Mark Demas became a pastor, his wife said, because he loved leading people to the Lord.
“That was always a thing,” Diann Demas said. “Any time he could help, as he would say, ignite a flame or a spark, it made him happy.”
Demas died Wednesday, Jan. 6, of complications related to COVID-19, two days after receiving a positive test result. He was 61.
Diann Demas said her husband, who suffered from hypertension and was a Type-2 diabetic, refused hospitalization the previous Monday, choosing to recover at home.
She said he was also in the midst of planning the following Sunday’s service at Coffeyville First and Edna UMCs in southeast Kansas, where he had served since July.
“He was very dedicated,” she said.
After owning a convenience store with his wife in Fredonia and working for the road and bridge department in Wilson County, Demas became a lay speaker and then a lay pastor at the Hamilton-Neal-Virgil charge in Greenwood County, Kansas, for 12 years.
Following a year in Columbus, Kansas, he served as pastor at Erie Federated and Erie-Galesburg-St. Paul for six years. He was appointed to Coffeyville First and Edna in July.
“He was such a caring person, and he wanted to get out and meet people, which was his style,” said Judy Hiner, chair of the Staff-Parish-Relations Committee at Coffeyville. “He was frustrated because of all of the restrictions, but he was also very fearful of getting COVID.”
The church had resumed in-person worship, Hiner said, drawing 20 to 40 people per service and many others watching online.
Demas also had initiated two online studies, Hiner said. “Catching Fire” was a 50-day Bible study that concluded Christmas Eve, and a study of the Rev. Adam Hamilton’s book “Christianity and World Religions: Wrestling with Questions People Ask.”
At 61, Hiner said, Demas was about the age of most of the congregation members.
“He just exhibited that he cared about people, and not only wanted to care for the church, he wanted to care for the community,” she said. “He often commented that we have a responsibility to the community.”
He would also sit on a bench in a downtown corner of Coffeyville to read the Bible, asking people to join him or engaging them in discussion, Hiner said.
“He made the effort,” she said.
Diann Demas said her husband “got involved in all the communities he lived in. That was his thing.”
At Hamilton, he would join groups daily for coffee.
“He was the pastor of the coffee shop,” she said. “He had a way with him that people could talk to him. He just became the pastor for a lot of the unchurched.”
The Rev. Dr. Tom Brady, superintendent of the Five Rivers and Parsons districts, said Demas was a “fun-loving, good person.”
“You could tell right away he had a heart for ministry and loved people,” Brady wrote in an email. “He had a willing spirit about him and would serve in whatever ways asked. He had a great sense of humor and made laughter a priority.”
Like Demas, Brady has only been in his current position since July.
“My experience, and what I’ve heard others say, is that Mark is like a big teddy bear — very loveable,” Brady wrote. “Although the time was way too short, he was a joy to serve with.”
Besides his wife, Demas is survived by three children and four grandchildren, and was preceded in death by a son.
Because of the pandemic, funeral services will be private. There will be a reception for family and friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, at Cheney Witt Chapel in his hometown of Fort Scott. Memorials are suggested to Juvenile Diabetes Research Funding and may be left in care of the Cheney Witt Chapel, 201 S. Main, P.O. Box 347, Fort Scott, KS 66701.
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