Louise Baird Short, the widow of Bishop Roy H. Short, had the ear of bishops and General Conference delegates. In fact, until this year, she had attended each General Conference going back to the unification of the Methodist Church in 1939.
She died June 24 in Nashville at the age 110.
At General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Florida, delegates greeted her with a standing ovation. She was 106 at the time.
“It’s always good to see the interest people have in the church and what they want the church to be,” she told United Methodist Communications shortly afterward. “That fills my spirit.”
Altogether, she attended 18 of the denomination’s top lawmaking assemblies.
“She loved the Lord, and loved her church because of her love of the Lord,” said her son, the Rev. Riley Short, a longtime pastor in Florida.
“She always thought the business of the church was her business,” he said with a chuckle.
Retired Bishop Charlene Kammerer, the first woman elected bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, described Short as “a wonderful and great ambassador for the church throughout her life.”
She routinely went to gatherings of the Council of Bishops, the Southeastern Jurisdiction and the Tennessee Annual Conference. Short also took on the responsibility of welcoming new bishops and their spouses.
“Sometimes we tend to talk about the bishops and not their spouses, but Mrs. Short had a ministry all her own,” said Louisville (Kentucky) Area Bishop Lindsey Davis, who met Mrs. Short and her husband when he was a teen Methodist youth leader in Kentucky. Davis plans to officiate at her memorial service in Louisville.
He noted that his wife, Jennifer, once introduced Short as the “Queen Mother of Methodism in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.” It was a title Short liked, he said.
“She was well-known as a teacher and a speaker all on her own,” Davis said. “She wasn’t overshadowed by Bishop Short.”
Commitment to ministry
Short credited her husband of 68 years with getting her interested in church governance. They met while he was in seminary and she was a student at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. They married in 1926 and had three sons. Her husband’s ministry set their path.
He served as a pastor, a district superintendent and editor of “The Upper Room,” the internationally distributed devotional guide, before being elected bishop in 1948. He led church members in Florida, Cuba, Tennessee and Kentucky before retiring in 1972 ─ four years after the formation of The United Methodist Church. For more than a decade, he also was secretary of Council of Bishops. He also briefly was an interim bishop in the Philippines.
Through her husband’s many travels as bishop, Short often accompanied him and helped with missionary work. She made friends from all walks of life.
“She loved everybody,” her son said. “She accepted you for who you were, and I think it had to do with her Christian faith. She believed the love of Christ was for everyone.”
Commitment to living fully
She also was fearless, friends say.
Born the same year ─ 1906 ─ that the Wright brothers patented their airplane, Short made the most of the invention.
Even after her husband died at the age of 92 in 1994, she continued to see the world.
The Tennessean reported that at the age of 90, she rode a camel in the ancient city of Petra. At 95, she walked on the Great Wall of China. At 100, she visited Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. The following year, at 101, she balanced on a surfboard in Costa Rica for a family photo.
“She was quite an adventurer,” said retired Bishop Richard Wills Jr., who will help lead her memorial service in Nashville. “She looked for what God was doing each day and then sought to join God in whatever that activity was.”
Her last trip was to the General Conference 2012. Jo Ann McClain, administrative assistant with the Council of Bishops, greeted her with a wheelchair to take her across a hotel and convention center to the plenary hall.
‘She said, “Jo Ann, I can walk,’” McClain recalled. Short only agreed to be wheeled to the gathering with a reluctant “Fine.”
“We were no sooner in the plenary space than she jumped out of the chair and started greeting people,” McClain said.
A service for Short will be at 3 p.m. CDT Wednesday, July 6, at West End United Methodist Church, 2200 West End Avenue in Nashville. Another service at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 7 at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].