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John K. Stark

jk stark

31 March 1834 – 16 October 1919
Conference Cane: 1919
Age at death: 85 years, 6 months


John K. Stark

John К. Stark was born in Mexico, N.Y., March 31, 1834, and died in Grand Rapids, Mich., October 16, 1919. When but a mere child his parents migrated to Michigan, settling in Cass County, where he grew to manhood and learned those elements of success: industry, frugality, devotion and faith. His family was of English descent and early came to America and have honorable connection with the American Revolution, one of his ancestors being a general in the revolutionary army and member of the court martial who tried Major Andre. His intense patriotism was therefore inbred.

His opportunity for an education was limited in those pioneer days in Michigan, but he used the limited means at his command and made much of them. He may truly be styled a "self-made" man. He assisted his father in clearing the old farm and getting the wilds of Michigan tamed and brought under cultivation. At about the age of 21 he bought a farm for himself, purchasing a saw mill, and started to be a farmer. He lived upon the farm until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he promptly enlisted as a private in Company L, Second Michigan Cavalry. His regiment was soon ordered south and he saw many months of hard service, when he was mustered out because of disability.

He came into possession of a deep religious experience in his early years, which grew and became more intense, finally culminating in the conviction that he was called to the ministry, and in 1867 began to preach in the Methodist Episcopal Church. The following year he united with the Michigan Annual Conference and was ordained in 1869. He held some important charges, among them being Benton Harbor, Manistee, Ludington, Mt. Pleasant and Cadillac. In all of these, as in others, he left a splendid record. His delight was in his large circuits and at one time he was the Methodist preacher for one-half of Gratiot county, and again asked for the pastorate for a large area embracing the most of Mason County and the counties lying adjacent to the north and east.

Ill health required him to relinquish his work in 1894. In 1903 he entered the active ranks again and in 1905 was appointed by the governor as chaplain of the Michigan Soldier's Home at Grand Rapids, and continued in that post until 1914, when because of age he resigned and retired to his quiet home just outside the Soldiers' Home grounds.

In 1855 he was united in marriage to Eliza J. Cushing. To this union were born six children, all of whom survive him. His wife died in 1884, and again in 1885 he was united in marriage to Mrs. Helen A. Furman, who survives him in a beautiful advanced age.

His life was humble, yet splendid. He was not a self-seeker, but a self-sacrificing man. He may not have been known to fame, but throughout Michigan he will be remembered as an inspirer of hope and a sympathetic friend. In his long and useful ministry there never was a field too hard nor a pastorate unworthy of his best endeavor. There never came a murmur from his lips as to his appointment. With a smile born of an invincible faith and a perennial hope ho went forth as a gladiator, conscious of his strength, to his task and always won. He was gentle in manner, yet knew how to be severe with life's worst enemy — sin. He was simple in faith, yet strong in execution. The sunshine of his soul was always a benediction. He had the happy faculty of always seeing the silvery lining to every dark cloud.

He was buried on Saturday afternoon, October 19, in the Michigan Soldier's Home cemetery in Grand Rapids. The services were in charge of Dr. John С. Willits, who had been his pastor ever since his retirement, assisted by Revs. John A. DeGraff, J.F. Bowerman, Robert Bready, С.E. Hoag and the district superintendent, W.F. Kendrick.

- Michigan Annual Conference minutes of 1920, pp. 80-82

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