Dec. 18, 1934 — Jan. 23, 2019
The Rev. Dr. Charles F. Lamb used sermons to address his congregations.
But he used his frequent letters to the editor and "My View" columns published in The Buffalo News to reach a much wider audience.
His personal columns were droll, homespun musings about such topics as the joys of learning Spanish, the challenges of loud music in restaurants and the antics of his beloved chocolate Labrador retriever, Izzy. His letters were focused on the issues of the day that most compelled him – welcoming refugees, protecting the environment and living a life of spirit-filled joy.
"When we'd go out, people would recognize him from the columns," said his wife of 40 years, Betty J. Lamb.
The Rev. Lamb, of Youngstown, died Jan. 23, 2019, at Niagara Hospice House in Lockport after a yearlong illness. He was 84.
He was born in Maryville, Tenn., the only child of Charles F. and Sadie (Tedder) Lamb. His father was a sanitarian who inspected agricultural facilities.
The Rev. Lamb graduated cum laude from Maryville College with a bachelor's degree in 1956, from the Graduate Seminary of Phillips University with a Master of Divinity degree in 1961, and from New York Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1990.
He was ordained in 1961 in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and moved to New York in 1961 to work at East Aurora Christian Church for a decade.
From 1971 to 1975, he was associate regional minister of the Disciples of Christ in the Northeast, which included New York, New England and New Jersey. From 1975 to 1998, he was regional minister.
He received mutual standing in the United Church of Christ in the 1970s. "He was very ecumenical-minded," said his wife. "He believed that if all churches worked together, wonders could be done."
The Rev. Lamb retired in 1998 but continued to work as assistant to the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown. In 2017, he was interim pastor at Payne Avenue Christian Church in North Tonawanda. He worked as an adjunct professor in the Religion Department of Niagara University from 1998 to 2004.
On Dec. 29, 1979, in Niagara Falls, he married Betty J. Zimmerman. She is retired from the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara Falls.
He was an elected village trustee in East Aurora, and was chairman of the College of Regional Ministers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The Rev. Lamb was active in environmental affairs, serving on the executive committee of both the Niagara Group of the Sierra Club and of Residents for Responsible Government in Youngstown, which in the mid-2000s lobbied against expansion of CWM Waste Management. In 1999, he served on the Restoration Advisory Board for the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works site.
In a 2002 letter to the editor, the Rev. Lamb wrote on what would become a frequent theme, protecting the environment. He wrote, "Many Scriptures emphasize that humans have a responsibility to care for the creation. ... A pure mountain stream, a sunset in a clear sky, or a healthy forest all speak to our souls of the importance of preserving our earthly home."
He resembled an older Abraham Lincoln, although he was a few inches shorter. The Rev. Lamb's wife once made him a top hat and asked him to recite the Gettysburg Address, which he had memorized, for a talent show at Cradle Beach. Instead of the expected smiles, the audience was so moved that some wept.
In one 2010 column, the Rev. Lamb wrote of seeing a sign in a restaurant: "If you have any problems, just let us know."
When he began sharing his problems with the cashier — "bills, car problems and health issues" — she interrupted him to ask, "Why are you telling me all this?"
"Your sign told me to tell you," he said.
" 'It means problems here in the restaurant!' she exclaimed. But that isn't what it said," he wrote.
In 2011, he mused about this world and the next one. "Heaven may be beautiful, but this planet is pretty good," he wrote. "There are so many places on this earth I haven't seen yet. I'd just as soon see more of them before trying out another place."
The Rev. Lamb also wrote four books about his life as a minister.
Besides his wife, the Rev. Lamb is survived by three daughters, Elizabeth Susan Latz, Linda L. Macfarland and Jennifer J. Mehl; two stepsons, Mark David Ott and Matthew Benjamin Ott; and eight grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, in the First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown, 100 Church St. Memorials may be made to Week of Compassion P.O. Box 1986 Indianapolis, Ind., 46206 or Northeast Region Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1402 Washington Ave. Parkersburg, Va., 26101.