On Father's Day: Celebrating Charles Clifford Peale

A great-grandfather's life ministry of healing and nurturing shapes generatons of Peales

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Posted in , Jun 15, 2015

Father's Day memories

It is a privilege to write about my great-grandfather Charles Clifford Peale in anticipation of Father’s Day. Though I wasn’t fortunate enough to know him personally, I know wholeheartedly that his influence has shaped each generation of Peales since.

Charles Clifford Peale was born August 4, 1879 in Lynchburg, Pennsylvania, and died on September 21, 1955 in Harrison Valley, Pennsylvania. Great-grandfather Peale was a Methodist minister and a medical doctor. What I know about Great-grandfather Peale I have learned from my mother and her siblings, Uncle John and Aunt Maggie, and through anecdotes by Grandma and Grandpa Peale.

Charles Clifford Peale, Norman Vincent Peale's fatherAs noted in “A Founder’s Father,” Charles Clifford Peale was “a man of courage, conviction and compassion.” His deep faith in God and in the goodness and value of all people were the foundation for his life. He believed in the responsibility each human has to one another.

He saw his life-ministry as twofold and very much intertwined—healing and nurturing through his roles as minister and medical doctor. I cannot help but think how his example must have inspired Grandpa Peale, who along with Dr. Smiley Blanton, envisioned a place where faith and psychiatry would come together to help and heal those in need, and founded the Blanton-Peale Institute and Counseling Center.

When I asked my mom and her siblings about their grandfather, they were awash with memories.

They, too, spoke of his compassion, of his strong beliefs, and his courage to teach God’s way and our responsibility to honor God and all other human beings. They also spoke of a man who was a lover of the celestial world, of agriculture and of baseball.

Uncle John Peale (who named his only son Charles Clifford Peale) recalls, “He had a ready smile, and the ability to make anyone he was with feel at ease, including his grandchildren. Getting to know this type of person is comparatively easy. When I was with him, I just listened to him talk. I was impressed. He had a restless curiosity and desire to learn about almost anything. I remember most two topics: the starry heavens above and the snakes and reptiles that crawl the earth.

“Together we listened on the radio to Red Barber’s coverage of Brooklyn Dodgers baseball games, which Grandpa loved, and so did I. One night Gil Hodges hit a home run with the bases loaded to win the game, and we were happy together, and this I’ll never forget.

READ MORE: A FOUNDER’S FATHER

“I own one book that came from the library of Charles Clifford Peale, entitled Human Destiny, by Pierre Lecomte du Noüy. On the inside front cover is a scene of mountain peaks, and Grandpa put his name curled around the highest of the peaks! Symptomatic of his outlook in life.”

Aunt Maggie Peale Everett says, “Grandpa was a great baseball fan and it is from him that I got my love of baseball. Those were the days before television so John and I used to sit by the radio with him and listen to the games and Grandpa would tell us stories about the players, both the ones playing then and the ones who had gone before. He was a great storyteller, and I loved listening to him.”

My mother, Elizabeth Peale Allen, spoke of her grandfather teaching his eldest son, her father, Norman Vincent Peale, through words and action, about human love and compassion and how Norman was deeply devoted to his parents. He was attentive and respectful and took their values to heart, Mom says.

READ MORE: POSITIVE THOUGHTS FROM NORMAN VINCENT PEALE

She remembers Charles Clifford Peale’s funeral service in 1955 in Pennsylvania at which there were many, many clergy. During the service, the clergy were asked to sing “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds Our Hearts in Christian Love.” For my mother and for all present, I imagine the message of this hymn encapsulated the life Great-grandfather Peale led.

His influence remains strong throughout our family and, with faith and hope, we will make every effort to continue to put his courage, conviction and compassion to practice. I will always look at the highest  mountain peaks with thoughts of him.

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