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Ways of Life: Harry Reeder's enduring legacy
Also remembered: A doctor who helped establish the neonatal ICU at Charlotte Memorial; a longtime mathematics teacher at CPCC; a former director and then chaplain at Charlotte Douglas airport
You’re reading Ways of Life, a weekly obituaries newsletter from The Charlotte Ledger honoring our friends, neighbors and family members who made an impact on Charlotte through the ways they lived their lives.
Harry Reeder helped build Christ Covenant Church in Matthews and mentored pastors in the Charlotte area and beyond
Pastor Harry Reeder died last Thursday morning in an auto accident in Alabama. The former pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews was 75. (Photo courtesy of Briarwood Presbyterian Church)
By Marty Minchin
Harry Reeder had, according to a longtime pastoral associate, limitless capacity.
The former pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews was a voracious teacher, leader and friend to the congregation that grew from 38 to thousands under his leadership. He was a renowned Bible teacher, had a role in building key ministries in Charlotte and could remember as many as 80 people’s names after a group introduction.
“He just never seemed to grow weary,” said Tom Hawkes, lead pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Fernandina Beach, Fla. “He was hard to keep up with.”
Reeder, 75, died Thursday morning after he crashed into the back of a stopped dump truck in Shelby County, Ala., where he’d led Briarwood Presbyterian Church for 24 years.
Even though he left Christ Covenant in 1999, his influence remains strong in the church and the Charlotte faith community, where many are shocked and grieving his death.
“He was a very effective leader,” Hawkes said. “Incredible faithfulness. Whatever he said, he would do. Whatever promises made, were kept. He was faithful in all aspects of life.”
Reeder was born in Charlotte in 1946, but his family moved a lot following his father’s baseball career as an umpire and a general manager of local minor league teams. They eventually returned to Charlotte, and Reeder graduated from East Mecklenburg High School and enrolled in East Carolina University, where he met his wife, Cindy Miller, in 1968.
His dedication to the Christian faith came as a young adult. Reeder liked to joke that he had a “drug” problem as a youth — his parents drug him to church every Sunday. In 1969, after marrying Cindy, he felt called to pastoral ministry and finished his undergraduate degree at Covenant College, where he studied theology and history. In 1980, after serving as a Baptist pastor in Florida for six years, he moved to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination and took a job at Pinelands Presbyterian Church in Miami.
Meanwhile, a small group of faithful believers were struggling to get a PCA church established in Charlotte. By 1983, they’d been meeting for nine years, at that time in a trailer on four acres on Alexander Road and Shaftesbury Lane in south Charlotte.
They were in danger of being dwarfed by the PCA’s new vision to plant flagship churches in metropolitan areas, including Charlotte. Reeder was tapped to lead the Charlotte PCA church, but he did not want to compete with the smaller church. Instead, they joined forces. Reeder left his thriving church in Florida and moved with his family to Charlotte to lead Christ Covenant Church, a congregation with 38 members.
The little church liked the PCA’s vision, and they welcomed Reeder.
“Our interim pastor said, rather prophetically, if you call Harry Reeder, you better hold on to the seat of your pants,” said Bernie Lawrence, who served on staff at Christ Covenant for 30 years, including 10 years as senior associate pastor. “And boy, was that ever true.”
Within months, Christ Covenant had tripled in size and was squeezing into the trailer, so they moved to a community room at Charlotte Christian School. They kept growing, and moved into half the gym, then the whole gym.
The congregation expanded to several thousand and built their own campus in Matthews during Reeder’s 17-year tenure at Christ Covenant, where he was known for his straightforward teaching from the Bible and his emphasis on evangelism and leadership training. Reed was instrumental in starting Covenant Day School and the now-closed SOAR sports ministry, and helping to bring Reformed Theological Seminary to Charlotte.
Keenly aware of social issues permeating the mid-1980s and 1990s, Reeder sometimes spoke at Charlotte City Council meetings and helped organize Christ Covenant’s participation in pro-life sign-holding along Matthews Township Parkway.
“He just made [the church] an incredible force for good in the city of Charlotte,” Hawkes said.
