Pastors' Memoirs

Albert Edward Gingrich, 1901-1989

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Albert Edward Gingrich, born in Nelson Township in Ontario, Canada, Nov. 9, 1901, and died April 29, 1989, in Hampton, Va.

He held a Bachelor's degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Boston University's School of Theology.

He was the husband of Constance Lane Gingrich of Hampton; and the father of three daughters: Priscilla G. Tabor of Colloden, W.Va.; Carol G. Catron of Simpsonville, S.C.; and Rosemary G. Parks of Hampton, Va.; and had nine grandchildren.

Upon the Gingriches' 50th wedding anniversary in 1982, the Albert and Constance Gingrich Scholarship Fund was established at Ferrum College. The perpetual fund is used for Ferrum students.

Mr. Gingrich began his pastoral career in the Virginia conference in 1950 serving the Culpeper Circuit. Other pastorates he served included: South Brunswick Charge in Brodnax; New Castle Charge, New Castle; East Franklin Charge, Pen hook; Franklin Charge, Burnt Chimney; Middlesex Charge, Saluda; Swain Memorial Church, Tangier; Prices Fork Charge, Blacksburg; Greenville Charge, Emporia; Greenbackville Charge, Greenbackville; and the Leemont Charge, Onancock. He retired to Bedford, Virginia in 1977 and his home church became Main Street Church but he also attended Court Street Church on occasion. From 1977-1979 he was the visiting pastor of Timberlake Church. He also served the Tyreeanna Charge in Lynchburg from 1979 to 1980.

I met Mr. Gingrich 25 years ago. The following are excerpts from a column I write for the Sun, a community news section of The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger Star, which I dedicated to Mr. Gingrich.

"Have you ever known someone who seemed absolutely timeless? You know the type I'm talking about: The person who seems totally unchanged by the years of anything they might have brought; the person who, despite the realities of mortality, seems to be forever there, somehow having defied the clock.

"It's the way I'd come to think of the Rev. Albert E. Gingrich. "He was the going-est man I ever met. He put 287,000 miles on the ugliest blue Volvo I ever saw, with jury-rigged everything: a tailpipe held in place with coat hangar wire, a carburetor aided by a clothes pin, string everywhere to do only the good Lord and the Rev. Gingrich knew what. Yet, he always got there. Not always on time, and most often with greasy hands to testify to a round with that old car. But he got there, smiling.

"The easy way and his love of tinkering are the two things that came immediately to mind last week when I heard that Mr. Gingrich had died at 88.

"That may seem old to some people, but I never even noticed a change in his gait from the time I first met him 25 years ago. "Three years ago, for instance, when the annual conference of the Virginia United Methodist Church was held in Virginia Beach, I was both amused and amazed when he and his wife Connie invited me to go to a late-night performance of a play after they had attended meetings that whole day. A lot of folks much younger than the Gingriches just couldn't make it. After the play, they drove to Hampton to spend the night.

"Last year, when I visited them at their home in Bedford, Mr. Gingrich again demonstrated that his inventiveness thrived. When the bellows on a small organ wore out, he figured out a way to put the back end of a vacuum cleaner against the organ to fill the bellows. The combination didn't make for the best sound, he allowed with a hearty laugh, but it worked.

"That was his way, to waste nothing. It was no surprise to me, then, to learn that his body would be cremated. I can just hear him explaining that a grave would just take up space on this good earth.

"And if ever there was somebody who truly believed that the Earth is the Lord's, it was Mr. Gingrich. In services conducted in places as diverse as Burnt Chimney in the mountains, on Tangier Island in mid-Chesapeake Bay and in a black church on the Eastern Shore, he spread his message.

A conversation with him was a smorgasbord. One minute it was diets for healthy living, the next how troubled he was that some people would say, 'It's the Lord's will' when tragic things came into their lives. Then he might switch to his recollection of a visit backstage with John Denver, arranged by one of his three daughters as part of the Gingriches' golden anniversary.

"Always, too, were the stories of 'the romance of our ministry.' Anyone privileged to have been part of one of those pastorates knows it was a good choice of words.

"In our last conversation, he quoted from Denver's 'I want to live.' I want to live, I want to grow I want to see, I want to know

I want to share what I can give I want to be, I want to live.

"I know no one who has done it better than Mr. Gingrich."

At a memorial service at Wesley United Methodist Church, the Rev. Roy Miller's topic was "On the Road Again," a reference to Mr. Gingrich's being constantly on the go, whether across town, to counsel alcoholics; or across the ocean, to visit a niece.

The choir of the Leemont Charge, on the Eastern Shore, which he served from 1975 to 1977, sang a song he loved to hear them sing: "It's a Mighty Good Day," At the end, the lyrics were changed to reflect a reaction he frequently had to the choir's singing: "It's been a mighty good LIFE." 

-John Pruitt



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