‘He always comes through’
C.D. and Frances McGee don’t have to look far to see God’s fingerprints on their lives.
All they have to do is look up at the walls of their home — the place God led them to in 1969 from Cary, N.C. Granted, the place was rundown and nearly abandoned but it was all their modest income could afford at the time.
And yet with love and sweat and more than 20 projects, and with God’s provision time and time again, they made the rural house into a cherished and stately home. It’s where they raised two children, touched countless lives and planted trees that now soar above land with a view of Baux Mountain and the Sauratown Mountains.
Frances, who just turned 80 Dec. 26, and C.D., who turns 80 on June 18, still live there.
Making things beautiful
Reflecting on it all, C.D. can sometimes hear his dad’s take on his life prospects echo through the years from Monticello, where he grew up. His dad farmed the land and ran a country store while he played football, baseball, basketball, ran track and honed horticultural skills as a member of a Future Farmers of America chapter.
“My dad would say about me,” C.D. said, ‘He won’t never be able to make a living because all he wants to do is make things pretty.’ ”
The latter part has certainly been proven true in more ways than one — part of the reason Lead Pastor Rob Decker has named the McGees the church’s 19th Heritage Award winners. The special award series honoring senior adults began in 2003.
Since joining Triad more than 10 years ago, the McGees have made Jesus known in sight, sound and actions. You’ll see the daffodils they planted come up every spring to the right as you enter Triad’s campus. If you step outside the Awake Coffee Shop into the courtyard you’ll see their flowers in the bench planter there too.
Standing side by side, the McGees also lend beauty to the 9 a.m. worship service by singing in the choir. They’re active members of the Faithful Friends and Terry McKoin Sunday School class and regularly check in on their church friends.
“Frances and I love the people at Triad, like those who invited us to consider visiting and were so open and welcoming to us,” C.D. said. “We also love the Biblically-centered preaching and opportunity to sing which Frances and I both have done since we were in our country churches as children.”
But perhaps C.D.’s teaching and Frances’ support is the ministry where they’ve made the most impact.
For almost 47 years at three different churches, including a six-year stint at Triad, C.D. taught a boys Sunday School class. He and Frances frequently opened their home to outings where C.D. would lead his charges on hikes up to the Baux Mountain summit.
“I always wrote my own lessons and would try to use things in nature to bring the Bible stories to life for them,” he said. “Many had never been outdoors a lot or seen a waterfall or experienced anything like that before.
“I sat down one day and got out a piece of paper and wrote down the names of 36 boys I taught, including several at Triad who are now grown have families of their own,” C.D. said. “They’ve all turned out well and I consider it a real blessing the Lord allowed me the opportunity to help point them toward Christ.
“One of those boys, now men, saw my list and said, ‘You missed a few’ and added eight more names.”
Even before he graduated in 1962 as part of the last class of Monticello High School, C.D. felt God’s presence. He accepted Christ one day when, at age 17, he found a Bible while home alone and its words changed his life forever.
He certainly knew he wasn’t alone walking up the dirt road home in the dark, which ran past a legendary beast known to bite passers-by.
“I’d run that 220 yards or so in a dead sprint and that dog never caught me,” C.D. laughs. When he competed in the state track meet as the lone 1-A racer against 3-A schools and finished in the top 5, another coach asked for the secret to his speed.
“I told him it was running to keep being bitten by that dog and get past his house.”
That kind of determination got C.D. through a two-year agricultural institute program at N.C. State University and later, through basic training and a stint in the Army National Guard.
He met Frances through his Oceola Baptist Church pastor who knew her family in Winston-Salem’s Old Town community. They married March 19, 1967.
Just as on his wedding day, C.D. felt God’s presence the day in September 1969 when an explosion at the National Guard Armory on Silas Creek Parkway killed three guardsmen and severely burned several others.
“Me and a buddy were outside and about 60 feet away when it blew up,” he said of the blast caused by methane gas leaking from the former landfill site and ignited by a match struck inside.
While C.D. embarked on a 31-year career as a crop scientist in research and development for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., while Frances demonstrated her many varied skills in several roles including hairdresser, dental assistant, coordinator for a Christian school’s bus drivers and — for 13 years — Forsyth County Tax Office clerk.
Of her mom’s school job, Frances’ daughter Julie Wright said, “She worked at the school from the time I was 4 until ninth grade and passed up better paying work so she could be involved in our lives and be there for us. I’ll never forget that sacrifice she made.”
Frances accepted Jesus Christ as Savior at age 12 and had an upbringing even stricter than C.D.’s in some ways — no Christmas trees, no baseball games, and no television.
“There are a lot of things that tell you the kind of woman Frances is but one is how I saw her love and respect her parents,” C.D. said. “She never rebelled and just kept living and loving the Lord.”
While time has slowed both McGees down a bit, they both have a sweet giving spirit — often sharing their garden’s bounty with others. Some Triad members have even been known to ask C.D. to grow specific vegetables for them.
Visitors to the Carolina Classic Fair have certainly seen C.D.’s name a lot from all his prize-winning pumpkins, apples and other vegetables. He keeps two of the latest winning pumpkins in the basement.
They reflect often on all God has allowed them to experience and brought them through, including C.D.’s miraculous recovery in 2017 from a kidney stone that nearly put him on a dialysis machine.
In his 50s, during a routine test, he’d learned he had only one kidney. And now the stone had taken its toll on the organ. But once doctors removed the stone, C.D.’s kidney began working again, and he’s had no other problems since.
“The Lord has been so good to us,” C.D. said of the faith walk he and Frances have taken together now for 56 years. “I live Psalm 34 and particularly this verse, ‘This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.’
“When we started out, we were both poor and did not have much financially but had so much spiritually,” C.D. said. “The Lord has heard us and continues to help us. I would encourage everyone to trust God in all things, especially for all the little things He does that are so easy to miss.
“He’s always there and always comes through. His plans never fail.