At 18, Paul Wrightsman, pastor of Fairview Community Church, lived a wild life, abusing alcohol and ending up in juvenile custody. But at the request of his uncle, a newspaper editor rescued him, putting him to work as a copy boy at the L.A. Examiner, later known as the L.A. Herald Examiner.
They were in the old-fashioned news business, Wrightsman said, recalling a time when he was sent to pick up photos at the home of Lauren Bacall after the death of Humphrey Bogart. The movie star wanted certain photos printed in the paper, he said.
“She was a very gracious lady and it was exciting to be in their home.”
Wrightsman was born in Beatrice, Nebraska, in 1937, but his father, who was an alcoholic, moved the family around most of the time. In 1961, Wrightsman was drafted and sent to Korea. He loved that alcohol was so cheap there, he said. Since he was not a Christian then, he began investigating cults.
While in Korea, he met and married his wife Sue in 1965. The couple has two children and two grandchildren.
Wrightsman, a Korean linguist, lived and worked in Korea many years. An Army major and Vietnam veteran, he retired in 1981 after serving for 20 years.
For many years, Wrightsman attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and heard about submitting to a “higher power.” When stationed in North Dakota, his wife Sue, a Buddhist, attended a Billy Graham meeting, surrendered her life to Christ and was baptized. After than, she prayed diligently for her husband.
In 1984 in Seoul, Korea, Wrightsman questioned God one day.
“You delivered me of alcohol, what about these cigarettes? I hate these things,” he said with disgust. Right then, he saw a vision of a cold dark pit and heard the words, “You can choose.” It was a life or death moment for him, and right there he repented and asked Christ into his life.
In 1985, after talking to a mentor who confirmed his call to ministry, he applied to Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. After two semesters, he was called to pastor a bilingual church in San Jose, Calif.
In 1999, after nine years in California, he retired. He was told he had lung cancer and needed an immediate operation, but the surgeon, an atheist, was amazed when the mass was benign.
The Wrightsmans bought land to retire in Kempner, and while riding his Harley he met a fellow biker who had stopped for a rest. The man had a cross on his leather jacket, which peaked Wrightsman’s interest. The man was a member of Fairview Community Fellowship.
The Wrightsmans visited the church, felt at home, and joined in 2001. The next year, they became pastors.
Wrightsman sees traditionalism as an obstacle and believes in waiting for God’s direction, not just following tradition.
“I’m not so interested in numbers as I am folks being in the place God leads them,” he said.
Anne Clark, the pastor’s secretary for three years, enjoys working for Wrightsman.
“It is pleasant to work with Pastor Wrightsman as he is positive, compassionate and has a great sense of humor,” she said.
Fairview Community Church is at 1202 Veterans Ave. in Copperas Cove.
Herald/Sandra Duffy Oliver