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Uniontown author explains why he was 'mad at God' in new book

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Andrew Hesner | For the Daily Courier
Emile Etheridge Sr.

“Upon my arrival, I found a note hanging from the door. ‘Mom had a stroke in church.' Not knowing what to expect, my anxiety shot up and I was mad at God for allowing this to happen in His house.”

The passage above can be found in Emile Etheridge's newest book, “I Was Mad At God,” which is scheduled to be nationally released on June 4.

As a Uniontown native and resident, Etheridge is also a retired health and physical education teacher for the Uniontown Area School District and assistant basketball coach.

On June 4, the book will be available at Barnes & Noble and the Amazon online stores for $10.99. It is currently available for purchase on the Tate Publishing House online store.

As Etheridge's fourth published book, “I Was Mad At God” is his first book to be published through a publishing house and sold nationally.

His other books, “Can Emile,” “Good Coach? Bad Coach?” and “The Spotlight and The Magnifying Glass” were self-published.

Etheridge chose Tate Publishing, an Oklahoma City-based publishing house, a Christian-based publisher who accepts only 4 percent of submitted manuscripts.

According to Etheridge, the publisher was so intrigued by the book it issued a contract without even seeing a manuscript.

Etheridge described some famous owners of his books with his most proud patron being current President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The White House letters stating his book was added to the presidential library adorn on the walls of his office.

Acting as a biographical reference, “I Was Mad At God” describes a 422-day-period after Etheridge's wife, Melinda, had a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) commonly known as a stroke, in spring of 1997.

“I just couldn't understand why He would let this happen in His house,” said the 61-year-old former coach. “He said He would never leave or forsake You.”

The book covers topics ranging from Etheridge's struggles with God, finances, insurance companies and Melinda's fight to survive.

He described his wife, her current health condition and the role she played in the Etheridge family.

Melinda, 61, was the assistant director for Head Start & Early Head Start of Fayette and Westmoreland Counties and was considered the matriarch of the family that everybody leaned on.

She is currently wheelchair-bound, paralyzed on her left side and prone to short-term memory loss.

The couple met in junior high and have been married for 42 years.

As for the book's development, in the end, Etheridge is able to overcome these obstacles and reestablish a similar connection with the Lord, according to the book.

When asked about the book, Melinda said she loved it, but questioned the title, even asking, “How can someone be mad at God?”

Her husband's response, “If it hadn't been for the Lord up above and my wife, I would not be the person I am today.”

At the time of his wife's stroke, the couple had two sons in college. When Melinda was dropped by her insurance, the Etheridge's were rendered penniless.

However, they attempted to fight the insurance company, but with little luck. Etheridge even took the claim as far the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

It wasn't until he threatened to expose the insurance companies to the media that they offered basic medical equipment for Melinda such as an electric wheelchair and a reclining bed.

“I'm glad I used my inner heart” he said. I'm not a quitter.”

As a result of the dropped insurance and their dire financial situation, friends, family and community responded.

His brother-in-law, the Rev. Marvin Wright, organized a benefit through the Youghiogheny Western Baptist Association to raise money for the family.

The Parent Teacher Organization held a fundraiser to assist as well.

“They (PTO) gave us a sizable donation,” Etheridge said. “It was just a blessing.”

And with help from his colleagues at school, Etheridge was able to make the last payment on his son's college education.

But according to Etheridge who was raised in a single-parent family and partially raised by the Uniontown community, this financial assistance is only one of the many good gestures offered during his lifetime.

Similar to how he was able to reconfirm his bond with God, he was also able to give back to the community that helped him in his time of need.

As a way to quietly give back, Emile plans to hold book signings Saturday to May 1 throughout the communities of Uniontown, Connellsville and Smithfield.

The first signing will be held Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the East End Community Center in Uniontown.

“Giving back is what we are all about,” he said trying to hold back his tears.

The YWBA, YMCA and East End United Community Center will be keeping all proceeds made during the signing.

As for professional criticism, Etheridge was able to receive some book feedback from the Rev. Howard Dantzler from the Interfaith Assembly of God.

In an August 2012 letter, Dantzler described the book as “compelling and one of the few books he was able to read in one sitting.”

“The title is an honest reaction to the numerous disappointing experiences we encounter throughout life,” said Dantzler, a retired Penn State Fayette sociology professor. “His anger with God never interfered with the most important theme in his book; his faith.”

Etheridge plans to use “I Was Mad at God” and his other books as educational tools.

He is in the process of drafting an educational supplemental reading program.

The program, if accepted by the schools, will require students to read the books and complete a series of quizzes to improve comprehension, reading and language skills. And for children who have trouble reading, similar to Etheridge when he was in school, an audiobook edition will be provided. And as part of the program, he will also be able to conduct a one hour question & answer program with the classes.

For more information about his books, his educational program or his life, Emile can be reached at 724-438-0240.

Andrew Hesner is a freelance writer.

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