Pastors' Memoirs

Melvin Lee Steadman, Jr., 1932-1987

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Melvin Lee Steadman, Jr., a 13th generation Virginian, was born on May 14, 1932 in Falls Church, the son of Ruth Hirst and Melvin Lee Steadman. From the age of 8 he knew he was destined for the ministry, and at age 17 became a student pastor with his uncle, Dr. George G. Oliver, at Dulin Church in Falls Church. He completed his higher education at Randolph-Macon College and Wesley Theological Seminary. He served with honor and integrity the following appointments: King William; Pender; Gainesville; Harmony, Hamilton; Dunn Loring; Memorial, Virginia Beach; and St. James, Alexandria.

He was the first historian for the Virginia conference and served for 25 years in that capacity. It was history and genealogy, indeed, that provided for Melvin a further opportunity to work in God's name. He was ever anxious to share the remarkable breadth and depth of his knowledge with others, that their lives might be enriched. His book, Falls Church By Fence and Fireside, is not only the most definitive history of that Virginia town, it had become a classic in his own lifetime - -a tribute many authors never know.

But he was an activist, as well, in the best sense of the word. His research and documentation established the Old Stone Church in Leesburg, Virginia as the first site of the Methodist denomination in America. The site was subsequently made a Shrine, with Melvin serving as founder and director of the Old Stone Church Foundation. He suggested and assisted in founding the Methodist Historical Society of Northern Virginia, the first district society in Methodism and the prototype of all since. He was curator and editor of Volume III of Methodism in Northern Virginia; contributing editor to The Virginia United Methodist Heritage and the author of over 20 articles in the Dictionary of World Methodism. His one deep regret was that he was unable to accept the editorship of "The Upper Room" when it was offered to him.

He was a director of the Sully Foundation, the Fairfax Historical Society, and the Virginia History Federation. He was consultant in history to the counties of Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and the city of Falls Church. He was a life member of the Virginia Historical Society, a member of the Southeastern Historical Society of the United Methodist Church, the National Genealogical Society and numerous other historical organizations. He served as chaplain of the Haymarket Fire Department, the Loudoun Memorial Hospital and the Fairfax Hospital.

In his truly dedicated interests and efforts, Melvin offered God's comfort and joy to all people. He shared with them his own vast storehouse of knowledge and, just as importantly, he listened with warm and undivided attention to what they in turn had to say, be it ever so trivial or redundant by comparison.

A friend and fellow historian tells of the sense of personal exhilaration he felt at Melvin's larger and enthusiastic questioning about his own project. Melvin made one feel good about oneself and one's worth. Bishop Kenneth Goodson described Melvin as "an Israelite without guile." In a memorial service held on February 7, 1987 at Culpeper, Virginia, a fellow minister ended his prayer this way: "And ultimately because of You, God, Melvin has written his name in kindness, mercy and love on the hearts of the thousands he met. He wasn't perfect. But he was a masterpiece."

He died on January 30, 1987 in Culpeper, Virginia, where he had retired on disability. He was buried in his beloved Falls Church and leaves to continue his ministry, his wife, Beverley Teeter Steadman; his mother, Ruth Hirst Steadman; two sisters, Mildred Pappas and Ruth Ellen Stortz; two children, John and Elizabeth; four stepchildren and five grandchildren.  

--Thomas Jennings



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