The Rev. William Harris Lawson has gone on to join his beloved wife, Barbara, in their heavenly home after passing away from COVID-19 on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Rochester.
The Rev. Will was born in Indianapolis, on Jan. 23, 1931, to William Malcolm James Lawson and Thelma Irene (Brown) Lawson.
On Feb. 3, 1951, he married Barbara L. Tridle two years after graduation from Carmel High School. Barbara preceded him in death in 2001 after more than 50 years of marriage. Both were convinced that their life together was planned by God from their very beginning.
The Rev. Will is survived by his children, Lynn Fritz, Goshen, Loretta Lawson, Wawaka, and the Rev. Bill Lawson (Cheryl), Benton, Ky.; grandchildren Tony Fritz (Holly), Dania Cueto (Walter), Kelly Weaver (Mark), and Ryan Hodges (Jennifer); 11 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.
The Rev. Will and Barbara were preceded in death by several special pets including Addie Advent Lawson who was Will’s loving companion after Barbara’s death.
The Rev. Will attended Butler University, Earlham College, Anderson University, Princeton University and Ball State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science, majoring in history with a minor in psychology while also earning a social workers certificate. He served an internship in psychological counseling at Logansport State Hospital. The Rev. Will earned a Master of Divinity at Christian Theological Seminary. In addition, he was awarded a certificate in international ecumenical affairs from Mansfield College, Oxford University, Oxford, England.
He served four years in the Indiana National Guard as a communication sergeant, attended army officers training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and served the Air Force as a chaplain major.
He entered the Methodist ministry in June 1960 and was ordained an elder in May 1970. He assisted the church merger with the EUB church in 1968, serving in the areas of church relations to hospitals, homes, stewardship, building and location and nominations.
He was a delegate to the United Nations representing the Methodist Church during the Nicaragua crisis. His record of service in Indiana Methodist and United Methodist churches included: Fairview, Albany Bethel, Perkinsville, Beall’s Chapel, New Burlington, Anderson Bethel, Fort Wayne Broadway, Fort Wayne First Wayne Street, Gaston, Fort Wayne South Wayne, York, Gas City, Otterbein, Mentone, Talma, Webb Chapel, Ebenezer, Burton and Richland Center.
Following retirement in 1993, he served several churches as interim pastor and as a certified mentor to those seeking ministerial credentials in the United Methodist Church and was the Pastor Emeritus of Rochester Trinity United Methodist Church. He was certified with the United Methodist Church and U.S. Air Force as a chaplain with the rank of major.
He served as a counselor at Logansport State Hospital, ambulance driver and staff chaplain at Anderson Community Hospital. As chaplain at the Kosciusko County Hospital, he served as disaster post trauma counselor for the hospital, EMS, police and firemen. He also was a consultant for the Handbook of the Indiana State Police Academy.
The Rev. Will and Barb traveled and studied in the former Eastern Soviet Bloc, Western Europe, the Far East, Western Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, Central America, Canada and even the United States. They also hosted trips to the Holy Land and Europe and arranged continued education trips for the former Wesleyan Methodist Church Marion College.
The Rev. Will’s first major travels were for Ball State University to establish continued education programs in eight Western Europe cities. While traveling in Scotland and England, they were able to trace Will’s ancestors back to the Third Century and spend time overnight in a York, England, parsonage owned by the Primitive Methodist Church, whose founder was a Rev. Wm. Lawson. Another famous person in the family line is Alfred W. Lawson, founder of Lawsonomy, Direct Credit Society, Lawsonomy University and the inventor and manufacturer of the first airliner.
The Rev. Will was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame, honoring the Lawson Aircraft Co. He was a private, instrument rated airplane pilot and a retired major of the U.S. Air Force attached to the Civil Air Patrol specializing in search and rescue. He was the former state chaplain of the Air Force Association, former treasurer and board member of the Lawrence D. Bell Aircraft Museum, a former member of the Mentone Flying Club and the Bell Chapter of the Air Force Association.
The Rev. Will was an active member in the Lions Clubs International and served as club president, zone chairman, vice governor, district governor, state membership development chairman, Indiana International Commission chairman and president of the board of trustees of Indiana University Cancer Control. He is the recipient of the International Lions President Certificate of Appreciation for Humanitarian Efforts and is a Melvin Jones Fellow. He traveled with his parade race car for the Indiana Racing Lions. He was a former officer in the Kiwanis, Optimists, Rotarians, DeMolay and Young Republicans. He was a member of the Carmel Masonic Lodge, Carmel Order of the Eastern Star, Anderson York Rite and Indianapolis Valley of Scottish Rite.
The Rev. Will and Barbara designed, built and retired to their dream home in Gregory Farm Village in Rochester. He was the organizer and president of the Gregory Farm Village Neighborhood Association. He was a member of the Rochester RSVP and board of directors of the Fulton County Council on Aging. At his 75th birthday celebration, the mayor proclaimed his birthday as Rev. Will Lawson Sr. Day in Rochester.
A family graveside service will be on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at the Masonic Garden of The Oaklawn Memorial Gardens, Indianapolis, at 2 p.m. A celebration of life service will be held at a later date due to COVID-19 restrictions.