For 62 years, dating back to 1950, Herschel Chapman Sr. taught Sunday school at St. John Baptist Church in Buffalo, still teaching his adult classes until last month, even after he took sick.
But that was only one of many hats that Deacon Chapman wore at the church, now located on Goodell Street. He also served as chairman of the Deacon Board, chairman of the Trustee Ministry and Sunday school superintendent, among other roles.
Deacon Chapman, the patriarch of a large religious family, died Wednesday in his Buffalo home after a brief illness. He was 92.
Family members say the deacon, a church member since 1941, was instrumental in the growth of the church, now one of the largest and most influential Baptist congregations in Western New York. He also served all three pastors of the 85-year-old church, including the current pastor, his son, the Rev. Michael Chapman.
A Georgia native, Deacon Chapman was a World War II veteran, serving as staff sergeant in the Army's 537th Unit. Stationed in England and France, he was honorably discharged in 1945.
Deacon Chapman had several other careers, operating his own barber shop in his East Utica Street home, working as a steel molder for Dresser Industries for 35 years and later driving a library truck for the Buffalo Board of Education.
His wife of 56 years, the former Irene Salter, died in 2004.
Survivors include three sons, Stephen, the Rev. Herschel Jr. and the Rev. Michael; and one daughter, Marilyn Chapman-Allison.
Services will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in St. John Baptist Church, 184 Goodell St., Buffalo.