World War II veteran, 83, devoted his life to preaching

Published February 16, 2007

EGYPT LAKE - Lloyd Garmon was a young minister just back from World War II when he came to Tampa in 1949 to help start a new Baptist church.

He was supposed to fill in until a permanent pastor could take over.

More than a half century later, he was still there.

"He pastored there for 55 years," said his daughter, Carolyn Hankins. "He retired in 2004. He liked to joke that he was still just filling in."

Garmon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2005. He passed away Feb. 9, 2007, at age 83.

"The doctors said it was one of the most painful kinds of cancer you could have," said his wife, Mildred Garmon. "He tried not to let it show, but I could see he was in a lot of pain."

Garmon had devoted himself to Drew Park Baptist Church, now called Gateway Baptist Church, since its inception. Its original building was an old Army barracks donated by a benefactor.

"He brought a lot of people to the Lord," his daughter said. "A lot of young men were called to be preachers and missionaries because of him. He was in the VA for two months, and even there brought three men to the Lord."

Garmon was born and raised in Concord, N.C., and accepted Christ as his savior in 1939, when he was 16 years old. By the end of that year, Hankins said, he wanted to devote his life to preaching.

He earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Bible Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, shortly before the United States entered World War II. He could have avoided military service by being ordained before he enlisted, but he felt it was God's will that he fight for his country.

So he was ordained shortly after he enlisted, but before he shipped out. He and Mildred were married just a few weeks before he left for two years of duty, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and other major battles. He was just 19 years old when he married and went to war.

"They'd be lying in the foxholes with the buzz bombs going by and the other men would ask him how he could be so calm," Hankins said. "He just told them that he knew he was saved, he knew that if he died he was going to be with the Lord, so everything was alright."

He was promoted to corporal, but refused further promotions because he wanted to maintain close bonds with his fellow enlisted men. That way, he could keep witnessing to them, Hankins said.

When he came home, he was associate pastor at churches in Alabama and Texas before he came to Tampa and started the church in Drew Park.

During services, while his wife played piano, Garmon would often create large chalk drawings to illustrate his sermons. He used fluorescent chalk, a black light and other effects so the scenes he drew would change from day to night, with stars and flowing candles seeming to magically appear.

"He would be called by other churches to do revival meetings, and they would give the drawing to the person who brought the most people," Hankins said.

Although he was known for his sense of humor, Garmon devoted his life to only two things: God and his family.

"He loved the Lord first and his family second," Hankins said. "But he raised us to love the Lord, too, so we looked at that as an honor."

Besides his wife and daughter, Garmon is survived by his son Lloyd, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a brother.