Richard Gist has been many things in life: a foreign language specialist in the Air Force, an auto mechanic, a pipeline welder, a husband, a father and a minister.
But there’s one thing that the 80-year-old doesn’t plan to do and that’s slow down ; at an age when most are taking it easy, he has published three books in the last three years.
“Words just appealed to me,” said Gist, who dreamed of writing ever since he graduated from Pipestone High School in 1952 and married his wife Norma five years later.
“The first day in first-grade, the teacher went up to the blackboard and did this and did that for the letter ‘H,’ and I was just fascinated. I wanted to read.”
But life came calling first. After working his way through college and fathering his fifth child, he worked at a meat packing plant, drove a school bus and served in small churches to pay the bills, he said.
Gist later attended United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, starting in 1962, and won the National Historical Research Award for college and seminary students.
He said of his first book, “It’s the story of me growing up from the day of my conception until I graduated from high school and went off into the Air Force.”
The memoir, entitled With a Yes and a Yippee was published in 2012 and “explores the inner and outer worlds of a boy growing up in a small, insulated, Midwestern town around the time of the Great Depression.”
Gist said, “To me, one of the sad things in life is a lot of people die, and they never get a chance to tell their story, and there’s a sense of me telling my story as a way of telling other people’s stories.”
Gist was ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1969 and served a three-church circuit in Lac qui Parle County until 1973.
Afterwards, he served a two-church parish in St. Paul until 1978 and another two-church parish in Corcoran and Hanover until 1997.
“I had a lot of practice writing,” he said of those formative years writing while serving in churches. “Writing, to me, is just putting down to paper what you’re thinking.”
Ayshus on the Inside was Gist’s second book. Published in 2013, the children’s book about a “melancholy, young crayfish” named Crawford who meets a “cheerful and helpful butterfly named Alicia” touches upon the themes of friendship, beauty and inner strength.
“It’s about a crayfish, and he lives in Crawdaddy Creek, and he’s just disgruntled — nothing’s right with the world — and in a huff one day, he goes marching off into the stream, and kids catch him … and he doesn’t know how to get home,” Gist said.
“He forms a friendship with Alicia and they have adventures together, and finally they work their way back to water … and she sacrifices herself at the end, so he can get into the water.”
Gist said he wrote various op-ed pieces for the Minneapolis Tribune, church history booklets and letters to the editor before taking his writing more seriously.
You Don’t Understand the Bible Because You Are Christian is his latest work, and the faith-based book came out last year.
“I’m way off on the left, theologically,” Gist said. “And I get so frustrated with the things that are claimed to be biblical that aren’t biblical and the things people follow.”
Gist said he has bowled in a league for the last 17 years and jokes that his average goes down as his age goes up. He said he also enjoys research of the historical kind.
“It’s sort of like people who play the piano for themselves; writing is a way of just expressing myself, getting things out … sort of like prayer,” he said.
“I think people are honest in prayer. I think when you are writing for yourself, you’re honest in your writing.”
For more information about Gist visit www.richardgist.com.