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'God took him home'

âEUR~Community pastorâEUR(TM) KeeâEUR(TM)s death mourned

âEUR~Community pastorâEUR(TM) KeeâEUR(TM)s death mourned

April 25, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Greater Campher Temple Head Deacon Robert McKoy has faith that the death of his friend, Bishop Derek Kee, is not the end.

God has great things in store for his church, McKoy said.

"The gain will exceed our loss," McKoy said, referring to Kee's death. "But, he was here for a purpose, and he accomplished his purpose - we didn't see it, but God saw it - and God took him home."

Kee, who suffered from kidney problems, died Thursday night. Greater Campher Temple celebrated Kee's 50th birthday last month, members said.

"He was the community pastor. Everybody sort of knew him and loved him," said J.T. Blake, who, like Kee, grew up in the church on Bethel Street. "He projected ... an image of realness. When you saw him, you knew he was for real."

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Kee was a 1973 graduate of South Hagerstown High School. He lived in Washington, D.C., for 16 years, but friends said Sunday he still was active at his childhood church as an evangelist and choir director. He returned to Hagerstown in 1998 and was consecrated bishop of the Third Episcopal Diocese of the King's Apostle Holiness Church of God in July 2001.

"I think that was part of his outreach," Elder Maxine Blake said, "because he was able to come back to his home, to his own church, his own people that he had grown up with."

Blake and other members said Kee ministered to anyone he could and especially identified with youth.

"That was my spiritual father, and he just trained me up," Eric Rollins said. The 18-year-old, who serves as youth minister, said he looked up to Kee.

"It's a tough one, you know, but God's in control," Rollins said Sunday as friends of Kee clustered near the front of the church after services.

McKoy and other elders will serve in Kee's absence until a new pastor is named, Senior Bishop Wilbert L. Baltimore said. The church also will consecrate a new bishop for the diocese, which includes three churches in Western and Central Maryland and Baltimore.

A period of mourning for Kee will last 60 days, said Baltimore, the international presiding prelate of the King's Apostle Holiness Church of God.

On Sunday, black bunting stretched across the entrance of Greater Campher Temple, and a black robe worn by Kee was draped across his seat near the lectern at the front of the church.

Kee wanted to be a preacher since he was a boy of 5 or 6, his older sister said.

"He used to stand on this great big rock in the yard and pretend he was a preacher," Darlene Kee-Cooper said.

While Kee preached, his younger sister sang spirituals.

"Lo and behold, who could believe he would become a preacher when he got older?" Kee-Cooper asked.

Both Kee-Cooper, 62, and her sister, Lynn Hill, 48, survive. Kee-Cooper is an elder at the church; Hill lives in Oklahoma.

The church will be open Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. for those wishing to pay their respects to Kee. The funeral is Friday at 11 a.m., Kee-Cooper said.

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