Pastor dies while eulogizing church member

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Feb. 20, 2015 at 10:39 p.m.
Updated Feb. 20, 2015 at 11:41 p.m.

The Rev. Darryl Edwards

The Rev. Darryl Edwards    CONTRIBUTED PHOTO for The Victoria Advocate

He stood in front of an audience of more than 200 people, all gathered at Fannin Street United Methodist Church to mourn the death of Sally Bland.

Bland was a member of the church, so it was fitting that her pastor, the Rev. Darryl Edwards, eulogize her passing.

Edward's sister, Sheila Edwards, sneaked in behind the crowd.

She was late arriving to the 10 a.m. funeral service at Fannin Street. She turned around mid-drive to a physical therapy appointment, feeling called to the funeral service instead.

The door creaked as she walked inside the church, feeling guilty for a moment that the noise disturbed a quiet room.

But then her brother, the pastor, smiled, spotting her across the church.

"That's my sister," he said, excited she decided to attend Bland's funeral rather than go to her appointment.

He returned his focus moments later to a sermon about God's timing and love, mentioning that anyone, at any time, can be called to heaven.

Sheila Edwards found an open seat next to Darryl Edwards' wife, Gladys, in the choir.

"He was talking about how you need to be ready for death because you never know the day or hour," she said, discussing her brother's sermon. "And about then, it happened."

Gripping the microphone with one hand, Sheila Edwards said her brother reached his other hand to the sky and said, "God, I need your help."

That was it, she said, "He collapsed."

Edwards was pronounced dead at DeTar Hospital Navarro about 40 minutes later, taken by an ambulance that Sheila Edwards followed in her car.

"The emergency lights were turned off on the way in to Victoria. So we knew he was gone," she said.

Sheila Edwards was sitting behind her brother when he fell. She rushed to his side after the collapse and began to pray and hope.

"There was an emergency room doctor in the crowd who came forward, and he was able to detect a faint pulse," she said. "I looked in my brother's eyes, though, and I didn't see any movement. I just told myself to breathe and trust."

Darryl Wayne "Hacksaw" Edwards, who had served as pastor of Fannin Street United Methodist Church for about five years, was 55 years old.

Though raised in the church, he strayed from ministry for a time in his youth, only to return with a fervent passion for ministry in his 40s.

His love for the people of Goliad was palpable, Sheila Edwards said, and he entered every room and conversation with "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."

He spent his days working for Precinct 1 in Goliad County, and served as bi-vocational minister for Fannin Street. He also owned Hack's Backyard Barbecue, a restaurant serving up family-recipe ribs and brisket.

But whatever he did, Edwards always had ministry on the mind. Even when he was serving barbecue.

"He took care of everyone who walked in the door. If they ordered a sandwich, they'd walk out with three or four plates because he knew they'd need food for later," his sister said. "They got a sandwich and a sermon."

Much of Edwards' barbecue was served to the needy, many homeless, some economically challenged, and some friends and family of the church.

"He was always giving food away, or taking it to people who couldn't come to him," she said.

He was also involved in other ministries - a nursing home ministry, a fishing and hunting ministry for young men without fathers, and motorcycle ministry where he drove his Harley-Davidson around Goliad on Saturdays distributing literature and kind notes to passersby.

He enjoyed riding his motorcycle and strapped his Bible to the queen's throne, the bike's second seat, and drove around town to share the gospel.

"Sometimes he'd leave for a 15-minute ride, but then he'd stop and talk to people about God and end up getting home two hours later," said Edwards' brother, James Edwards, of San Antonio.

James Edwards, a music minister at San Antonio's New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, said his brother had a passion for preaching and spreading God's love like no other.

Edwards came from a long line of ministers with about six in the family either current or deceased.

"He was a man of love. He exemplified love to no end," James Edwards said, mentioning he accepted even the smallest tokens of affection from friends and strangers with grand appreciation.

Edwards also volunteered to shuttle people to church on Sunday to make sure they would attend. He was always doing favors for others, and had a knack for fixing, constructing and building things.

An avid sportsman, fisherman, and stand-out Goliad High School football player, wearing No. 72 on his jersey, Edwards was given the name Hacksaw because he was solid, strong and could endure the line.

He was also nicknamed "The Toe" for a while, for his superior kicking skills on the field.

Hacksaw stuck.

"He was Uncle Hack, Papa Hack to everybody," said Faye Moore, 33, Edwards' niece, remembering her uncle's gentle spirit even when she was a child.

Sheila Edwards said her brother was a "true example of a real man loving Christ."

When Edwards needed to be gentle, he was, and when he needed to be a male role model, tough and strong and outdoorsy - he was.

Family members agreed he shined in ministry and service to the community.

But they also said he shined as a husband to Gladys, whom he was married to for 36 years.

"He was in love with her since high school," his sister said. "I'd be comfortable saying she was his first and only love."

Since Edwards' collapse at Fannin Street on Monday, the community has reached out and mourned publicly for his loss.

But those who knew him best say Edwards died doing what he loved.

And if he had to die, they wouldn't have wanted to see him go any other way.

"He always said you never know when you're going to go, so you have got to do what's right, right now," his sister said. "His life and death is a ministry."



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