Timothy Irwin Alexander Sr. was a preacher and leader with a heart for people.
The pastor emeritus of Florence Baptist Church at Mt. Zion led the congregation through its growth from a smaller church building in the center of Florence to today's on top of a ""mount"" on Mount Zion Road. The impressive building's bright lights stand out like a beacon overlooking I-71/75, welcoming members and greeting passersby.
""Pastor Tim was a larger-than-life human. He was one of those people who leaves an imprint on you,"" said his friend Roger Griggs of Union. ""He was the visionary, and his insight led us to that property. He's left us with a legacy.""
Mr. Alexander died Wednesday at his Union home from complications of melanoma. He was 69.
""His primary hobby was loving people and telling them about Jesus,"" said his son, Tim Alexander Jr. of Walton. ""Being a minister was not only a vocation, but his passion.
""He would say, 'People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.'""
Growing up in Strawberry Plains, Tenn., Mr. Alexander learned about the importance of caring through his loving and faithful parents, James Irwin and Opal Alexander. He was the oldest of five children.
The family lived in an old smokehouse on a farm. After fire destroyed the smokehouse, the family made their new home in an old school bus. The creek running beside the bus was used as a refrigerator.
""My dad used to say, 'We were so poor, you had to spell it with three Os and four Rs,' "" his son said. ""He said he didn't realize the family was poor until he went to work in the city.""
Mr. Alexander graduated from Carter High School in East Tennessee and then married his high school sweetheart, George Ann Chesney.
He immediately found work with Alcoa Tennessee Operations. He worked with the company for eight years, until his heart started feeling a nudge. Mr. Alexander was 26 when he felt God calling him to the ministry.
He moved with his wife and growing family to Bolivar, Mo., where he graduated from Southwest Baptist College. He continued his education at the Baptist Bible Institute in Graceville, Fla.
He received his master's degree from Xavier University and an honorary doctorate degree from the Baptist Bible Institute.
His first pastorate was at Towering Oaks Baptist Church in Greenville, Tenn. In 1984, he was called to Florence Baptist Church.
He was a trustee on the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and helped found Hope Ministries of Northern Kentucky to help the homeless and hopeless.
His friend Griggs said he was a pilot who loved to fly. He liked looking down on the earth from God's perspective. Problems seemed smaller, he said.
At times, Mr. Alexander helped people who couldn't afford plane fares by flying them wherever they needed to go.
""What is he really like?"" people often asked his son, who didn't realize until he was older, that some people acted one way in public and another way in private. ""My father was the same. He was the same in the pulpit as he was on vacation. He was the same at the Reds game as he was at home,"" his son said.
Mr. Alexander's sister, Sandy Vesser, died previously.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, George Ann Alexander; daughters Aminda Ann Powell of Knoxville, Tenn., Molly Senger and Julianna Shehan, both of Union; brothers Michael Alexander and Tommy Alexander, both of Strawberry Plains, Tenn.; a sister, Anita Eslinger, of Strawberry Plains, Tenn.; and 14 grandchildren.
A service was held Sunday at the church. Stith Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
Burial will be in Trentville Cemetery, Strawberry Plains, Tenn.
Memorials: Hope Ministries at Florence Baptist Church at Mt. Zion, 642 Mt. Zion Road, Florence, KY 41042.
Online condolences to www.stithfuneralhomes.com.
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Published in the Kentucky Enquirer from Dec. 13 to Dec. 14, 2013