He always called me “Pastor.” Dr. Robert H. Willets,* our Pastor Emeritus, died last week at age 88. He was known as Dr. Bob to those he pastored, and as Chaplain Bob to those he served as a Navy Chaplain, and through the local VFW. He served as the Oklahoma State VFW Chaplain in the mid 1990s.
When I came to be his Associate Minister in October, 1973, we had a discussion about what people, especially the children, should call me. He was Dr. Bob, so I became known as Bro. Darryl. Dr. Bob moved to the Washington, D.C. area to pastor the Ft. Washington Baptist Church on January 1, 1974. He served that wonderful congregation, which is actually located in Maryland, for 12 years. During that time his wife Lois died. In January 1984, Dr. Robert Bales and I had the honor of officiating at Bob Willets’ wedding to Ila Faye Perry. When he retired from the pastorate in 1986, they moved back to Tulsa, and our church asked him to serve as our Pastor Emeritus.
Through the years we officiated together at countless funerals and worked together with a spirit of mutual respect and admiration. No pastor could have a more satisfying relationship with his predecessor than I. Dr. Bob’s deep Georgia accent combined with his infectious smile brought hundreds, if not thousands, of people a great sense of grace and understanding, especially in their time of personal illness or grief. His photocopied jokes, pictures and sayings always were inscribed with the words, “Jesus saves” and “God bless you.” I know people who have saved some of those flyers for years as their reminder of his love for them.
Name badges, pins, hats, flags and crosses were hallmarks of his daily attire. He could never pass up a good yard sale and loved to give away many of the treasures he found. His favorite Bible topic was the Cross of Christ. For many years he wore red and white to symbolize the sacrificial blood of Jesus and the power of God’s forgiveness. He lived what he believed, and we are the richer because of his life, love and ministry.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Jesus saves. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
*Dr. Robert H. Willets
March 21, 1921—July 31, 2009
Senior Minister, White City Baptist Church, 1960—1973
Pastor Emeritus, 1986—2009