ANDERSON — Leigh Crockett had an impact on the lives of hundreds of people he came in contact with over the 30 years he spent as pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Anderson. But after his 61 years on Earth, Crockett departed with the knowledge that each of his four sons would pass on what he taught them.
And Crockett’s oldest son Josh, who will now take over as head pastor at the church, felt that was his father’s greatest accomplishment.
Crockett lost a nearly seven-year bout with various cancers in his brain, lungs, kidney and stomach on Wednesday at IU Simons Cancer Center in Indianapolis. Despite the significant deterioration in his health over the past year, family members said he was still there at every service at the church he helped to establish, right until the end.
Josh joked that even under the powerful painkiller morphine, his father was still more eloquent than any of the other pastors at the church.
Crockett’s death prompted dozens of posts containing kind words from followers on his Facebook page. Community and state leaders like Mayor Kevin Smith and Gov. Mike Pence sent consoling messages to the family.
“The State of Indiana has lost a tremendous leader, but we are reassured in knowing that his legacy will live on through those touched by his ministry,” read a prepared statement from Pence on Wednesday.
Friends and family described Crockett as passionate about helping others and devoted to his religion.
Kevin Plew, a member of the pastoral staff under Crockett and administrator of the Indiana Christian Academy that is associated with Grace Baptist, said he owes his career path to Crockett. He first met Crockett in 1984 when Plew was a sixth-grader, and they were close until Crockett’s death.
Plew said children, in particular, would flock to Crockett after church services. As a very strong man while in his prime, Crockett would pick up children who ran his way. Sometimes he would stay at the church for hours after services, talking to whomever needed to be heard.
“He was there for people. You couldn’t help but be close to him. He would drop everything to be there for you when you needed him,” Plew said.
Crockett leaves behind his wife, Beth, and their four children: Josh, who will move into the lead pastoral role at the church; Nathan, who teaches theology at Bob Jones University; Isaac, who’s a senior pastor at a church in Hamburg, Pa.; and Luke, who will soon travel to the Ivory Coast to begin a ministry. When Crockett first began his bout with cancer in 2006, he had no grandchildren. When he died on Wednesday, he had eight grandchildren, with three more on the way.
Crockett’s sons said some of their fondest memories were at the family’s longtime home on Van Buskirk Road, which overlooks the White River.
“His house was somewhat like a cottage. It was a magical place,” Josh Crockett said. “It was filled with keepsakes he had collected from different missions around the world. He had antique books he would read to the kids. He was a wonderful grandfather.
“We’re going to miss his shepherd’s heart.”
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