Rev. John L. Gilbert

Published 8:06 am Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Rev. John Lewis Gilbert of Hammond passed away at age 92 on Jan. 11, 2015, in a Hammond health care facility.

Born in Shreveport to the Rev. Martin J. and Pearl Lewis Gilbert, the Rev. Gilbert graduated from Hammond High, Mississippi College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1942-45, the Rev. Gilbert served on active duty in the U.S. Navy (Air Corps). His unit was first stationed in Dutch Guyana, South America, where he was radioman/navigator/gunner on a PV 1. Their bombers hunted German U-Boats prowling in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. His unit was then transferred to the Aleutian Islands, where many bombing runs were made over Japan until the end of the war. Several close brushes with death signaled to Gilbert that “God was trying to tell me something,” and he answered the call to Christian ministry. Called back to duty during the Korean Conflict, he was chaplain to a Seabee unit during the building of the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He spent the next 30 years as Naval Reserve Chaplain attached to Marine units in New Orleans and Shreveport, retiring with the rank of commander. Next to God and his family, he was most proud of serving his country in the Navy.

The Rev. Gilbert is survived by one sister, Mary Elizabeth (Mrs. Charles) Ray of Carrollton, Miss.; and four children; Pete (Cheryl) of Fayetteville, Ark., J (Barbara) of Bryson City, N.C., Mark (Shelia) of Amite and Cindy Ferrara (David) of Albany, La.; 14 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

The Gilberts also “adopted” several other children that they had met while traveling on the foreign mission field. Fatima Lima Garcia is one example. They met her as a teenager in Brazil, invited her to the United States to live with them and provided her with a college education. Following her graduation she returned to Brazil to serve as missionary/minister there.

The Rev. Gilbert was preceded in death by a grandson, Seth Lavigne; his wife of 67 years, Betty Dicken Gilbert; his brothers, J.T. and James Pascal Gilbert; and his parents.

The Rev. Gilbert served over 65 years in the gospel ministry. He was pastor at numerous churches in Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina and served as director of associational missions for Southern Baptists in New Orleans, Shreveport and the Florida Parishes. In 1982 he was recognized by the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board as the outstanding director of missions in the eastern half of the United States. The Rev. Gilbert was recognized, by his peers as an outstanding leader among Louisiana Baptists, starting churches and new ministries and leading numerous volunteer mission trips. He was particularly skilled at mentoring young ministers from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as they served some of the small rural churches in the Florida Parishes. Many veteran ministers in Louisiana can remember a time when “Bro. John” assisted them through a difficult time or gave them a welcome helping hand.

With John L’s deep roots in Washington Parish, growing up at Enon and Isabel, the Gilberts chose Franklinton as their retirement home. They leave behind many cherished friends and their beloved church, First Baptist. In lieu of flowers, memorials are requested to be made to First Baptist Church of Franklinton.

Crain Funeral Home of Franklinton is assisting the family with arrangements. Services will be Saturday, Jan. 17, at First Baptist Church Franklinton. Visitation will be 1 to 3 p.m., with the funeral beginning at 3 p.m. Burial will follow in the Ellis Cemetery.