The Rev. Joseph H. Stephenson, 91, of Arab died Wednesday, March 22, 2023.
Brother Joe, as he was affectionately known, was born Aug. 8, 1931, in Ellettsville, Ind., to Paul and Kathryn Stephenson. He was married to Dean Stephenson, who preceded him in death.
Although he grew up on the farm and was expected to continue in the farm equipment business, he answered the call to pastoral ministry. He attended Anderson College in Indiana and got his degree in theology, where he also enjoyed being a cheerleader and singing in a trio with his twin sisters, Ruth and Lois.
After serving in the United States Marine Corps between 1953 and 1955, he pastured his first church in Jacksonville, N.C.
He went on to pastor churches in Huntsville and Long Beach, Calif. While living in Huntsville, he taught sixth grade at Madison Pike Elementary School from 1962-1968, where he led the sixth grade “patrol boys” in security duties and marching competitions.
He and his wife teamed up with the Rev. Jimmy and Carol Lynne Usher and started a congregation of the Church of God in the Stephenson’s family room. The team adopted the name Worship Center, and later moved to and became the Twelfth Avenue Church of God.
He also helped found the Worship Center in Albertville. At the same time he touched many lives through a counseling service called Operation Outreach.
He also began a poultry farm with six houses for the purpose of turning the profits into funds for planting churches in Alabama through Kingdom Builders. He made several mission trips, including to Nicaragua after the earthquake in 1972. He also made several trips to Honduras, where he helped initiate a program for building metal silos for poor farmers to store their grain.
He enjoyed supporting his sons on the Arab High School wrestling team and opened his home to the late Gary Louk and helped raise him from childhood through high school. He enjoyed old and classic cars, and having them restored.
In his recent years, he was well known for being Santa Claus, and spent many Christmas seasons dandling children on his knees at malls in Florida and Texas. With his grand sense of humor and a gift for poetry, he enjoyed entertaining groups with his jokes and recitations.
He is survived by his brother: Tom Stephenson; sister: Ruth Walters; three sons: Wayne Leonard, Gary Stephenson, and Joe Stephenson; 13 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his brother: Paul Jr. Stephenson; and his sisters: Lois Wrightsman and Margie Shell.
There will be a memorial service at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 2, 2023, at Twelfth Avenue Church of God, preceded by visitation beginning at 12:30 p.m. Arab Heritage Memorial Chapel is directing.
Pallbearers will be Ben Stephenson, Seth Stephenson, Garrett Stevenson, Jarod Stephenson, Brent Inkelaar, and Chris Leonard.
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