Freak accident claims life of retired pastor

March 24, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

The day before he was killed in a freak car accident outside his Clear Spring home Saturday, the Rev. Robert Eugene Timmons Sr. was asked if he was continuing to do "the Lord's work" since retiring as a pastor in 2001.

He was, Timmons told Jim Welch, owner of the Country Deli in Clear Spring where the conversation took place.

Timmons, 73, pastor of Mount Calvary Church of God for more than 50 years, said that in February he had made 550 church-related visits, including going to hospitals and homes to see local people from his and other congregations, Welch said.

Timmons said he planned to see even more people this month, Welch said.

"I still do the Lord's work. I will do that for the rest of my life," Welch quoted Timmons as saying.


At 2:12 p.m. Saturday, Timmons was declared dead from injuries he received in an 11:19 a.m. accident at the intersection of Martin Street and Cumberland Street, which is also U.S. 40.

Maryland State Police troopers allege the driver of a 1995 Dodge Neon, identified as Loren Elliott Shaw, 31, of Artemas, Pa., was heading east on Cumberland Street and went through a red light. Shaw's car hit the driver's side of a 1987 Chevrolet Suburban, driven by Raymond Clyde Patterson, 76, of Hagerstown, who was going north on Martin Street, police said.

The impact pushed the Suburban onto the sidewalk and into the corner of Timmons' brick home, striking Timmons, police said.

"He just happened to be standing on the sidewalk," Sgt. Steven McCarty said.

Shaw, who was not injured, was charged with reckless driving, negligent driving and running a red light, said lead investigator Trooper J.D. Crawford.

Patterson was treated at Washington County Hospital for minor injuries and released.

While Cumberland Street was closed for several hours, accident reconstructionists used bright orange spray paint to mark the places where each car came to rest. A square was drawn around one skid mark in the middle of the intersection.

Welch and others in the community praised Timmons for his character and actions.

"We lost another icon," Clear Spring Councilwoman Julianna Albowicz said Saturday. Another community leader, her husband, Clear Spring Councilman Bill Albowicz, died in late 2002.

Timmons was loved by many in the community, she said.

"He is certainly, and always will be, a spiritual and guiding member of the community," she said.

"I do not think people come better than him," Clear Spring Councilman Mason Mundey said.

When Mundey's son was having medical problems, Timmons would come by and visit him three or four times a week even though they belonged to a different church, Mundey said.

"He was the finest fellow I know," said Ted Hovermale, owner of Clear Spring Hardware. Hovermale has been a member of Timmons' church for about six years.

"He was a great all-around man. He was just down-to-earth," Hovermale said. "He knew everyone. That man visited everyone than anyone knows."

If you mentioned to Timmons that you had a relative in a hospital in Harrisburg, Pa., or Pittsburgh, he would drive and visit that person even though they did not know each other, Hovermale said.

While at hospitals to see one patient, Timmons often would be stopped and asked to see other patients while there and would do so without protest, Hovermale said.

Clyde Hardin, who took over as pastor after Timmons retired, said he marvels at the amount of people Timmons visited each month.

"He is one of the most visiting pastors I have ever met," he said. "I think he is a great fellow."

Most pastors visit, at most, 100 people a month, he said. Hardin said he does not keep track of how many people he visits.

Timmons is from a different time when the way to grow the size of a church was through visiting people, Hardin said.

In addition to the generosity of his time and character, Timmons was known for being quick with a joke to put people at ease, town residents said.

"He would always have something humorous to say. Maybe he felt a laugh a day would keep the doctor away," Albowicz said.

David Wiles, president of the Clear Spring District Historical Association, said Timmons would sometimes claim he tried to get a free meal at a fast food restaurant, pleading: "I am just a poor preacher."

Then Timmons would provide the punch line:

"I know," he would say the cashier replied. "I have heard you preach."

Timmons started the church around 1948, with just two people meeting in a storefront in Clear Spring. The church grew and changed locations, eventually to a site atop a picturesque hill west of Clear Spring in 1972.

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