The Rev. Willie Lee Barnes, 91, longtime pastor of True Vine Missionary Baptist Church who led the congregation during the 1957 construction of its first church facilities in North Toledo, died Dec. 6 in Arbors at Toledo.
His family did not know the cause of death but said he had been ill and bedridden for several years.
The Rev. Barnes retired in 1994 after leading the church for 50 years.
"Preaching on Sunday was his main effort," cousin Jimmie Louis Stinson said. "He was able to give instruction from the pulpit, how to be kind and to be a Christian."
Granddaughter Brenda Thomas said he was a "big man with a big voice" that "would just capture you when he was doing his morning sermon."
The Rev. Barnes was born in Georgia and came to the Toledo area in the 1930s and felt called to religious ministry from an early age, his cousin said.
Grandson Gary Minter recalled, "Just about anybody he would come in contact with, he would talk about the Lord. That's what he lived for."
The Rev. Barnes was deacon of Spring Street Baptist in 1936 and was ordained in 1944. He worked second jobs to make ends meet in those early years and often refused his modest paycheck if he felt the church could put it to better use, his family said.
The Rev. Barnes was not only a minister but also an advocate for his congregation, his family said, and would respond to a request for help no matter the hour. He never hesitated to accompany a congregant to the hospital, to court, or to jail, his granddaughter said.
The Rev. Barnes nurtured the young people in his neighborhood, empowering them to take on leadership roles in the church. He often trained children to be superintendent of Sunday school in the absence of the adult in that role, Ms. Thomas said.
The Rev. Barnes also helped his late daughter, Jeanette, raise her two children.
He served on the Lagrange Neighborhood Association, Stickney Neighborhood Council, Stickney Area Ministers Conference, and Lions Club.
He is survived by his grandchildren, Gary Minter, Brenda Thomas, Gregory Raynard, and Mike Barlow.
Services will be at 11 a.m. today in True Vine Missionary Baptist Church.