I don't know how the following relates to the religion section of the Waxahachie Daily Light unless it would be my public declaration of thanksgiving to God for allowing me to call Ellis County my home.
It has been home to me far more than any other place where I have lived in 70 years -- in fact, it's been over half of my life. A native of Freestone County (Teague), my first move to Ellis County, was in 1952 when I was almost four years old. My Dad, Eugene Gauntt, who was a mortician at the time, landed a job with Boze-Mitchell Funeral Home. We lived in the little house at the rear of the establishment, and my folks attended Farley Street Baptist Church. Our family cultivated life-long friendships while there, including the venerable pastor, Rev. L.H. Raney (he would be most unhappy if he knew I referred to him as "reverend.")
Moving away from Waxahachie in 1953, we lived in Mexia, Grand Saline, Jacksonville, Carthage and Gary Texas, before returning to Ellis County In 1961. My father, who by this time was in the ministry, accepted the pastorate of Anthony Drive Baptist Church in Ennis. It was while in the 9th grade in Ennis, that Mrs. Pochobradsky, my English teacher, set me on a track for a lifetime of writing, giving me an A on my final test -- a theme I wrote on "What I Admire About Myself," in which I sort of toyed with mock narcissism. Today I am grateful it never went public. To my deep sorrow, we lived in Ennis only two years, before moving to Midland where Dad accepted another church.
Fast forward to 1985. I landed what I consider today my dream job - a department director with my state Baptist denomination, headquartered in Waxahachie. It was a position I held for 16 years. Since the offices were to be relocated from Oak Cliff to some unknown spot in the Metroplex, I declared to my wife Carolyn, that no matter where my office would be located in the Metroplex, I wanted to raise our twins, Randi and Derek in Farley Street Church, having already had close ties with many of its people and the staff.
Those 16 years were "next to Heaven" for me. I enjoyed traveling and working for my denomination, and preaching almost every week. Carolyn taught school in Wilemon and Wedgeworth Elementary during those 16 years. Our children attended Waxahchie schools from kindergarten to graduation from WHS in 2000.
In late 2001, we returned to where I was born, (Teague) to become pastor of my old home church, Eighth Avenue Baptist Church. But we couldn't stay away from our Ellis county home (we never sold our house). We returned Waxahachie in 2006, where I was to be a corporate chaplain for SkillsNet - a job which only lasted a few months, due to an extreme cut back in the workforce.
That's when I landed a job with Waxahachie Daily Light in 2007 as a staff writer. Ray Pike was the publisher, and a great man to work for. And it was by God's design -- and mercy, then-editor Neal White and then-managing editor JoAnn Livingston took a Baptist preacher, who was obviously "AP (Associated Press) illiterate" having only written for church bulletins and a denominational paper, The Baptist Progress. But they miraculously transformed him into a full-fledged reporter. Learning AP style writing wasn't easy, but my mentors in the Daily Light did a great job "grooming" me. It was a job of long hours, lots of driving, to Alvarado, Italy, Ennis, Red Oak and Midlothian. Writing for not only the Daily Light but for the five other Ellis County newspapers, owned by the Daily Light at the time.
But the job was extremely rewarding -- and I continued to "minister," teaching a Sunday school class at Farley Street, and "Pastor Paul" as I was referred to in the newsroom, received almost all the religious news assignments, covering church openings, relocations, and special services. And after five years with the paper, St. Joseph Catholic Church and the school gave me a plaque recognizing me as "The Unofficial St. Joseph Catholic Church Reporter," which I proudly display in my study in Palmer, where I am, today, pastor of First Baptist Church.
Yes, Ellis County is our home. Having lived here (off and on) for a total of 36 years. We have made deep, life-long friendships and cannot imagine spending life anywhere else on this earth.