The Rev. Merritt A. Hamilton, 88, a former pastor of two Baptist churches, one of which he helped found, who continued preaching until last year, died Tuesday in Kingston Residence of Sylvania from complications of recent strokes.
He moved to assisted living in October from his Petersburg, Mich., home. He had been in the Kingston care center two months.
Mr. Hamilton was a retired pastor of Suder Avenue Baptist Church in Erie, Mich. He was a founder of Sylvania Baptist Church and was pastor there for many years.
Even in retirement, he was a volunteer preacher at area Baptist churches and filled in when ministers went on vacation or were ill. He stopped his volunteer work only last year, said Meredith Short, his daughter-in-law. "He felt that as long as he could do something to help somebody, he would do it," she said.
Devotion and mission defined his life. "The Bible tells you to spread the Gospel, and he felt that was his calling - to bring the Gospel to all people," his son, Herbert Short, said. "He felt nothing else mattered. The word of God was everything to him."
From the pulpit, Mr. Hamilton's voice was strong and his message clear.
"He would get his message ready and whatever it was, it didn't matter, because it was like he was guided from the Lord. The words flowed out of him," Mr. Short said. "He had a way of breaking stuff down so that you could understand. He made a believer out of people."
Mr. Hamilton grew up in Cunningham, Ky. He settled in Toledo, where his brother, Noble, had moved earlier.
Mr. Hamilton became a meatcutter and, eventually, a meat department manager for an A&P store in Toledo.
He was preceded in death by wives, Ethel, Pearl, and Julia Hamilton.
Surviving are his daughters, Constance Crawford and Mattie Thompson; son, Herbert Short; brother, Bernard Hamilton; 10 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. today in the Reeb Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to Sylvania Baptist Church.