came to the Pollock household to talk with Dawn, about the day her husband left, what kind of plane he flew, etc.
On Tuesday, May 13, in the early morning hours, Forrest’s crashed plan was discovered on the side of Cold Mountain, in the Shining Rock Wilderness, about thirty minutes from Ashville, North Carolina. The remains of father and son were found inside the crashed plane.
“Forrest and Preston did not survive. They perished.”
On Saturday, May 17, Forrest’s and Preston’s Celebration of Life Service was held at the new worship center that seated 3,500 people. Dawn wore the traditional black, and with integrity and strength, she stood and sat next to her children as the two-hour service took place, during which their oldest daughter Courtney sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.”
Right before the service ended, the only request Dawn made was for the congregation to sing “Shout To The Lord”. Lunch was provided for the thousands of church members, friends, and family who attended the service. The lines to see Dawn were long and lengthy and, finally, about an hour of standing greeting people, she was exhausted. An elder from the church recognized her exhaustion and had the remaining people come into the room where she was at, and gave her the microphone to speak. The new widow spoke only thanks: thanks that her husband Forrest and son Preston were in Heaven, thanks for all the prayers, and thanks for all the people who came.
“This was the most difficult journey of my life. And the most difficult journey I will perhaps ever face in my life.”
But in the end, the Love of her Life, her First Love, would always come to her rescue.
Before Dawn Pollock fell in love with Forrest, she had fallen in love with another Man they call Jesus, at the age of 11, while living in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Her mother, Margaret Allen, now a retired musician evangelist and her father Lloyd, reared their daughters (Dawn, Tammy and Natalie) to love Jesus, to pray, go to church, read the Bible, and treat others with compassion. The Allen family held traditions that encouraged their three daughters to have an even deeper relationship with Jesus.
“Sunday was traditionally a family day. We did have a Jesus birthday cake and always went to a candle light vigil on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve was always a time to reflect on what we needed to do to mirror Christ. Our family always prayed before meals, and during family time.”
Things didn’t click for her until she was eleven years old while at home, where she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Very few people knew that she had now become a born-again Christian until that summer, when she was 12 years old.
“I made it public at summer camp and I got baptized. I went to a church camp every year called “Falls Creek” in Oklahoma. It was a camp that had 5,000 kids. We worshiped and spent time with God in small groups and alone. We had sports in the afternoon and a big service at night.”
Dawn made another commitment to Jesus: that she would, on a daily basis, have a quiet time, just Him and her. It was during these quiet times that Dawn sought Him for comfort and guidance.
“I had my own quiet time where I’d get alone with Christ and pour my hurts and give praise for all God has brought me through.”
The next few years of her teen life, Dawn and her sisters traveled with their mother to sing with her. It was no longer Margaret Allen, but the Allen Singers.
“We would travel on weekends and share the love of Jesus in churches all around the world.”
It was on a certain weekend, in Oklahoma, at a Baptist church, that, Dawn first met Dr. Forrest Pollock.
“He was sitting in the audience and I couldn’t help but notice him in the bright red pants. We talked afterwards and he called me the next week and asked me out. It was definitely a God thing. He asked me to marry him on our second date and we were married 6 months later. I knew he was the one because I prayed for a mate and I prayed specifically for the character qualities that I wanted in a husband and God blessed me!”
Forrest was not a pastor at the time, but had a pastor’s heart. At the time, Forrest was a successful business owner and CEO of PDC Multimedia Productions. At the age of 25, the National Federation of Independent Businesses named him “Young Business Owner of the Year.”
The couple married in 1990, and went on the traditional honeymoon. But, after the honeymoon, God called Forrest to the ministry. Forrest did not remain a businessman for very long; instead he sold his successful business, PDC Multimedia Productions, Inc. In 1991, he and Dawn moved to Texas, where he attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“God had called us to be in the ministry and we were eager to serve the Lord."
His first church to serve was a Corinth church in Ravenna, Texas. He became pastor of church growth at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. In 1994, he was senior pastor of Rosen Heights Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1997, the family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he was senior pastor of Istrouma Baptist Church.
Dawn loved being the pastor’s wife, and described her first experiences as fun, but she had to learn valuable lessons along the way.
“I put a lot of expectations on myself that I could not fulfill, such as trying to meet everyone’s needs and or expectations. I carried this pain around. I have since learned that God wants to carry the burden for me.”
In 2002, the couple, now with all of their six children, moved to Brandon, Florida, where Forrest served as senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church near Tampa. It was a good move and a good place to serve God, but it was difficult.
“We always felt comfortable and loved but God did choose to move us as He would call us to another ministry. That part was always hard.”
The couple soon felt at home at Brandon, Florida and finally built their own home.
The traditions that Dawn was reared in were the same traditions that she and Forrest made in their new home. Even to this day, these traditions continue.
“We pray before our meals. We also have family time at 8:30 and go to bed at 9 p.m. every night. The kids love family time. It gives us an opportunity to connect. It always gives us time to thank God for all of His blessings. We read God’s word. A saying of Forrest’s was that if you read God’s word and get into it, it would change your life.”
