Wesleyan Mourns Passing of Rev. Dr. James Shepherd

Former Kentucky Wesleyan trustee and long-time United Methodist pastor Rev. Dr. James Shepherd passed away Saturday, Aug. 13, in Frankfort. He was pastor in residence at the First United Methodist Church of Frankfort and was a much-beloved and respected minister of the gospel throughout Kentucky. His son, Judge Philip Shepherd, is chair-elect of the Kentucky Wesleyan College Board of Trustees. We extend our sincere condolences to the Shepherd family. Arrangements will be posted when they are available.

Dr. James A. Shepherd

By Hannah Brown at The State Journal

After over seven decades of preaching the assurance of eternal life in Christ, Dr. James A. Shepherd, longtime United Methodist pastor in Kentucky, personally experienced the culmination of his faithful life in his death on Aug. 13, 2016. He was Minister in Residence at Frankfort United Methodist Church and serving in his 74th year of ordained ministry.

Dr. Shepherd was born on Nov. 28, 1921, in Wilmore, Ky., the son of Kentucky pastor Dr. W.W. Shepherd and his wife, Florence Mildred Shepherd. Growing up in parsonages throughout Kentucky, Dr. Shepherd’s life and priorities were shaped by the church from an early age. 

His family had a lasting, ongoing impact on his life and greatly influenced the lives of others in Kentucky and around the world. His sister, Dr. Mildred Shepherd, was an outstanding educator and missionary to India; his older brother, Dr. W. W. “Bill” Shepherd was a brilliant physician. His younger brother, Dr. Paul Shepherd, was a leading Methodist pastor in the Louisville Conference. His sister Esther Shepherd was a longtime employee of Asbury College.

His parents and all of his siblings predeceased him. Dr. Shepherd’s immediate family, from his father through his minister-granddaughter, has the extraordinary legacy of 295 years of ministry in the United Methodist Church.

After graduating from Asbury College and The Theological School of Drew University, Dr. Shepherd returned to Louisville, Ky., where he met and married his faithful wife and partner in ministry, Rosalie DeYoung Shepherd. They were married 56 years before her death in 2004. 

The Shepherds were the proud parents of four children, Dr. Mary John Shepherd Dye, United Methodist minister in the Western North Carolina Conference; Dr. Ruth Ann Shepherd, Director of Maternal and Child Health for the State of Kentucky; Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd; and Rev. Mark Shepherd, pastor of Erlanger United Methodist Church.

Mary John and her daughters, Christi DeSha Dye (husband Will) and Mary Allen Conforti (husband Mark) live in North Carolina. Ruth Ann lives in Midway. Phillip (wife, Audrey) live in Frankfort; their children, Leanne Diakov (husband Peter) live in Louisville, and Charles Kittrell (wife Chasity) live in Frankfort. Mark and his wife, Sande, live in Erlanger. Their daughter, Susanna (husband Garrett) Vance live in Lexington, and their son, Petty Officer Zechariah Shepherd, is deployed in the U.S. Navy.

Dr. Shepherd was a devoted son, brother, husband, father grandfather. He took special delight in his eight great-grandchildren, Alexander and Ian Diakov; Connor, Tyler and Mia Rosalie Conforti; Phillip Clayton Kittrell; and Jordan Maria Dye-Johnson and Hannah Emmanuel “Emma” Dye-Johnson.

When Dr. Shepherd returned to Kentucky after seminary, he served three pastorates in Louisville, Grace Methodist Church, Associate at Fourth Avenue Methodist Church and Cooper Memorial Methodist. 

In 1952, Bishop Watkins appointed Dr. Shepherd to Immanuel Methodist Church in Ft. Mitchell, Ky. During his 10-year pastorate there, this relocated congregation grew by over 1,000 members and built and paid for a new sanctuary.

In 1961, Dr. Shepherd was appointed as pastor of First UMC, Frankfort where he brought in 1,000 new members before becoming the Frankfort District Superintendent (1971-1977). Dr. Shepherd served as Pastor of Park UMC in Lexington, Ky., (1977-85). 

His final pastorate before retirement was Versailles United Methodist Church. Following his retirement in 1991, he served on the ministerial staff of Southern Hills United Methodist Church for 15 years before returning to First UMC as Minister in Residence in 2006. 

Dr. Shepherd was a pastor with a lifelong love of people. He never met a stranger and rarely met anyone he didn’t have some kind of connection with. He never tired of putting in a good word for a college applicant, someone seeking a job or a promotion and he spoke up time and time again for people needing a second chance in life.      

He believed in personal connections and pastoral visitation. Many people joined the churches he served because he made a pastoral call. Because of his presence in times of personal and family crises, hundreds of members of his churches consider him part of their family.

Dr. Shepherd believed in the power of education. In addition to his college and seminary degrees, Dr. Shepherd received a Master of Theology from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary (1947), a Doctor of Divinity from Kentucky Wesleyan College (1964) and a Doctor of Ministry from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary (1978). 

He served on the Board of Trustees of Kentucky Wesleyan for 39 years, becoming Trustee Emeritus in 2004. Dr. Shepherd was always proud that, his children and grandchildren earned 26 academic degrees and 5 terminal degrees.    

He was an articulate, well-read preacher and underscored the importance of learning by supporting college and post-college education for his children and grandchildren.

Dr. Shepherd was an active minister to the community. He was a member of Rotary for 25 years, Chaplain to the Kentucky General Assembly (1961-1971), Frankfort Ministerial Association and solved problems of the world with the “Coffee Club” at Marshall’s for over 30 years. 

He was a regular presence at civic, political and community events and kept up with church, sports and political news throughout this life.

Dr. Shepherd was an articulate preacher of the gospel and dedicated his life to applying the Christian faith to life in meaningful ways. 

Consistent with his life and preaching, a Service of Witness to Resurrection Faith will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church, Frankfort, with visitation at the Church from 5-7 p.m. on Friday the 16th.

In accordance with his wishes, the Memorial Service is being delayed so that his beloved daughter Dr. Mary John Dye (currently hospitalized after surgery), and his grandson, Zecheriah, who is deployed overseas, can participate.

Memorials may be given to First United Methodist Church, 211 Washington St., Frankfort, KY 40601 or Kentucky Wesleyan College, 3000 Frederica Street, Owensboro, KY 42301.

Arrangements are under the care of Rogers Funeral Home. An online tribute may be found at www.rogersfrankfort.com.