|From the hills of North Mississippi and Tennessee to the plains of West Texas, from the bayous and pine forests of Louisiana to the mountains of Colorado, from the Gulf shores of Alabama and Florida to the Canadian border of Montana, from a six-point circuit to the duties of District Superintendent, George York served the God he loved for fifty years in a career as varied as his many interests.
Born in Itawamba County, Mississippi, June 17, 1913, to a circuit- riding Methodist minister and wife (John Wesley and Circe Mitchell York). George was the youngest of six children, two who became Methodist ministers and two who married Methodist ministers.
Education was precious to George. He studied for and passed the bar exam in Mississippi but was too young to practice law. He worked in the fields to put himself through school and graduated from Lambuth College and Emory University. He taught school, coached, and served as chaplain for the Civilian Conservation Corps, the United States Merchant Marines, and the Red Cross.
George was ordained in 1936 and began his ministry in the North Mississippi Conference at Greenwood, where he met and fell in love with Eloise Keenum. They were wed on December 22, 1937, and this union would last until his death on January 25, 1987. One daughter, Gail Keenum (Mrs. Tom Moore), was born to them.
George battled health problems all his life, but accepted no concession from himself or anyone else. When he lost his hearing, he learned to read lips; when he contracted polio, he learned to walk again; when his stomach was removed, he adjusted to eating every two hours around the clock; and when respiratory problems plagued him, he transferred to higher altitudes and learned to play the harmonica.
His musical abilities ranged from construction to performance. He sang and traveled with a gospel quartet and played in a band. If no one showed up to play for worship service, George played the piano and led the singing; he often performed special programs with his vibraharp, and more than one organist and choir have benefited from his direction. Not content simply to perform, he constructed marimbas and wind chimes and tuned them by ear.
In a profession where rewards are not often shown in visible ways, George developed many talents where humble materials enhanced dimensions of character. From gravel and clay, he fashioned beautiful jewelry and elegant ceramic objects. From fibers found in a ball of cotton, the nest of a silkworm, or the back of a sheep, he spun and wove intricately patterned cloth. Each inch threaded onto the loom required personal touch. George declared that weaving and tailoring taught him patience, for if one step were omitted or carelessly done, the whole piece bore the flaw.
George always had something producing life, from the days of growing vegetables to keep from going hungry to the times of cultivating bees and flowers for enjoyment. Each parsonage he lived in bore the mark of his pride in enhancing the yard, and more than once he was mistaken for the janitor mowing the church property.
The construction of his retirement home in Arcadia culminated his skills in carpentry, honed by many years of working in parsonage and church building projects, where he participated actively from the design through the manual labor. He often remarked that each ministerial candidate should be required to take a course in carpentry and plumbing.
The great love of his ministry was preaching. All his dedication and enthusiasm were focused upon this most important part of his service. A master of the appropriate word or story, he drew on his own varied experiences to relate to all listeners--and he made sure they could hear him clearly without benefit of microphone. No sermon lasted more than seventeen minutes, but many had influence for years in the hearts of his congregations, which included in the Louisiana conference: Marksville, Ferriday, Parker Memorial (New Orleans), Many, Lakeview (Minden), Lake Providence, Vivian, St. Bernard (Chalmette), McGuire (West Monroe), Arcadia, Tallulah, and St. Stephens (Bossier City).
One cold dawn in the wooded hills of Louisiana, George York began a worship service to people in their cars, and as the sun rose over Hodges Gardens that Easter morning over thirty years ago, George’s dream became a tradition, which continues to the present.
“I believe in the Resurrection. . .and the Life Everlasting. Amen.”
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1987; p. 332-333 By Gail York Moore|