“Of All People, Most Blessed”

Looking back at a centenarian’s life well-lived

Arthur Weaver & Beth Thomas
“Of All People, Most Blessed”
Courtesy of Dr. Arthur Weaver

It was late on November 29, 1923, in the boys’ dormitory of Bethel Academy in Wisconsin, USA. Ernest Weaver, dean of men, and his wife, Olive, school nurse, eagerly awaited the arrival of their newborn son, Arthur Willard. One-and-a-half-year-old sister Wilma slept quietly in an adjoining room, blissfully unaware of the miracle happening in her home that night.

When Arthur was 6 months old, his father accepted a position as principal of Fox River Academy in Sheridan, Illinois, USA. They continued there for several years. When Arthur was 7, his father went back to school, enrolling in Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University.

After completing his education, Ernest moved his growing family to Ithaca, Michigan, USA, where there was a church school nearby. He wanted his children to have a Christian education, scraping and saving to make that possible. After one year in Ithaca, Ernest received a call to serve as principal of Adelphian Academy in Holly, Michigan. Arthur began fourth grade at Holly church school.

Early Aspirations

From a young age Arthur knew he would like to be a mission doctor. He credits this to his parents reading mission stories to him. In September 1941 he registered as a premedical student at Emmanuel Missionary College. In October that same year he received a letter from the president of the United States, requiring him to serve in the World War II conflict.

In January 1942 he joined hundreds of other young men in basic training at Camp Barkeley, Texas, USA. He was invited to attend officers’ training school but turned it down, knowing that he would be expected to bear arms. Before completing basic training, Arthur was chosen for pharmacy training at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Colorado. While there he learned to make various ointments, cough medicines, and more.

The captain in charge of the pharmacy program told Arthur that it was a six-day-a-week program. When Arthur told him he would not be available on Saturdays, the captain replied, “You’ll probably not make it [in this program], but you can try.” Providentially, the captain gave Arthur a key to the laboratory on Sundays so he could make up Saturday assignments. At the end of the three-month program Arthur received the top grade in the course and was chosen Best Soldier in the camp of 5,000 troops.

From Fitzsimons Hospital Arthur was sent to San Francisco, California, USA, where, although he was in the Army, he spent two and a half years on a ship traveling throughout the Pacific region, taking troops in and out of combat zones. While deploying Pacific troops, he received his first furlough and was able to go home.

One night during his leave Arthur says, “The lights were low in my parents’ living room, and I thought it was a good time to ask my girlfriend, Natalie Wheeker, if she would marry me. I took a deep breath and asked, ‘Natalie, would you like to cook for me the rest of your life?’ She answered, ‘Sweetheart, I’d sure like to try.’ ” They were married on June 26, 1945, on Arthur’s second leave.

Arthur was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in November 1945 and enrolled in premedical courses at Pacific Union College in northern California. After just three years of college, he was admitted to the College of Medical Evangelists, now Loma Linda University. Upon his graduation in 1952, the couple moved back to Michigan for Arthur’s internship and surgical residency, followed by five years of private surgical practice.

Willing Servants

In the summer of 1960 Arthur received an invitation from the General Conference to serve as a mission surgeon in Karachi, Pakistan—an answer to his childhood dream. In November the family, which now included six children under the age of 12, boarded a ship, spending one month in travel with their household items and arriving in Karachi on January 1, 1962.

Arthur relates, “Those five years I spent in Pakistan as chief surgeon at the Seventh-day Adventist hospital in Karachi, then considered the premier hospital in the country, were some of the most productive and interesting of my entire life—an inestimable blessing to my family!”

In 1966 the Weavers returned to the United States, where Arthur joined the faculty of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and for 32 years taught surgery at the Veterans Administration Hospital and the Detroit Medical Center while actively conducting many stop-smoking clinics.

In 1998, at age 75, Arthur retired. This allowed him to invest more time in ministry. For years Arthur and his friend Dick Lane organized Maranatha mission trips, building churches in Central and South America. Arthur and Natalie became very active in planning annual health retreats at the Michigan Conference’s Camp Au Sable to help people stop smoking and improve their overall health and lifestyle. The Weavers became well-known in the community for their hospitality.

An article in the December 1978 issue of Ministry magazine featuring the couple relates:

“Dr. Weaver held several widely publicized Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking sessions in the Detroit area. Natalie had such a reputation for vegetarian cookery, based on her cooking schools, that Detroit newspapers and radio and television stations would occasionally refer people to her who expressed an interest in healthful living. So the Weavers began inviting callers to their home for a meal. They invited people—one or more an evening—to their home over a several-week period. Then they called them up and invited them to join an interdenominational Bible study group—to be associated with a buffet-type meal. Several members of the study group were baptized. The Weavers carefully avoided pressuring anyone to take a stand. The result was that those who had not made a decision still felt comfortable in the group. And since most of the topics were of their own choosing, they continued to study the Bible, and the Lord continued to work on their hearts.”*

Just after Christmas 2016 Natalie, Arthur’s devoted partner of 72 years, developed abdominal issues and, after spending a month in the hospital, passed away. In 2018 Arthur married widow Mary Lou Ford Steinweg.

In November 2023 family and friends joyfully celebrated Arthur’s 100th birthday. In looking back over his remarkable life, he laughingly says, “The main thing I can say is that I am, of all people, most blessed! From beginning to end I must give God credit for a long, productive, and well-lived life (and it ain’t over yet!).” Arthur and Mary Lou are still active—serving the Lord through a ministry to prisoners, through the mail.   

Arthur’s legacy of service has extended to his children and grandchildren, who are surgeons, doctors, physician’s assistants, social workers, dental hygienists, physical therapists, nurses, and educators.

* Adapted from https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1978/12/mealtime-evangelism.

Arthur Weaver & Beth Thomas