Edward Payne: The Preachin’ Opera Singin’ Family Man

Fifteen cars is nothing—except when they are all “picked up” in fourteen years. That’s exactly how Reverend Edward Payne shows his love of cars, especially Fords. But they weren’t all for him. Part of being a father, for Payne, is making sure his family has reliable transportation. That’s a big job, given his big love of cars and his four kids, ages 42, 39, 28, and 25. Gail, a dentist in Fairfield, has been married to Edward for 32 years, and she says his car is always the “good” car in the family.

The Payne Family's Christmas Card--Clockwise, from left: Gail, Sherman, Edward, Monica, and Sophie the dog

“It’s my toy. I don’t hang out at a bar or spend money on clothes. So that’s my thing. Every three or four years I get a car,” he says.

After a successful 14-year career as a professor and later Chairperson of the Opera Dept. at Ohio University, Edward felt called to seminary in New York. With no hesitation the Payne family supported Edward’s calling and sold everything, including the home they had just built, taking only their very basic possessions. When the Paynes returned in 1996 to Ohio they found Lebanon Ford, specifically Kevin McClellan, in the phone book. Being prepared for his family’s return, within a week Edward had already purchased his house in West Chester, where he and Gail still live, and bought a forest green Explorer for Gail and a 1994 Grand Marquis for himself which was the car that drew him into the Ford line.

“Gail’s Explorer had a big V8 engine. You just had to tap on the gas,” he says of the car is second youngest child, Sherman, learned to drive in. The family would buy Gail a black Explorer a few years later. Edwards says, “That was the sweetest one.” Sherman took that one to prom, after getting it all shined up for his date and another couple.

The Grand Marquis, on the other hand, is what Edward called his “pimp-mobile.” The shiny cars first caught his eye during his time in Manhattan, where all the drivers around Broadway had shiny black and navy blue ones.

Rev. Payne and one of his former license plates which reads "CIM grad:" Cleveland Institute of Music, where he majored in Opera, his other passion.

“It is very pretty, but the first thing I noticed was how smooth it was, and how big the trunk was,” he says.

As a transitional ministry specialist, Edward spends a lot of time travelling between churches that are between pastors. He fills in at those churches and attempts to heal communities that may have become a divided or hurting congregation from their lack of leadership. His faith extends past Sunday mornings—you can see it right on his license plates.

At one point, Gail and Edward’s license plates, when parked side by side, spelled “Lau Date-Dominum,” which means “Praise God” in Latin. But, as Gail pointed out, they never parked in the right order, so the phrase was always backwards in the garage. Edward currently has “EPISCPL” on his plates, for “Episcopal.”

The two youngest Payne children, Monica and Sherman, with one of the many family Fords, at Sherman's graduation.

The family has provided Fords for their two youngest children who were still living at home. Monica, now 25, is starting her first teaching job in Kentucky this fall, and is the notorious “lead foot” of the family. She was driving the family’s Ford Focus to a job interview after just getting her license, and minutes after she left, she returned hysterical, her mother remembers. She had taken out the neighbor’s mailbox and tree making a right turn at 20 mph. Edward said, “Monica, you don’t take out a tree at 20 mph.” Well, she wasn’t going 20. Sherman laughed at his sister from the corner of the room, and even Gail had to turn to hide a smile. While Edward gave her a piece of his mind, Gail and Sherman went to talk to the neighbors and found leaves littered all over the Focus interior. There was no hiding the evidence of this tree strike.

Sophie, the family dog, loves Ford rides as much as any other family member.

“We had to buy them a new $400 tree from Natorps!” Gail says.

Among the family’s other cars was a Mercury Mystique, which they call the “Mercury Mistake.” He drove it around the city helping the sick and shut in, calling it the lawnmower the whole time based on the engine sound. “RRRRRRRRRRRR, eeehh eeehh, RRRRRrrrrrRRRRR,” Edward mocks the lawnmower.

But life was looking up when, a few cars later, Gail bought her dream car—a Jaguar. Part of the Ford line at the time, Kevin called from the dealership and said, “I remember Gail always wanted this car.” Edward stops, sly expression on his face, and says, “I said, ‘Kevin, you sleazy, man. Sleazy!” And Gail got the Jaguar, with Edward following a few years after when he loved hers so much.
“It was sweet,” he says, “But you need a mechanic in the front seat.”

Edward advocates getting quality cars for his family, and when Gail has a hard time making a car-related decision, he just tells

Gail and Edward next to their current Ford vehicles: his black Mercury Sable and her white Ford Taurus.

her “Why don’t you get something nice. You are a dentist.”

The dealership keeps the family coming back, they said. “It’s nice to know every salesperson and mechanic in the service department knows your name, and when they see you, it’s ‘Oh hey pastor, how ya doin’?’” he says. “We know we won’t be charged an arm and a leg.”

The family isn’t sure what their next cars will be, as the two currently have a shiny Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable gleaming in the driveway. “But there will be a car,” Edward says.

The family is visiting their oldest son, a major in the army, this month, so Edward called up the dealership to see what preparation the car would need for the trip, their trusty friend Kevin said “Just drive it,” as they have been for the last fifteen Ford-filled years.

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