Pastors' Memoirs

Donald Eugene Croll, 1920 – 2004

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Donald Eugene Croll was born in Topeka, Kansas, youngest of six children. He attended Topeka schools and was graduated from Topeka High School in 1938. He was baptized at age 8 in Kansas Avenue Methodist Church. Graduated during the Great Depression, he found it hard to get a job. Lacking education, he tried fruitlessly to begin a career at the local newspaper but had to settle for jobs as a soda jerk and magazine salesman.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army at the beginning of World War II and came to know a new life after he surrendered his heart to God at the urging of a young Army friend. At that time Don trusted God fully with his life and woke up to a "sun that had never shone brighter and a sky that had never seemed bluer."

With aspirations of becoming a political writer, he began studying journalism with support from the GI Bill of Rights at the University of Kansas in 1945. But he began to feel called to ministry, and attended a Methodist summer work camp in 1948. How fitting that he and Charlotte, his wife of 54 years until his death July 9, 2004, began their life together by meeting there. It turned out to be more than a coincidence that Don had hoped to serve in Mexico and Charlotte had applied to New York City, but out of four work camps they were both assigned to the same one in Iowa.

Never one to shrink from what he knew to be right, Don asked Charlotte to marry him before they parted at the end of the seven-week camp. She declined, but they wrote each other every day, as he remained in Iowa to attend Simpson College and to serve as a student pastor there. He graduated in 1949 and continued his studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University where he served as a student pastor during his final year. They were married in 1950.

Immediately after graduation he was appointed to West Mecklenburg Charge, then to West Mathews Charge, Bethany in Hampton, Trinity in Buchanan, Stonewall-Westview in Staunton, New Hope in Saluda, New Hope in Stafford, and Fairmount in Richmond.

After his retirement he accepted teaching tasks in Ginter Park United Methodist Church and taught "Sunday School on Tuesday" at The Hermitage Home and Eastern Star Home for Ladies, all in Richmond. For 20 years after retiring, he used five mornings a week to prepare these Bible lessons. He and Charlotte volunteered for two weeks each at Red Bird Mission during two summers and at United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for two weeks one summer.

Their family life was as effectual as their ministry, and together they raised four children — Charles, Anita, Sarah Lynn and Marty — with integrity, teaching them to love each other and other people and to sacrifice short-term pleasure for the opportunity to serve God first.

They were taught to seek God’s plan for their lives. Don and Charlotte gave careful attention to their family, taking time to engage in a nightly worship atmosphere with Bible study and hymn singing. Yearly vacations were centered around discovery and new experiences, and spending time together as a family more than pursuit of simple entertainment. As the family matured, life was enriched by Anita’s marriage to Jim Landoll, Marty’s marriage to Jamie Dowdy, and the birth of five grandsons — Andrew Landoll and Luke, Christopher, Isaac, and Stephen Donald Croll.

Don’s gift as a preacher was rooted in the love for language that had initially caused him to pursue journalism as a career. His favorite part of ministry was writing sermons. Because of this he was an energetic and persuasive speaker. Having prepared thoroughly, he would step into the pulpit with assurance and authority and proceed to preach his heart out with genuine and authentic passion. Once he chose to portray Andrew in a Last Supper re-enactment, saying he identified with this disciple because "Andrew was always bringing people to Jesus, and that’s what I like to do — bring people to Jesus." So in his churches, in his sermons, and in his lessons for more than 50 years he brought people to Jesus.

Well read in current affairs and a prolific writer outside of the pulpit, his particular joy and avocation was writing religious and political comments through advocacy pieces about family life values, spiritual realities, and conservative politics. He was included in Who’s Who in the Methodist Church, Abingdon Press, in 1966.

He lived for his God by "trusting and obeying" for 84 years as a husband, father, and grandfather. Don provided a meaningful ministry to his church, family, and the world around him. Those of us who knew him have a reason to thank God for His goodness as shown by His servant Don.

— The Don Croll Family



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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