Friends say Rev. Charles P. McDonald, a longtime resident of Conway and a former visitation pastor at First United Methodist Church, was known as much for his fun-loving nature away from the pulpit as well as the inspirational messages from it.
“Whenever you were around him, there was always laughter,” said Sue Jones, a longtime friend who introduced him to Lois, his wife of 62 years.
McDonald, who served 10 Methodist Churches in Arkansas (including two terms at First United Methodist Church), died Thursday at age 86.
“He was a kind and caring person, which made him an outstanding minister,” said the Rev. Frank Jones, a fellow minister and a frequent companion to church conferences. “He was a listening person. He paid attention to other people and what they were saying.
“He was loved in churches all across Arkansas, loved all over. He tried to retire about a half-dozen times until it got to the point he just couldn’t do it any more.”
The kindness gravitated to his sense of humor.
During one gathering at his home, he told visitors he had a wide choice of ice cream desserts and asked the guests if they preferred vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan or strawberry.
He actually had only vanilla ice cream. But when he served the dessert, those who asked for chocolate got vanilla ice cream with a chocolate chip on top. Those who asked for butter pecan got vanilla ice cream with topped with a single pecan and a pat of butter. Those who asked for strawberry were served vanilla with a strawberry on top.
McDonald had six sons.
“And his sons excelled in a half dozen different professions,” said Jones.
“He had that amazing ability to connect with people,” said Tom McDonald, one of his sons and a former Log Cabin editor who edits a newspaper in New Mexico. “He loved everybody and he wanted to know about everybody. He might forget a name or two every once in awhile, but he was a minister to the very end. At the assisted living facility (in North Little Rock), in which he stayed only a few months, I understand all the workers and folks loved him. He really touched just about everyone he came in contact with.”
Sam Teague of Conway, another Methodist minister, served alongside McDonald when both were superintendents of in the North Arkansas Conference and Little Rock Conference of the Methodist Church. They were also close friends and their families were dinner companions.
“He was a kind and gentle person,” Teague said. “But he was a person who was very opinionated was very concerned about justice issues, both within the church and society. He was one of the first persons to confront Hendrix College about becoming integrated back in the day. He was also one of the who was a driving force in starting the Conway Interfaith Clinic.”
But he also recalled McDonald’s sense of humor.
“He was fun to be around,” Teague said. “He loved people. He loved to connect with people. He liked to be around people and just have fun.”
“He always told us, in his usual joking manner, that ‘my humility is my greatest quality,’” Tom McDonald fondly recalled.