Pastors' Memoirs

Francis Lee Hunt

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  The love of the ministry began for Francis Lee Hunt when, as a young boy, he gathered his playmates around him and became their preacher in a make-believe church service. Later, his dream of being a minister was realized when he served first as a lay speaker, then as a licensed local preacher and finally as an ordained minister in the Methodist Church.

  The Rev. Francis Lee Hunt was born Dec. 16, 1913, at Timber Ridge, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the only son of Joseph Fultz and Alice Ayres Hunt.

  While Francis was a boy, the Rev. A. Irvin Orndoff, a Methodist minister who was serving in Rockbridge County, made a strong impression on him. The Hunt family moved to Roanoke County when Francis was a teenager. He attended William Byrd High School where he became a member of the football team and developed what would be a lifelong interest in sports.

  In his mid-20s, Francis had a calling to become a minister and began to study toward that goal. He was assisted by friends in the ministry, especially the Rev. Orndoff, who was then serving as pastor of Huntington Court Methodist Church in the Roanoke District. As his pastor and friend, the Rev. Orndoff became a mentor to Francis and strongly influenced the future course of his life. Francis was licensed to preach while he was a member of Huntington Court. The Rev. Orndoff also performed the ceremony when Francis was united in marriage with Christine Wesley Bush on July 29, 1941.

  Francis was often invited to speak at local churches. It was at one of these little country churches, Woodland, near Troutville, that Francis had met Christine in 1940. In the summer of 1943, he left his job with Burlington Mills and accepted an opportunity offered in the Norfolk District to go to the Hampton-Langley Field area. There, he visited families in a housing development for defense workers and military personnel and conducted church services in a house rented by the Methodist Church.

  In the fall of 1943, Francis was appointed as a student minister to the North Patrick Charge so he could continue his preparation for the ministry by attending Ferrum Junior College. He and Christine began what was to be a journey of many thousands of miles in order to receive their college degrees. In good weather they commuted over 30 miles a day on gravel roads from the parsonage to classes; in bad weather their commute lengthened to over 50 miles. After graduating from Ferrum, Francis was appointed to the Toms Brook Charge, where they attended Bridgewater College, traveling over 100 miles a day for classes three to five days a week. With their goal of graduation foremost in their minds and being young and in love, this demanding time in their lives didn’t seem all that difficult.

  The long-awaited day arrived in June 1949, when they received their undergraduate degrees from Bridgewater. Francis met the Disciplinary requirements by finishing the Course of Study and was ordained a deacon in 1951 and an elder in 1953, both ordinations taking place in Roanoke with Bishop Paul Neff Garber presiding.

  Francis served in the Virginia Conference from 1943 to 1975, when he took disability leave. In 1979, he retired with 35.75 years of service as a member of the conference. He served nine appointments: North Patrick Charge, Toms Brook Charge, Fields in Shenandoah, Monumental in Emporia, Fairview in Roanoke, Basic in Waynesboro, Wesley Memorial in Martinsville, Trinity in Orange, and Cameron in Alexandria.

  He loved being in the ministry and served his Lord by serving others, always giving special care and attention to the aged, the shut-in, and the bereaved. He is remembered for his good sense of humor and his smile, for his love of singing and music, for the joy he received in sharing in the fellowship of family and friends, and for putting his ministry first in his life. He is also remembered as a proud and loving father to their only child, Frances Anne, who was born in Roanoke in 1959.

  After he became disabled in 1975, Francis lived 24 years with his family in their home which they bought in Mason Neck in Fairfax County. Francis, at age 85, died on Palm Sunday, March 28, 1999, in the Inova Fairfax Hospital, in Falls Church. The cause of death was respiratory and cardiac failure. He is survived by his wife of 57 years and eight months, Christine W.B. Hunt, and their only child, Frances A. Hunt, of Lake Ridge. His funeral was conducted on Thursday, April 1, in the chapel of the Botetourt Funeral Home in Buchanan, Virginia, by his dear friend of many years, the Rev. David L. Wade, of First United Methodist Church of Hopewell. He was buried in Trinity Cemetery, near Troutville, in Botetourt County. He was preceded in death by his parents and his only sibling, a sister, Louise H. Bandy.

  In a letter expressing sympathy and love to his family, a member of a church where he had served, wrote this tribute: "I remember Mr. Hunt with much fondness, because he shared in the happiest day of my life when he came to visit me when my son was born in 1961. . . He very kindly wrote to me in 1976, when I had an emotional problem and his words were encouraging and thoughtful. I am very grateful for having had my life touched by him and I just wanted to share these words with you as I look back on those days that we were privileged to have with you. My sincerest love and respect." What a beautify testimony as he is remembered for his life of Christian love and service to others.

"Well done, good and faithful servant," now entered into the glory of your Lord. We will always love you.

— Christine and Frances A. Hunt

 

 

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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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