Pastors' Memoirs

Russell Daniel Gunsalus, 1907-2002

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  Russell Daniel Gunsalus, son of Daniel H. Gunsalus and Rachel E. Manderville, was born on July 29, 1907, in Wetervliet, New York. Answering God’s call as a teenager to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, he pursued that call with unbroken passion and purpose until transitioning into God’s presence on Oct. 30, 2002. At that time he was living at the Asbury Center at Birdmont in Wytheville, Virginia, where he continued daily Bible study, writing, reading, and ministering grace to all who came, of all ages, ethnicity, and generations, endearing himself to residents, staff, and medical personnel, as he had to friends, family, business associates, students, and employees throughout nearly a century of a life well lived. He exemplified finally Wesley’s observation that "Our people die well."

  He was preceded in death by spouses Martha Dyer Gunsalus and Agnes Kirtz Gunsalus; a daughter, Phyllis; a brother, Robert; and a sister, Rachel Wildermuth. Surviving are children and their spouses: Martha E. and Ray W. Chamberlain of Knoxville, Tennessee; Dr. Harold R. and Mary K. Gunsalus of Roanoke, Virginia; Rev. R. Douglas Gunsalus of New Hope, Virginia; D. Brent and Lyn K. Gunsalus of Afton, Virginia; seven grandchidren, and five great-grandchildren as well as a host of in-laws, and generations of nieces, nephews, and friends.

  Dr. Gunsalus studied at Vennard College, United Wesleyan College, Burton Theological Seminary, Pennsylvania Hebrew Educational Center, and Roosevelt McCormick University receiving the AB., Th.B., and Th.M. degrees. Honorary Doctorates followed in recognition of effective ministry and service. For 22 years he taught Bible, theology, and biblical languages. He also served as Dean of theology for five years, and for 13 years as president of United Wesleyan College. Further educational service included vice president of Asbury College, and administrative positions at Eastern Nazarene College and Indiana Wesleyan. His creative unconventional thought, futurist orientation, keen intellect, astute analytical ability, big dreams, strength of will, uniqueness of expression, and childlike good humor kept him in demand in a variety of venues. He served for some years as the superintendent of the Capitol District of the Wesleyan Church, planting about 10 churches in the greater Washington, D.C. area. He held denominational offices and served on the boards of various denominational, college, and business institutions.

  His desire to spread the gospel never abated, his preaching missions taking him all aver the United States as well as to 40 other countries since his ordination in 1932. He pastored several churches in Pennsylvania and Virginia for a short time in the 1930s. Then when he and his beloved Agnes retired to Staunton in 1972, they found great joy together pastoring the Mount Crawford, Gladys, and McDowell charges in the Virginia Conference and in a Wesleyan church in Richmond. His writings include the book, The Man God Trusted, a devotional journey through the book of Job.

  Dr. Gunsalus has been honored by numerous civic and church groups, listed in several Who’s Who publications, and cited by A.C.P.R.A for 30 years of "Distinguished Service" for rational work in the areas of College Development and Fund-raising. In 1976, he received the Governor’s Citation as a Distinguished Citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1987, he was honored by United Wesleyan College with the dedication of the Russell D. Gunsalus Learning Center. The Russell D. Gunsalus Reading Room at Houghton College Library houses the Wesleyan Research Collection and rare book collection. Houghton College also administers the Russell D. And Agnes K. Gunsalus Scholarship fund for ministerial students.

  Most of all, though, he was dad, husband friend. He embodied the desire to live out that great Wesleyan call to "holiness of heart and life." Sacrificial in love and exemplary in character both in the privacy of family life, as well as in public, we who loved him and miss him most honor his and Mom’s memory with the desire to serve the Lord well and be blessed, as they were, in old age reaping the rich harvest of a well spent youth and mid-life, surrounded by friends, family, and the love which endures with us eternally. In a recent newspaper interview, Dr. Gunsalus in summation said what is centrally worth saying about a life — "The really high honor of my life has been and remains, the wonderful reality of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord."

— Doug Gunsalus, son



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