Pastors' Memoirs

Robert Humphrey Athearn, 1899-1994

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Robert Humphrey Athearn was born December 28,1899, at Pomeroy, Ohio, the second son of William I. and Margaret H. Athearn. His death occurred, after a lingering illness, at Madison, Virginia, on August 27, 1994, at the age of 94. He was preceded in death by his wife, Florine T. Athearn (August 11, 1980); and is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Joyce Eddins of Madison, Virginia, and Mrs. Willene Nichols of Clearwater, Florida; six grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and one brother, the Rev. Guy S. Athearn, of Ft. Pierce, Florida.

He graduated in 1918 from St. Lucie High School in Ft. Pierce, Florida, and after several years working with the Florida East Coast Railroad, felt himself called to some type of Christian service. He attended Southern College of YMCA in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated in 1926. He had a career with the YMCA, working in that program in Florida and Richmond, Virginia, until the war years of the 1940s when he worked as a production engineer for an aircraft company in Baltimore, Maryland. After the war, he taught high school industrial arts in Madison, Virginia.

In 1950, he resumed his career with the YMCA as general secretary of the "Y" in Lake Charles, Louisiana. While in Lake Charles, he became a lay pastor for the Louisiana conference and served small churches in that area, later moving to the "Y" in Alexandria, Louisiana, where, again, he accepted part-time appointments to small churches. In 1958, he accepted a position with the "Y" in Pulaski, Virginia, where he also served small churches for the Holston conference. In the spring of 1964, he retired from his YMCA career and returned to Florida, appointed as a local pastor to the Tarbough Memorial Methodist Church in Miami where he stayed until 1969 when the church merged with Grace United Methodist Church. During these years this church shared its facilities with a Cuban congregation, being somewhat in the forefront of the current emphasis in ethnic ministries. He returned to make his retirement home in Madison, Virginia, while yet spending two more winters in Miami as minister of visitation for Grace Church.

As a retired local pastor from the Florida conference, he was appointed in the Charlottesville District in Virginia to the Gentry-Binghams Charge in 1971, and Woodland Church in 1976-1977.

Bob's mechanical and interpersonal skills blended together into an unusual itinerant career combining the YMCA, teaching and United Methodist ministry. His involvement with youth extends back to his own high school years, and there is no way of counting the number of young people and others who were influenced by his Christian service and ministry.

The graveside service took place in the Madison, Virginia, Cemetery. Officiating were Edward P. Gant, Samuel E. NeSmith, and his nephew, W. James Athearn.

- W. James Athearn



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