Above photo, Dale Fugua with his handmade pens
January-February 2020 – “I showed up early for my first day of work at American Family Association,” said radio engineer Dale Fuqua. “When I walked in, lights were on, with sweaters and purses on backs of chairs, but not a soul in sight.
“I kept calling out for someone as I eased my way down the halls of AFA. After several moments, I headed home, confused and thinking I might come back later.”
It wasn’t long before Fuqua received a call from AFA office manager Forrest Ann Daniels, asking why he had not shown up for his first day of work.
“I said I had shown up, but nobody was there,” Fuqua told AFA Journal. “She had a good laugh, explaining that I had come during AFA’s morning devotion, and everyone was in the conference room. By the time I got back, my first day of work only lasted a few hours.”
Though people still tease Fuqua about that first day, his 27-year career at AFA disproves the theory of lasting first impressions. In fact, Fuqua has been one of AFA’s most dedicated employees.
Finding his niche
Since February 1993, Fuqua has also been a versatile employee. He began working in the mail room and helping get the AFA Journal labeled for delivery each month. His job changed though when AFA founder Don Wildmon discovered Fuqua had prior electronic experience, a much-needed skill in the rapidly growing radio arm
“Brother Don came and got me,” Fuqua said. “He took me back to engineering, put me to work, and that is where I have been ever since.”
Over two decades later, Fuqua still works in the engineering department. He has dozens of stories about life on the road, servicing and repairing radio equipment at AFR stations around the nation, including run-ins with wasps, snakes, and extreme weather of every kind.
“Taking care of 183 radio stations, there’s always a storm somewhere,” said Fuqua. “But the engineering guys I work with are great guys. Like one big family, we know each other’s wives and kids, and we look out for each other.”
Fuqua’s job description has altered over time due to what he describes as “a few health issues that started in 2008.”
Fighting a battle
Truthfully, Dale Fuqua is a walking, talking miracle, having survived multiple bouts of cancer, several related surgeries, and innumerable rounds of cancer treatments.
During one tough round of chemo, Fuqua discovered woodworking as a way to take his mind off the intense pain. Now, the beautiful wooden pens he learned to make are works of art, treasured by friends and family.
With obvious joy, Fuqua describes how he turns and crafts each pen individually. But his entire face lights up when he describes his family.
Married for 50 years, he and wife Kate raised three sons – Mark, Shawn, and Kelly. Fuqua spoke of each of his sons, their wives, and his four grandchildren with great love and delight.
He proudly recounted how seven family members have also worked at AFA over the years. First, Mark worked at AFA, even before his dad. Then, Shawn and Kelly completed summer college internships. Daughter-in-law Paula currently works in donor support, the exact job Kate held a few years ago.
But according to Fuqua, one of the greatest highlights of his AFA career occurred when his granddaughter Katelyn worked here for a season, riding to and from work with him.
When Fuqua retires from AFA later this year, he will be greatly missed. But the impact he and three generations of his family have made on this ministry will continue. And that is an impressive legacy for a man who almost missed his first day of work.