Hawkes described Reeder as a man of “incredible courage,” a leader who was “like a general leading his troops into battle from the front, not from the safety of the rear.” He led with vision, seeing what the church could become, and was a “pastor to pastors,” coaching, mentoring and caring for “probably thousands” of pastors over the years. “I never saw him turn down anyone who needed help,” Hawkes said. “He had amazing energy to serve and help people.”
Lawrence said Reeder had an “uncanny interest” in knowing people and an unusual ability to remember names. He noticed when people were missing on Sundays and asked Lawrence to check up on them. “For the pastor of a large church, I would say that was a little unusual,” Lawrence said. “He would always be on his cell phone while we were driving around, calling people to see how they were doing.”
In 1999, Reeder was offered perhaps the one pastorship he couldn’t turn down: Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala., the PCA’s flagship church and home of his friend and mentor, Frank Barker, who was retiring.
Almost 25 years have passed since Reeder left Charlotte, but his legacy remains. When Christ Covenant Church built its sanctuary in Matthews, he was influential in a design that integrated crosses everywhere — the lobbies, the stair rails, even the roof. On Sunday, longtime elder Rob Veerman spoke about Reeder’s impact on the church at the Sunday service, and on Wednesday the church will show the livestream of Reeder’s funeral, which will be in Birmingham, in the sanctuary.
Those who knew Reeder well said his extraordinary enthusiasm and stamina for ministry had only grown stronger with age. In addition to leading Briarwood, where he still preached 35-minute sermons without referring to notes, he frequently traveled to speak at conferences and seminaries.
“He’s been picking up speed,” Hawkes said. “I heard him preach [recently], and I said he was better than he’s ever been.”
Christ Covenant hasn’t decided how they will memorialize Reeder. A tree on the campus was planted for Reeder’s sister Vicky, a member of Christ Covenant and Reeder’s best friend. She died six years ago, in a car accident, on the day before her brother’s death.
“Before Harry’s passing, he posted on Facebook how much he missed his sister and that he would see her soon,” said Kevin DeYoung, Christ Covenant lead pastor. “I’m sure he never thought it would be so soon. But we are glad for their reunion in glory.”
A celebration of life service honoring Reeder will be held Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. It will be live-streamed at briarwood.org/livestream.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer based in Charlotte.
Other obituaries this week:
Waylon Arnold, 71, moved to Charlotte in 1997 and continued his work in the insurance industry, working as an adjuster for various companies including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna and Lash Group before retiring in 2018.
Mary Eliza Smarr Bankhead, 87, of Sharon, S.C., was an orthodontic dental assistant for 16 years. Later, Mary worked at Bankhead Refrigeration in Charlotte. Mary was blessed with a beautiful soprano voice and sang with passion and love in church choirs, funerals, weddings and the Billy Graham Crusade. In the early 1960s, she sang in the Charlotte Singing Christmas Tree for several years. Mary loved gardening.
Shirley Ann Boylan, 87, of Matthews was an active member of Carmel Country Club and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Charlotte. Shirley was an avid tennis player and instructor and traveled the world.
John O’Neill Burgess, 76, moved to Charlotte in 1996 and worked for Equifirst Mortgage Co. and Bank of America, retiring in 2010. John had a passion for Harley Davidson motorcycles and was a member for many years of the Charlotte Harley Owners Group. John was also involved with several other motorcycle organizations in the Charlotte area.
Barbara Jane Pangle Campbell, 83, of Albemarle spent 31 years as a pediatric nurse practitioner for Mecklenburg County DSS in Charlotte. Barbara graduated from the Presbyterian School of Nursing and from the pediatric nurse practitioner program at UNC Charlotte. She graduated from West Mecklenburg High School in 1958. Barbara was a lifelong member of Mulberry Presbyterian Church. When not working, she loved to square dance, round dance and travel.
Rudolph Cribb, 98, of Charlotte helped establish the Westside Church of Christ and the Charlotte Church of Christ. Rudolph loved to travel and visited many states. For his anniversary, he took a cruise along the Pacific coast and Mexico.
