Rev. Cecil E. Gholston died peacefully, on December 27, 2013, from complications of a spinal cord injury received in a car crash last year. He was 84. He is survived by Jeanette, his wife of 61 years; his son Barry and daughter Susan (Chris Cochrane). He was preceded in death by daughter, Sheryl Ann and parents, Hugh Mayes and Mary Chrystine Gholston.
Rev. Gholston began his ministry as a teenager singing gospel music. With a beautiful, booming bass voice, he sang professionally with the Blue Ridge Quartet as a young man and as part of his ministry throughout his life.
During the Korean Conflict, he enlisted in the recently formed US Air Force. While stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, he met and married Jeanette, an Airman in the Women’s Air Force. After discharge, he completed college, seminary and was ordained as a minister.
His first pastorate was the church field of Central and Smyrna Baptist Churches in Dinwiddie County, where he was pleased to have shepherded the field to become two independent churches. He also was active in the Masons and Ruritan Club, serving as president.
In 1967 he re-entered the Air Force, serving as a chaplain, until his retirement from the Reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1989. He was awarded a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service in Viet Nam, which included work with an orphanage, a leper colony, a baptism in a Viet Cong-held lake, and the most beautiful, yet simple, Christmas candlelight service he ever experienced. Other assignments of note included serving as chaplain to the USAF Thunderbirds and the Aerospace School of Medicine.
He was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dillwyn from 1978 until his retirement in 1992, when he moved to Richmond. In 1997 he began a six week term as interim pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church. Eleven years later he retired as Pastor Emeritus, having been reinvigorated by serving as Associate Pastor, caring for seniors, mentoring seminary students and helping the church weather the challenges of an urban ministry.
Whether singing in gospel quartets or church choirs, music always was part of his life. When a San Antonio dinner theater cast member dropped out shortly before the show’s opening, he even spent a season as a very convincing “Joe,” singing “Ol’ Man River” in Kern & Hammerstein’s musical Show Boat.
There were few things he enjoyed more than good fellowship and good food. He read the newspaper daily, always doing the crossword puzzle. He watched the evening news on TV; then solved almost every puzzle on Wheel of Fortune. When Jeanette no longer could manage the grocery shopping, he became the most joyful bargain shopper ever.
In recent years, he has inspired us by caring for his wife and family. This year his optimism and determination, despite quadriplegia and numerous setbacks, has amazed us. Even when his body was failing, his humor and impish grin have shone through.
A celebration of his life will be held at 1:00 on Saturday, January 11, Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1925 Grove Avenue (at Meadow Street), Richmond, VA 23220.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a gift to: the Tabernacle Baptist Church Endowment Fund (Richmond), First Baptist Church (Dillwyn), Central Baptist Church (Church Road, VA), Smyrna Baptist Church (Dinwiddie), Paralyzed Veterans of America, or the charity of your choice.
The family would like to express their gratitude to the many people who provided care and comfort to Cecil over the past year. We especially wish to acknowledge:
Sterling Severns, and the staff and members of the Tabernacle Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Dillwyn, who have been so wonderful to pray, visit and send cards. It is so easy to take family members for granted. But your love and devotion helped us to see Cecil through your eyes and reminded us how special he is and how fortunate we have been to share his life.
Pamela Owusu-Poku and Laverne Slater, the extraordinary caregivers who made it possible for Cecil to return home. Your love and caring for him, and playful teasing, brought him great joy. We received so many positive comments from hospital staff about the quality of care you gave.
The McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury Unit & Home Team, who provided treatment to Cecil and training to Chris, Susan and our caregivers. The medical and ICU teams who provided care and comfort to Cecil, and were so thoughtful to family and friends, especially in his last days.
The talented therapists, physicians and other care providers at Sheltering Arms and Health South Rehabilitation Hospitals, who helped Cecil to regain some functionality in the months after his surgery.
Staff of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission, who allowed Susan to have an alternative work schedule so she could continue working, graciously filled in when she was absent—often on short notice, and offered concern and support throughout a very challenging year.