Our Friend, Greg

My Generation

An entire community mourns for Greg Chatterton – farmer, father, husband and friend to so very many.

Published on: January 17, 2012
I’d like to tell you about our friend, Greg. Greg was a father, a husband, a friend and a farmer, and he was killed in a devastating car accident last week as a snowstorm blew into Fulton County.

And so it is that a tiny farm community in a corner of western Illinois mourns the loss of a man who loved so well and was respected by so many that 1,500 people passed through our little white church in the country to tell his family what he meant to them. 1,500 people. Just think about that.

Our community is reeling. So is our circle of friends, and our larger farm community. At just 56, Greg was a good man. He had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He was a good farmer, and he ran a farming and trucking business with his brother, Brett. He was a dealer for Precision Planting, and was, in fact, on his way to their winter conference when he was killed. He even let me write a story about him a few years back, sharing some of the ways he’s learned to plant no-till corn in the spring, and appearing on the cover.

I think of the hole left in this community, but even more so, of the hole left in his family. For his children, Nick, Erin and Emily, for their spouses and for his nine grandchildren.

But especially for his precious wife, Charlotte, who was the absolute love of his life. Greg and Charlotte just were not your average couple. They did everything together. They were like peas and carrots. They had been married 35 years last year and celebrated with a trip to Hawaii. They awoke every day together with a walk down the road, through the little town of Ellisville, across the Spoon River bridge, and back. Their daughter, Erin, lives just next to that bridge; she can’t imagine not seeing their little jacket reflectors bobbing down the road. I can’t imagine her not getting to see that.

And when John and Kendra Smiley led a marriage conference at our church last year and the room was filled with younger couples who are mostly raising small kids and hanging on by our ragged little fingernails, there were Greg and Charlotte. Married 35 years, they were still looking for ways to make it better. Full of wisdom but eager to learn, they weren’t content to rest. Marriage, as an institution, was important to them.

I remember a skit Greg and Charlotte did together at church, just a few years ago. I’m sure it had a point, though I don’t remember that point. What I do so clearly remember is that they were pretending to be an older couple, sitting together on their porch swing, reflecting on their life together and on how much they loved living it together. And I thought how they weren’t really acting; they were just playing themselves 20 years down the road. That was the point when I decided, I hope we can be like them. I hope my husband and I can know the kind of love and devotion that’s carved out over time and polished by love and experience.

Like my own husband, Greg was one of four worship leaders at our little country Bible church. The Sunday before he died, he and his beautiful Erin stood on stage and sang together. I remember him catching my eye as he dismissed the kids for junior church, as I held our squirmy 3-year-old who was asking approximately every 20 seconds, “When will it be time for junior church?” He saw and he knew, and he grinned at me.

Greg loved people. He couldn’t pass up someone in need. And he took every opportunity to build a person up. He was the kind of person who would stop me in church and tell me I looked pretty that day, and as I’d deflect and say something about how John got this sweater or this dress or whatever for me, he’d grin. “Well, you look pretty.” Not my sweater, not my dress, but me. The thing is, of course, that he did this with so many people. Stories have just abounded of Greg’s kindnesses. I have dearly loved hearing from our young people how Greg spoke to them as he did to me.

Still, to me, his lasting legacy will be of a marriage done right. My heart breaks for his precious wife. This was a man who lovingly laid out a fresh towel and her toothbrush for her every morning, who started her car and turned on her heated seats because he knew she hated to be cold. Who sought out a real cup when they traveled so she could have "hot tea in a hard cup." Greg and Charlotte were in the midst of remodeling their old farmhouse when he was killed; indeed, they had even moved out. Charlotte will have to finish without him. But how blessed she was, as was he, that they had so many good years together.

Their daughter, Emily, said it so well: if he couldn’t be by Charlotte’s side, the only other place he’d want to be was with his Savior. Greg’s passion was to bring people to Christ. To tell them of their Savior’s love for them, and that his life was changed through his relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s his real legacy. And that’s what the 1,500 people who showed up at his services saw in him.

Greg wasn't perfect; no one is. We all laughed when his son, Nick, said, "He was a sinner. He had hogs and hogs could make a nun swear." How true.

