Clarence Eugene "Gene" Atkins
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Reverend Gene Atkins, 84, Raytown, MO passed away Wednesday, April 10, 2013. A memorial service will be held at 2pm Monday, April 15, at Country Club United Methodist Church in Kansas City where he was an active member the last 22 years. Family visitation will be 4 to 6pm Sunday, April 14 at CCUMC. If you wish to make a memorial gift, the family suggests contributions to Country Club UMC, Blue Ridge Blvd UMC, or King's Way UMC.
Gene was born near St. Joseph, MO on April 23, 1928, the only child of Harold and Opal Round Atkins. He graduated from Northeast High School in Kansas City, his youthful achievements having included Eagle Scout (Tribe of Mic-O-Say), Commandant of ROTC, and President of the Methodist Youth Council of the denomination's South Central Jurisdiction. While attending the University of Kansas he was appointed to serve the Sugar Creek Methodist Church near Kansas City. After graduating with a BA in Speech & Drama from KU, he sought to explore his call to the ministry by enrolling at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. There he was inspired by Dr. Claude Thompson whom he followed to the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. While a student at SMU he served a rural three-point charge and as associate pastor at the 4,700-member Tyler Street Methodist Church. He also met and married a fine arts student, Sydney Ann Shumate, with whom he would share the next 62 years of life, love and ministry. After both graduated from SMU, Gene enrolled at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. After receiving his Master of Theology, he returned to Missouri where he was appointed to start a new congregation in Springfield. Beginning with 33 charter members, the King's Way United Methodist Church became the focus of Gene's ministry for the next 27 years - reaching over 1,400 members in 1981 when the denominational conference required Gene to move to its then largest church, Blue Ridge Blvd UMC in Kansas City where he served until retirement in 1990. In 1987 he was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Central Methodist College, and the Blue Ridge Blvd congregation later established the Gene & Sydney Ann Atkins Hall of Sponsors Scholarship, also at CMC in his honor. Among his most meaningful and rewarding professional legacies are the numerous men and women who he mentored into the professional Christian ministry.
Gene also took great pleasure in service beyond the local church and in the community. Recognized by the Springfield Jaycees in 1963 as Young Man of the Year, he served as president of numerous civic organizations, municipal committees, social service agencies, charities and church-related organizations in Springfield and Kansas City and at the state and national levels. He was a life member of the alumni associations of the University of Kansas and Southern Methodist University.
A passionate teacher, he was a pioneer in the use of radio and television and was chosen to host a television series in the 1960s titled "Breakthru" produced by the UM Church in Nashville and released in the US and Canada. He was a scholar of Christian theology, Methodism and the history of many subjects - often delighting in the serendipity - or providence - evident in lives and events. A personal example was his own attendance at the two uniting conferences of the Methodist Church - as a boy in 1939 in Kansas City and in 1968 in Dallas.
A devoted and beloved son, husband, father, and grandfather, Gene's capacity for undaunted optimism and for humor - corny, irreverent, irrepressible - in the midst of all the hills and valleys of life were defining characteristics. He took immense pride and joy in his children and grandchildren - who were also favorite subjects for his photography. His abilities as a handyman earned him the family moniker "The Fix-it Up Chappy" - a reference to a character in the Dr. Seuss story "The Sneetches" - which he once read in its entirety from the pulpit one Sunday morning.
He was blessed with robust physical health, a nimble mind, a generous spirit, and a loving heart all the days of his life. His sudden exit due to a brain aneurysm was merciful though shockingly painful for all who knew and loved him so dearly. Our comfort lies in that faith he proclaimed all his life and expressed in a sermon delivered just a few months ago: "…the secret to all power and gladness lies in 3 words "CHRIST IN ME" and that union with Christ is not something we have to achieve by effort, but something we have to accept by faith."
He is survived by his wife, Sydney Ann Atkins, and by his sons and daughters-in-law, Daniel and Kimberly Atkins, Dallas, TX, and David and Emilie Atkins, Columbia, MO. He is survived also by his six grandchildren Sarah, Katie, Danny, Ben, Andy, and Jack.
Published in the News-Leader on Apr. 14, 2013