Stephen Mark Hayes, 53, of Charlotte was a paramedic who lost his life while carrying out his duties with Charlotte MEDIC. He joined EMS in 1997. Mark loved to fish, work in the yard and tinker around his home.
Dr. Tina Gossett Hipp, 54, of Huntersville was an internal medicine pharmacy specialist with Atrium Health for over 25 years. Her “fun job” was being a premier director for Neora, which allowed her to live out her mission of helping others feel better. She enjoyed working out at Pure Barre, playing Bunco and traveling.
Henrietta Alford McClain, 99, of Charlotte was a teacher for more than 30 years, including at Eastway and Northwest middle schools in Charlotte before retiring from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 1988. She was a devoted member of New Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ, where she served as deaconess. She graduated from Johnson C. Smith University, and while at Smith,
became a charter member of the Gamma Delta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in 1944. She was a talented seamstress, and enjoyed solving crossword puzzles, playing bingo and traveling all over the world.
Lynn McIver III, 84, of Charlotte served as an elder, a Stephens minister and a Sunday school teacher at Myers Park Presbyterian Church. He was the state chairperson of Ducks Unlimited. Lynn loved to paint and garden, and loved eating lemon meringue pie. He was an excellent baker, and his famous “McIver Bread” is still cherished by family and friends. An avid sports fan, he loved golf and the Atlanta Braves.
Margaret Elaine McNeely McMillan, 74, of Monroe was a lifelong member of Central United Methodist Church in Charlotte. She was an animal lover and enjoyed the outdoors.
John Lee Morris, 98, of Charlotte was employed with Cox Broadcasting for over 40 year, retiring as vice president and general manager of WSOC AM and FM Radio in Charlotte in 1989. He then joined the staff of AAA Carolinas, retiring in 1994. He was active in Myers Park United Methodist Church and taught a Sunday school class for 38 years. Lee served as president of the Rotary Club of Charlotte, the Charlotte Sales and Marketing Executives, the Advertising Club of Charlotte and the Charlotte Senior Forum. He served on the board of directors for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Mary Anne Rathbun MacCaughelty, 77, of Charlotte began her career in Charlotte leading the establishment of the neonatal intensive care unit at what was then Charlotte Memorial Hospital and later Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center. She retired in 2013. She also consulted as a neonatologist at Presbyterian Hospital. Mary Anne sang in the choirs of Christ Episcopal Church and at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, where she was an active member for 35 years. She served on the board of KinderMourn in Charlotte.
Louis “Lou” Gregory Raymond, 83, of Charlotte settled in Charlotte in 1972 and began Caroplast Inc. Lou was the president of the company for 50 years. Caroplast and sales became his passion.
Billie Jean Richard Mitchell, 94, of Charlotte was the office manager and executive secretary to the CEO at Fixrammer Corp. in Charlotte for 22 years before taking early retirement. She enjoyed dancing and won many contests. Billie enjoyed traveling, was an avid reader and was a Duke fan. She enjoyed her second home on the S.C. coast, where she enjoyed walking in the surf and kicking the sand.
Adrienne Tsantes Shelton, 60, of Charlotte attended Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral and St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte. Adrienne was president of the Daughters of Penelope Venus chapter in Charlotte. A couple of her favorite things were Wrightsville Beach and Carolina basketball.
William Samuel “Sam” Temple, 89, of Matthews spent 41 years teaching mathematics, including 32 at Central Piedmont Community College. He was a lifelong Lutheran and attended St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and Christ Lutheran in Charlotte.
Bernard “Ben” William Wenning Jr., 87, moved to Charlotte in 1978 when he became deputy chief of the tower at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, working there until his retirement. Ben was ordained as a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Charlotte in 1988 and served in that calling for 22 years. Ben was the first deacon assigned to the airport chaplaincy at the airport. He taught a class at St. Gabriel Catholic Church. He enjoyed camping, vacationing at the beach and going on cruises.
Ways of Life condensed obituaries are compiled by Darrell Horwitz, a Charlotte-based freelance writer who writes about sports, local news and restaurants. Reach him at email@example.com
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Ways of Life editor: Craig Paddock