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In Memoriam — The Rev. Dr. (Paul) David Poling
The Rev. Dr. David Poling, a well-known pastor and community leader in the Albuquerque area for 50 years, passed away in peace Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Rio Rancho, N.M. During his 40 years in the pulpit, David served Presbyterian congregations in New York, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. With his ready smile, quick wit, and genuine interest in other people, David lifted the spirits of those around him throughout his long and fruitful life. In the pulpit, he was a commanding presence and a powerful preacher, delivering impeccably crafted sermons that often opened with humor and references to current events, and then moved to deliver profound, deeply felt spiritual insights to a riveted congregation.
David was preceded in death by his parents, the Rev. Paul N. Poling and Olive Poling, and his brother, Charles Earle Poling. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Ann Reid Poling; their children, John D. Poling (Cindy Jokela), Lesley A. Poling-Kempes (Jim Kempes), Andrew P. Poling (Rosy Ward Poling), Charles C. Poling (Mary Boliek); eight grandchildren; and his brother, John Clark Poling.
Secure in his enduring Christian faith, David inherited a strong sense of mission and felt called to spread the gospel, do good in the world, and inspire others to do good as well. He said everyone needs love, purpose, and hope in their lives.
David was born Monday, October 15, 1928 in Belmar, N.J. He moved with his family to El Paso, Tex., where he had a horse named Frenchie that he rode around the Ft. Bliss army base until the bombing of Pearl Harbor tightened security there. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School and went east to the College of Wooster in Ohio. In his first days there, he met the love of his life, Ann Reid. Upon graduation and his acceptance to Yale Divinity School in 1950, the newlyweds next moved to New Haven, Conn., where John David, their first child, was born. After Yale, the young family moved to Leroy, N.Y, and then to Buffalo where David became pastor of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. Lesley, Andrew, and Charles were born during these years in western New York.
After Buffalo, David was called as senior pastor to First Presbyterian Church in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1962, where he led the congregation for more than two years. During this time, his uncle Daniel A. Poling, then editor of Christian Herald Magazine in New York City, told him, “we didn’t know you were going to go way out there,” and recruited David into the position of editor, then publisher of the magazine in 1964. During these years in New York, David hobnobbed with the luminaries of New York magazine-publishing and traveled the world, often with Ann, on work trips supporting efforts to broaden and deepen the Christian faith across the globe. On a tour of mission sites in Asia, David and Ann had tea with Madame Chiang, widow of Chiang Kai-shek—David recalled detecting the presence of a security guard behind curtains along one wall of the room. On another trip, David met with Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, who was a fan of Christian Herald.
In 1968, David published his first book, The Last Years of the Church, which was reviewed favorably in the New York Times. He also appeared for an interview with Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters on the Today Show to promote the book. Next he co-authored a biography on Albert Schweitzer and went on to write a dozen more books. One focused on Billy Graham’s ministry and impact. Another told the story of the Four Chaplains, a group of heroic clergymen—including David’s cousin Clark Poling—who sacrificed their lives so that others might survive on a torpedoed troop ship in the North Atlantic during World War II.
After leaving Christian Herald, David moved with the family to Albuquerque in 1971 to become director of the Southwest Mission Foundation within the (Presbyterian) Synod of the Southwest. During this period, he also wrote a weekly nationally syndicated newspaper column on faith and ethics as they applied to the issues of the day. In 1975, he became senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, a position he held for 14 years. After retiring from First Pres, he was Director of Planned Giving for the Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation in Albuquerque. He and Ann lived briefly in Dallas, then returned to New Mexico, living in Santa Teresa while he served as interim pastor at his father’s former church, First Presbyterian of El Paso. When they returned to Albuquerque in 1990, David served as interim pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Church. True retirement followed, with David and Ann enjoying their growing number of grandchildren and walks along the irrigation ditches by their North Valley home.
David received two honorary doctorate degrees, one in divinity from Hope College and the other in humane letters from Willamette University.
Over the last 50 years, David was a long-time board member of Presbyterian Hospital, a driving force in developing La Vida Llena retirement center, an active Rotarian, and an avid Lobos fan, especially during the 1980s when his friend Gary Colson coached the men’s basketball team. For many years, David and Ann kept horses, riding the ditch banks and occasionally trailering to the desert northwest of Albuquerque for open-country rides with friends who preferred mules.
Through his latter days and to the end of his life, David remained intellectually curious and active, and he was always working on a book project—or two! He regularly updated his loved ones with his latest thoughts on the manuscript, Notable People Doing Notable Things, but his children often told him he should write the book about his own notable life, instead. That’s the one we all wanted to read.
A memorial service for David will be held Friday, October 28, 2022 at 1:00 pm. To attend this virtual service please use this zoom link: