The Homewood Star
B6 • May 2015
From pulpits and note pads Bill Gunn’s legacy remains in word and deed By MADOLINE MARKHAM During his last three days of life in late March, Bill Gunn couldn’t speak, but his writing could. His wife, Betty, three children and eight grandchildren poured through countless words in stacks of his yellow legal pads. Often the grandchildren would come across stories they had never heard before. “It was such a beautiful experience,” Bill’s daughter Amelia Spencer said. For his grandchildren, he had bound a set of stories about them and himself about five years ago. Together they held a private book signing for The Grandfather Book, as it became known. Writing had become his primary ministry after retirement, Betty said. Bill, a United Methodist minister, served at Oakmont United Methodist from 1983-90, during which time their youngest child, Catherine, graduated from Homewood High School. Catherine and their other children, Amelia Spencer and William Gunn Jr., ended up living in Homewood with their families, so he
and Betty moved back when he retired in 2000. From that point on he and Betty taught Sunday school and Bible studies at Canterbury United Methodist Church until six weeks before his passing at age 78. Most of his career, Bill had moved from church to church in the North Alabama Conference about every four years. At each stop along the way, he would preach the same sermon his first Sunday and last Sunday. “If I only had one sermon to preach, I believe I’d preach on grace, God’s grace, marvelous grace, amazing grace,” he would say, amending the message slightly each time. “I am absolutely convinced that the only hope for the salvation of this world is grace.” Also in retirement Bill studied the faith of U.S. presidents and gave presentations on the topic. Since finishing his history degree at Birmingham-Southern College, he had been collecting books on the presidents, at least one on each leader. Together with Betty, a high school English teacher, they would always beat
Bill Gunn, right, with his wife, Betty, lived in Homewood after retiring from serving as a minister.
everyone else in their family at Trivial Pursuit. Outside of his ministry, Bill loved University of Alabama basketball, the Homewood Patriot Band and spending time with his grandchildren. Because they all live in Homewood, he saw his grandchildren — Graham, Liza Mary Virginia, Isaias and James Spencer; and Wesley, Griffin and Caleb Walker — once or twice a week, and even the two oldest, who are now students at
Birmingham-Southern (where Bill and Betty met as did their daughters and their husbands), dropped in for dinner with their grandparents. From childhood, Bill suffered from juvenile arthritis and later spinal osteoarthritis that affected his breathing, but he never talked about it. Spencer said she never heard him complain until about two weeks before his death, even as he and Betty spent a week at Camp Sumatanga every summer for 32
years working with campers with intellectual challenges. Bill never cared to use email and only turned on his cell phone for emergencies. “I like my pen and my yellow ledger tablet,” he would say. He left two filing cabinets filled with sermons he had written, on yellow ledger paper of course. “There are not many people now who have that much that a [loved one] has written,” Betty said.
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