Pastors' Memoirs

John Zelna Brandon, 1928 – 2005

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  On March 11, 1928, in Paducah, Kentucky, Dychus Gilbert Brandon and his wife, Juanita Farley Brandon, were presented with a son named John Zelna Brandon. John was the third child. In his early days his family moved to Michigan. After living in Michigan for a period of time, John and his brother helped their parents return to Kentucky, while John was on leave from the Merchant Marines and between ships in 1947.

  During a trip to Kentucky where his parents returned to live, he went to church with a brother. There he pointed to Tennie Marie Chandler who was singing in the choir and told his brother that she would become his wife. He told the writer of this memoir that she was the one who called him into the ministry. They married on Christmas Eve, 1947. During their 57 years of marriage they were blessed with two daughters; Tennie Marie Home of Enterprise, Alabama, and Mary Alice Maitland of Bracey, Virginia.

  John was a man of diverse talents, he was widely known in Southside Virginia as a photographer who did weddings, social events, and occasionally assignments from the state police. His work also appeared in the Richmond News Leader and the Richmond Times­Dispatch,

  As he moved from the Merchant Marines into college life, he took the Veterans Achievement Test and was number one in the results! This meant that he qualified and was given one year of college credit by Lambuth College, Jackson, Tennessee. During his studies, he decided to get married. Therefore, he did not graduate from Lambuth College because he took his first appointment as a pastor in 1953 in order to provide for his wife, Tennie. Following his marriage and appointment, John enrolled in the Course of Study School at Duke Divinity School where he graduated five years later from the required studies.

  John preached for 51 years before he re-retired in June 2004. His years of service began in the Memphis Conference with Holladay, and he went on to serve North Lexington, Humboldt, Oak Grove, and Beech Bluff before transferring to the Virginia Conference in October 1953. His appointments in the Virginia Conference included Callaghan, Alleghany­Dameron, Mecklenburg, Mountain View in Vinton, Mountain View in Roanoke, Woods-Wesley Chapel, Woods, Melrose in the Rappahannock District, Aldersgate in the Norfolk District, and in retirement, Trinity in South Hill. John’s appointments were within five districts from Staunton to Norfolk. Prior to his death, it was made clear that he lived to preach, he did not preach to live.

  A memorial service was held on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2005, at 2 p.m. at LaCrosse UMC in LaCrosse, Va., with his district superintendent, the Rev. Wm. Anthony Layman, and host pastor, the Rev. James H. Fry III, officiating. Two lay people also contributed during the service. They were Dr. Bill Chandler of Texas, his brother-in-law, and Mr. Ramon Minx of South Hill, a very close friend. John’s body was cremated and the service of committal was private.

— Rev. Wm. Anthony Layman, District Superintendent



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