That Mother’s Day on May 11, 2008, Pastor Forrest Pollock preached a message titled, “Motherhood: Not for Sissies” based on Titus 2:1-5: “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers, or addicted to too much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
After the sermon, Forrest, Preston, and Brooke boarded his single engine plane the Piper PA-32-260. . . .
Dawn described her life with Forrest and their six children as living the “good life” and living “on top of a mountain.” Well the good life didn’t feel so good, and she literally fell from the mountain. It only got worse when the debris of the plane and the remains were discovered in Cold Mountain, North Carolina. Even then, Dawn turned to Jesus and saturated herself in the Bible.
‘My Lord carried me through and is still carrying me through a very difficult time through His word. His word is a light unto my path. The Lord promises that He will never leave me or forsake me. It also says my rod and my staff will comfort me.”
It was a struggle and sometimes near impossible to feel comforted, but Dawn endured, while at the same time, going through a deep loneliness.
“You see I lost my husband, my son, my life as I knew it and I lost my ministry.”
She started reading the book of Job and felt comforted and humbled, particularly with the verse from Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him: I will surely defend my ways to his face.”
“I knew what didn’t kill me would make me stronger. I wanted to mirror Christ so that my children would see Christ in reflection, in everyway, in the biggest way. This is the biggest test of my life. He doesn’t answer our whys, but He does answer with His presence.”
Unbeknownst do Dawn, Pastor John Cross of South Biscayne Baptist Church in North Port, Florida attended the Celebration of Life for Forrest and Preston. He had never met Dawn or the children before, but he had met Forrest on numerous occasions.
He thought of the family off and on and then in December he was concerned about Dawn and the children, and how they would handle their first Christmas without husband and father. He thought of contacting her but felt that it wasn’t appropriate; she’d only been a widow seven months.
While John was praying for the family, Dawn was praying to the Lord requesting that He send her another husband.
“I would pour my heart out to him, and quote scripture, that He did not intend for man to be alone. When you have a great marriage you want to get married again.”
John had numerous pastor friends who encouraged him to get in touch with Dawn. And so, with the help of the newest technology, Facebook, John did just that.
“He prayed for us as we were going through this trial. He began to wonder how we were doing. He looked me up on Facebook and we started talking and we started getting to know one another. The kids were drawn to him as well.”
When Dawn first introduced John to her children, her children were eager to meet this man that was courting their mother; so eager, that each lined up in the living room waiting impatiently for him. There was not one uncomfortable moment, and the five children and John connected right away, laughing, sharing, joking, and even reminiscing about their late father and late brother.
The next big step was to connect with Dawn’s parents, and, finally, when he knew God wanted them to be a couple, he asked for her father and mother’s blessing.
On May 17, 2009, in Sarasota, Florida, John proposed to Dawn, presenting her with a ring that he designed. John proposed the romantic and traditional way, bending on one knee and telling her he loved her and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Dawn said yes without hesitation.
The couple married on August 9, 2008 at South Biscayne Baptist Church.
All five children are open and feel free to ask their mother questions, such as, “Do you love him more than you loved Daddy?” or “Do you love him more than you love me?’”
“I tell them, ‘I loved your daddy and your daddy had mentioned several times that if he was to ever go to heaven before me … that he wanted me to remarry because he wanted the children and me to be taken care of. I’ve told them John is not replacing their daddy, but as we read a book and it has different chapters, this is just a different chapter in the book of our life. That seems to resonate with them, seeing that we’re just in a different chapter and you still remember all the other chapters.”
Chapters are the best way to describe her life. She refuses to remain at the bottom of the mountain when tough times come. She likes to compare the chapters in her life to that of eras in her life.
“It is the end of an era in my life, but not the end of my destiny. Pain is inevitable but misery is optional. You have to die to live and they are very much alive, living now.”
Now Dawn is back living “the good life” and on the mountaintop, where God wants her and the children to be. And now a widow gained a new husband and five orphaned children have gained a father – John Cross adopted the five children, each child bearing both their late father’s name and John’s name – Pollock Cross.
“They are so excited and love the addition to our family. We are now serving the Lord together in North Port, Florida.”
John, before he met Dawn, had purchased three acres of lake property as a retreat for pastors. God had something else in mind, and though He still wanted him to purchase the land and build his house, instead of a retreat for pastors, it is now a home for his very own wife and his own five children, whom he describes as thrilling, even at their loudest.
John married Dawn at the age of 46, and had never been married before. He was prepared to live his life as a single person if that was what the Lord had in mind, even if it meant him being surrounded by loneliness. Once Dawn and the children came into his life, the loneliness went away.
Now, the father is taking his two sons fishing in the lake in their backyard; being the father of the bride to his oldest daughter Courtney (he walked her down the aisle this past May), and being grandfather to his two grandchildren Eliza and Ezra by his second oldest daughter Brooke and her husband Nick.
“I love it!” John said.