Willis H. Switzer

Published 6:49 pm Thursday, September 1, 2016

FRANKLIN — The Rev. Willis Harold Switzer left this earth on Aug. 29, 2016.

Willis H. Switzer

Willis H. Switzer

He was surrounded by his family members singing “Softly and Tenderly” as he went to be with his Lord and his beloved wife of 54 years, Jo Ann Blackwell Switzer.

The Rev. Switzer was born on March 21, 1925 in Roebuck, South Carolina, the youngest of six children, including his twin sister, Wilma, to James Floyd and Rosalie Willis Switzer.

He was predeceased by his parents, all of his siblings and his wife.

He is survived by his two children, Marguerite Leathers (Paul) of Courtland, Virginia, and W. Terrell Switzer (Deborah) of Ivor, Virginia; his special friend, Anne Griffin; and foster son, Charles Crockett. In addition to his children, the Rev. Switzer (“Paw Paw”) leaves his beloved grandchildren, Melissa Leathers Anderson (Wesley), Mark Switzer, Amanda Switzer, Paul A. Leathers (Kristen) and Janelle Leathers Abosch (Paul).

Soon after graduating from high school in Roebuck he was drafted into the Army where he served for 31 months from June 17, 1943 to March 8, 1946, in the South Pacific.

On return to Roebuck, he went to work for a furniture store, Hammond, Brown, Jennings in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he met his wife-to-be, Jo Ann Blackwell.

Soon after their marriage on Sept. 17, 1950, Willis felt the call to serve the Lord. He enrolled at Wofford College in Spartanburg from where he received a BA degree in 1953; followed by enrollment at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor’s degree in Divinity. He subsequently received a Master of Divinity degree in 1971.

In 1956, he began a 56-year journey of preaching and serving his Lord. The journey carried him to seven churches in North Carolina and Virginia; the first being in Barnesville, North Carolina, in 1956 and the last being in Sunbeam, Virginia, where he retired in 2012.

In 2002, the Rev. Switzer was honored as Pastor Emeritus at Black Creek Baptist Church. He touched countless lives through his service of teaching, preaching, ministering and setting an example by living a genuine Christ-like life.

He considered himself to be more of a pastor than a preacher. He had a servant’s heart and was always dedicated to his “flock.” He will be remembered as a humble, sincere, faithful and compassionate man of God. He was widely known for his cheerful whistling and witty sense of humor. He was a mentor to young people, and his captivating children’s sermons were always inspirational to all ages.

Most of his life he enjoyed gardening, ping-pong, singing and playing the harmonica. He prided himself in being a snappy dresser (thanks to his wife, Jo Ann). In recent years, he enjoyed the weekly pastors’ breakfast, Bible studies at Sunbeam church, occasional bus trips as a Woodmen of the World member, and receiving/providing comfort in the grief support group in Franklin.

The Rev. Switzer will be deeply missed by his family, friends, neighbors and the many people who loved him. He greatly appreciated the numerous visits, calls, cards and prayers during his brief illness, and he treasured the heartfelt expressions of love showered upon him.

He dearly loved his family and cherished the time he spent with them.

The family is grateful for the compassionate service provided by the hospice team, and his primary caregiver Angela Harris, as well as Adam Harris and Amber Hammond.

The family will receive friends at Wright Funeral Home in Franklin on Friday, Sept. 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. The funeral will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3, in Black Creek Baptist Church, 34163 Vicksville Road, Franklin, with the Rev. Hoyle Green, the Rev. Greg Kitts and Rev. Armand Jalbert officiating. Burial, with military honors, will follow in the church cemetery. A reception will be held in the church fellowship hall.

Memorial donations may be made to: Black Creek Baptist Church Building Fund, 34163 Vicksville Road, Franklin, VA 23851; or Sunbeam Baptist Church, 31226 Sunbeam Road, Franklin, VA 23851; or Disaster Relief, Blackwater Baptist Association c/o The Rev. Nancy B. Moore, P.O. Box 443, 9 South Court St., Windsor, VA 23487.