Beloved Pastor Howard Gordy dies after tragic City Park fall

After Howard Gordy Jr. took a nasty fall, a tumble at City Park that made his brain bleed and shattered his hip, he recognized his children, but couldn’t say their names.

“So, I started to sing because that’s what I do when I’m stressed. I sing. And he sang with us and he knew every word,” his daughter, Vicki Gordy-Stith said.

Together, their voices joined for “This Little Light of Mine,” her deceased brother’s favorite song.

That led to old-time favorites like “How Great Thou Art” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Eighty-two-year-old Gordy, a well-known pastor  appreciated for his true loving goodness, knew every word.

After that fall on June 4, doctors at Peninsula Regional Medical Center transferred the former pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church to Shock Trauma in Baltimore, for surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.

Pain medication was given and was never alert again, his daughter said.

He fell trying to help someone, as was so typical of him. A car lost control near the South Park Drive home he shared with his wife of 54 years, Beverly, and clamored down the embankment near Picnic Island at City Park. The pastor walked over the incline to see if anybody was injured, and somehow fell.

The driver was fine, but Gordy was taken away from the scene in a wheelchair, then transported to the hospital. He died one week later, on June 11.

He had remained active, walking every day with his wife and practicing tai chi. He had diabetes and in recent years had stents inserted, but was generally healthy and active, still volunteering, always reading.

“His intellectual curiosity was so broad,” his daughter said, remembering his books about a variety of topics, from how the brain functions to meditation.

A graduate of the University of Michigan and Yale Divinity School, he was born in Salisbury, the son of a pharmacist who owned Gordy’s Drug Store. During his career, he led worship services at The Holly Center and helped start Salisbury Urban Ministries, which ran a food pantry and God’s Kitchen.

“He wanted to always draw the circle wider and bring people in,” his daughter said.

Open-minded and inclusive, he served in the 1960s in Wilmington, Del., as pastor of an early integrated church. Once, when racists spray painted epithets, Gordy and the associate pastor, who was African-American, joined hands and posed for a picture of solidarity in front of those ugly words, before covering them with fresh paint.

They  weren’t going to respond with violence, but neither would they have their beliefs shaken.

His wife is remembering him a wonderful husband who was caring and devoted, who spoiled her but died too soon.

“I think he’s kind of a hero,” for rushing to help those in the car, she said.

“I think he’ll be remembered  for his inclusiveness. He could talk to anybody — young, old, black, white – and he was genuine,” she said.

Gordy-Stith agreed, saying, “He accepted people for who they were.”

His granddaughter Joy, now 20, said her grandfather was “the closest to heaven we will ever get.”

Gordy-Stith  remembered him teaching her how to ride a bike. Instead of attaching training wheels, he ran beside the bicycle as she pedaled and they talked.

Eventually she realized he wasn’t holding on and she fell. “I don’t know why you fell. You were riding all by yourself,” he told his little girl, who, along with her sister, Laurie Gordy and brother Howard III, grew to admire him as a mentor and fine example. Brother Howard, who was developmentally disabled, lived at home with his parents until his death in 2012.

At his funeral Saturday, June 20, at 11 a.m. at Trinity, the Biblical love passage from I Corinthians 13 will be read. “It’s about all the things he was,” his daughter said.

“My father was so gentle and strong and loving. He let love guide his decisions and he let love guide his life.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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