Article and photos by Wendy Nugent
The year Jacob ?Jake? Goering was born ? 1918 ? was the last year of World War 1. At 97, he has seen many historic events come to pass.
?I?m getting close to 100,? Goering said, laughing. ?It scares me.?
He was born just a few years after the Titanic sank, and was around during the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the assassination of President Kennedy and later Kennedy?s brother Robert, and several wars, including World War II, Cold War, Vietnam, Korea and the War on Terror.
Although he was old enough to fight during World War II, Goering served his country as a conscientious objector after graduating from Bethel College in North Newton in 1941.
?Then the war was on, you know,? the retired psychologist said from his comfortable chair at Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton as the soft afternoon light cast shadows on his face.
Goering said he worked in Civilian Public Service, and during his first year was an assistant director of a camp in Oregon with the forest service. He spent almost four years in the CPS at different camps, also including two years with the forest service in California and time in Illinois with a soil conversation camp.
During this time, he was married to Beth, who passed away in 2011. They met at Bethel College when he had to get a vaccination at the nurse?s office. Beth Eldridge, her name at the time, at the time, was in front of him in line. The nurse introduced them.
?I watched her walk off, and I thought, ?That?s somebody to really pay attention to,? and then I asked her for a date about two weeks later,? Goering said. ?It just gradually developed.?
Beth graduated a year before Goering did; they were married in August 1941.
?The war was on, and we decided we?d get married and face the war together,? Goering said, horizontally pumping his fist.
Beth was a dietician at Axtell Hospital in Newton at the time; she quit that position to get a job in a town close to where Goering was at camp.
?And we could see each other a weekend or two every month,? said Goering, who is Mennonite.
His first two paying jobs after graduating from Bethel were being assistant director and psychologist for eight years at a mental hospital run by Mennonite Central Committee and then at a Maryland hospital for eights years as a psychologist.
He received his doctorate in human development from the University of Maryland, although he had started those studies at the Univer?sity of Chicago, and was trained as a human development counselor. Human development is the interdisciplinary study of sociology, psychology and physiology, Goering said, counting them off on three fingers. He also had training in psychotherapy.
?What influenced me most (professionally) was Dr. Carl Rogers,? Goering said, adding Rogers was famous for his approach to psychology.
Rogers taught at Ohio State University and later worked as a professor and executive secretary of the Counseling Center at the University of Chicago. While at Chicago, Goering said Rogers had a year?s course on non-directive counseling (also called client-centered counseling).
?The point is I?m not here to tell you; I?m here to learn what?s inside of you,? Goering said about that approach to therapy.
This type of counseling involves finding out who the client really is ? that is what Rogers taught Goering.
?Rogers is a leading figure within psychotherapy and developed a breaking theory of personality development,? according to Muskingum.edu. ?This theory developed as a result of Rogers? frustration with the authoritative analysis that therapists were imposing upon their patients. He is well known for his emphasis on personal awareness and allowing clients to have increasing flexibility in determining the treatment. Rogers believed that it was important for the individual to learn to understand himself and make independent choices that are significant in understanding the problem.?
In addition to providing professional guidance, Rogers? teachings also have implications in personal conduct, Goering said. For instance, when talking to someone socially, ask them questions about themselves instead of going on and on about oneself.
?I was very, very lucky,? Goering said. ?Very fortunate in my education.?
While getting his doctorate, Goering taught at the University of Maryland and then continued teaching in its Department of Human Development for 26 years. At one point, he had a Fulbright scholarship to teach in Germany for six months, where he taught classes using English, although he also can speak German.
He retired from the University of Maryland and managed a private practice from 1983 to 1996. He and Beth moved from Maryland to Kidron Bethel in independent living, and now he resides there in an assisted-living apartment.
Goering and Beth had three children: Dan, who has been a social worker and resides in Maryland; Barbara, who?s been a lawyer in Chicago; and Kathleen, a retired teacher living in Maryland.
?My kids are retired,? Goering said. ?Can you believe it? I?m getting old.?
Family is what Goering is most proud of in his life.
?I feel proud of the fact that I met my wife, and she agreed to marry me,? he said. ?We had a wonderful marriage. It lasted 69 years. All three of my children did very, very well.?
Like any good grandparent, Goering is proud of his grandchildren, too. One granddaughter works for the United Nations in Africa and a grandson is in charge of a government agency in Washington, D.C.
Goering couldn?t think of any regrets he has in life, except to say he wasn?t sure if he wronged anyone ? but if he did, he?s sorry. One regret he doesn?t have, however, is not marrying a young woman with whom he was in love in his teens. At one point, he told a friend he was going to marry her, and now he?s glad he didn?t. He doesn?t regret marrying Beth.
Before Beth died, the Goerings could be spotted walking on the Sand Creek Trail near Bethel College. Now, at the trailhead is a memorial plaque honoring the couple. It says, ?Sand Creek Trail dedicated to Jacob D. and Beth (Eldridge) Goering in honor of Jake?s vision to develop the trail and inspire community members to further enhance and enjoy it. National Trail Day June 6, 2015.? The plaque has a photo of Jake and Beth, each holding a walking stick.
The idea for developing Sand Creek Trail came to Goering while taking his morning walk around the block before breakfast one day. A man he knew also was out walking that morning. When they met, Goering said there ought to be a better place to walk, as there weren?t any sidewalks.
Goering learned someone said there?s a trail near ?the Ditch,? which is Kidron-Martin Canal near Sand Creek by the college. Upon investigating, Goering found a line across the ?bit of a trail? that was there that stated ?Do not enter.? They removed that and put down a wood-chip trail, going as far as the hedgerow by MCC. Later the path was extended to near the interstate. This all started in 1997.
About 300 people worked on the trail, Goering said.
?I had wonderful, wonderful support,? he said about getting the trail established. ?Lots and lots of wonderful people involved. It?s not all my idea. I can?t remember everybody?s contribution.?
Goering still walks the trail, although he doesn?t venture onto it during hot summer days.
?I do enjoy it,? he said. ?It?s a good walk there.?
In addition to walking, Goering has another dominant interest.
?Reading is my main thing,? he said. ?You can see the books here. I still like to walk, but my legs are getting to bother me a little.?
Goering?s reading materials don?t appear to be a proverbial ?walk in the park.? As of late July, he was reading several books, including ?Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End? and ?The Meaning of Human Existence.?