When it comes down to it, here was one man, in one farm community, in one township in one corner of a single county in the great rural Midwest who lived well, who loved well and who showed enough grace, honesty and integrity that his simply being gone has affected so many. His legacy will carry on for generations. Thankfully, it’s not often that I sit in our little white church in the country and listen as the steeple bell is rung for a life well lived. But what a life it was.

May we finish as well as Greg.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Holly, what a wonderful story! Bob and I knew Greg was special, touched by God, but this week has convinced us he was truly one of Gods children, We have often wondered why our crops on such thin soil were so productive, now we understand why. Greg will be missed by all of us, but we are sure God had a path for him on earth and in Heaven, Thanks for writing such a tribute!! Karen Chatterton

  2. Anonymous says:

    Words of truth about one man who was the most Godly man I ever knew.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully written words about a wonderful family.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully said Holly! I have know Greg since I was a little girl growing up in Fulton County and he truly was an amazing man. He will be missed by so many. Your article is a great tribute to him and his family. Tammy (Roberts) Bonney

  5. Anonymous says:

    Holly what a beautiful tribute that filled me with emotion. I am touched by Greg's legacy through your words. Katie in ND

  6. Anonymous says:

    That was a beautiful tribute! He sounds like a wonderful, kind,& thoughtful man. I never knew him & have never been to your church, although I've passed it many times & thought how cute it was. Now I know it's filled with thoughtful & compassionate people. Sorry for your loss! Jesus Bless You & your family.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Holly, a beautiful tribute, absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful tribute about a man who touched so many lives!

  9. Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful story it brought tears to all our eyes. Prayers to the family and to your church family. Holly Runner and family

  10. Anonymous says:

    The title of this article says more than some people might not know. I will never forget Greg and his family at the Fulton County Fair because they all always had smiles on their faces and spoke to everyone. Greg will be missed by so many people. The whole Chatterton Family have been and will be in my thoughts and prayers. Holly you did an awesome job on this article. Nobody else could of said it better. Sheri Bennett

  11. Anonymous says:

    Holly, Thank you for the beautiful description of what our community, church, and family has been going through this past week. Sincerely, Deanna (Brett) Chatterton

  12. Anonymous says:

    What an awesome tribute to a wonderful man I am proud to call my brother. Thank you. Kim Chatterton Weese

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is the BEST column I have ever read in tribute to one great man. I have tears running down my cheeks while reading this. Every person he came in contact with was never a stranger again. My heart goes out to his wife, children and grandchildren. God bless them in their struggle to understand the "why" in the days ahead.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Holly for your tribute! Josh and I so wish we had been able to be 2 (or 6) of the 1500 people that honored him. We honor him in our hearts. He showed us that kind of love any time we were around him. Jen Jensen

  15. Anonymous says:

    You have summed it up a man whose legacy is one that will never be forgotten. I have been honored to know the Chattertons for many years and couldn't have written a better tribute to a man who has given so much and who more than lived his life for his Lord.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Holly for so nicely sharing this story of Greg. My heart bleeds for his family and your community. Our loss is Heaven's gain.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Your tribute to your dear friend reminded me of this quote. (a Cherokee saying) "When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice."

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well done. KB

  19. Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful article- so touching. What a beautiful family- and wonderful legacy. May each of us be challenged by not only his faith- but the way in which he lived his faith out. Not the words he spoke- but the life that backed those words up. The thoughts and prayers of the people of our country Bible church go to the family in friends in your country Bible church. Pastor Don Miller Coal Creek Bible Church coalcreekbible.org

  20. Anonymous says:

    Mother Teresa once said: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Greg lived his life according to God's word and was a living example of Mother Teresa's words. Let us all live by the example he set for us.

  21. Anonymous says:

    "Well done". Greg has now heard those words. Praying for the family! -Glenn Kaiser, Chicago

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Holly. Well said.

  23. Anonymous says:

    A sad loss for the family and the community...

  24. Anonymous says:

    I'm reading one of your best columns ever with tears in my eyes - nobody could have better described what a gift from God Greg truly was, and how he lived a life that is a model for all to see. He was a gem of a man who touched so many lives in such profound ways. Though it's been years since I lived and worked in that area, the loss is just as painful - God's comfort and blessings to the family and friends of an amazing man. Bruce Johnson