Pastors' Memoirs

William N. Colton, Jr., 1911-2001

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   I want to tell you about my father. He was born in 1911 and lived to be 90 years old. He was the sixth in a line of ministers, although he was the first Methodist. He attended school, went to Loomis, a prep school for Yale University, then attended Yale for three years, until an argument with his father cost him college support.

He married in 1947 and moved his family to Virginia, where he heard the call to the ministry in about 1950. He attended Duke University Divinity School, then began a new life in the tiny town of Boydton. He and the family moved to churches in Chesapeake, Fairfax County, Hampton, York County, and Virginia Beach, followed by retirement in Suffolk after his 24-year ministerial career.

There was not a lot of money in a preacher/school teacher family, but he sent two children to college and into public service careers.

   I have never known anyone who knew his Bible better than my father. He could locate stories and parables, relate current events to events of biblical times, and could describe how the wisdom of the Bible has relevance to today’s events and personal events in our lives.

Over and over again, people use words like sweet and kind when speaking of him. His last year was spent in assisted living quarters. Not content to be a resident, he held Bible studies and conducted book readings for the other residents.

   Bill Colton was not a great man; he was quiet and unassuming in life, yet he managed to make people around him feel better about their lives. He began life in circumstances that could have led to a life of comfort and privilege. Yet, halfway through it, he chose to forget that and live a life for the benefit of others.

My father’s legacy is not about what he could have become, or even about becoming a minister. His legacy is the lives of the people he touched in some quiet way, of people who attend memorial services because it’s the right thing to do, reinforcing the spirit of love of fellow man, of human kinship in the name of God, and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

— William N. Colton III



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