McClellan: Path through faiths helps man find peace
McClellan: Path through faiths
helps man find peace
Dale Hough knew that he was adopted. He knew that he had
been put up for adoption immediately after his birth on Dec. 12, 1963. He did
not know much more than that.
His adoptive mother died when he was 3, so he was raised by his adoptive
father. Dale was smart, but rebellious. He got in trouble at his public school,
and his father put him in a Catholic school. Not for religious reasons — his
father was not Catholic — but because there was more discipline at the Catholic
school. Dale did better, but he remained rebellious. He eventually dropped out
of high school and earned a GED.
He straightened out when he fell in love with a young woman, Margie Hood. She
was Catholic. Margie and Dale had two daughters, and they raised them in the
Catholic faith. The family went to St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church on Flad Avenue
in St. Louis.
About 20 years ago, his adoptive father gave him the name of a midwife who had
been involved in his adoption. Dale contacted her. She would not give him
names, but she told him that his biological mother was Jewish and his
biological father was not.
Dale was a voracious reader. He began reading about the Jewish faith. He
learned that Jewish tradition maintains that religion is passed down from
mothers. According to that tradition, he was Jewish.
He took an evening class on basic Judaism at the Aish
Hatora educational center, which was then on Delmar Boulevard in
The instructor was Rabbi Ze'ev Smason.
Dale never went to synagogue, but he remained in touch with Rabbi Smason long
after the class was over. Sometimes he had questions about Jewish holidays.
Sometimes he just wanted to talk.
At home, he read the Torah incessantly. He told Margie and their daughters that
once he understood Judaism, he would teach them.
But several years ago, he began having mental problems. Or maybe the problems
had always been present and simply became more acute. At any rate, he and
Margie separated. Dale went on disability.
He remained in touch with Margie and the girls, and he remained in touch with
In February, the rabbi got a phone call from a nun. She asked if he was the
rabbi who was friends with Dale Hough. The rabbi answered affirmatively. The
nun said Hough, who had been working as a volunteer at a food pantry, had died
and his family was trying to raise funds for a cremation. She asked if the
rabbi would help.
The rabbi explained that cremation was against Jewish law. He said he would be
happy to try to arrange a proper burial.
I'm so glad you said that, the nun replied. She too was opposed to cremation.
The rabbi called Margie. She said she'd be grateful if a proper Jewish burial
could be arranged. So the rabbi began calling friends. Berger Memorial Funeral
Home agreed to donate a casket. Chesed
Shel Emeth Cemetery agreed to donate a plot. Rosenbloom Monument Co. agreed to donate a monument.
It was, everybody agreed, a glatt kosher funeral —
that is, as kosher as it could be. But there was something
missing — Rabbi Smason. He was in the hospital for knee surgery and
could not officiate.
So he and Margie decided that he would officiate at a monument dedication
later. Later was Sunday.
Margie and her two daughters and their three children were present. So were a
number of people from Rabbi Smason's Nusach Hari
B'nai Zion synagogue. None of them had ever met Dale, but he was, they told me,
a member of their community.
"It's all about community," said Sheryl Levine.
As we walked through the cemetery to Dale's resting place, Menachem Szus
explained that Jewish tradition requires at least 10 men to be present for a
quorum. It goes back to Abraham and his discussion with God about Sodom and Gomorrah.
At the site of the monument, Rabbi Smason talked about the confluence of events
that had led to the gathering.
"It is almost like the start of a joke," he said. "There was
this rabbi, a nun and an ex-wife ..." And then, of course, kindness and
generosity. Which was appropriate, the rabbi said, because
Dale was a kind and generous man. He was not a man who went to
synagogue, nor was he an observant Jew, but he was a proud Jew, the rabbi said.
Then there were psalms in Hebrew and English, the Mourner's Kaddish,
and finally the memorial prayer, the Kayl Malay,
which the rabbi sang for Dale Hough, a son of Abraham and a member of a strong
and loving community.
Posted in Bill-mcclellan, Metro on Monday, October 25, 2010 12:05 am Updated: 11:52 pm. |