STOW - Although a local pastor has been serving Community Church of Stow for nine years, he has been in the ministry for 41 years and will focus on his chaplain work in retirement.
Pastor Jim Case, 75, is retiring Feb. 29 and Community Church of Stow, 1567 Pilgrim Drive in Stow, is having a reception Feb. 23 from noon to 3 p.m. which is open to the public.
His wife, Jeannine, said Jim has always put the church and its members first in his life, at all hours, all days, no matter where he is or what he’s doing.
“Jim’s Saturday night ritual of ‘just putting on the final touches of my sermon’ has been in my life for over 32 years, beginning one week after we were married in December of 1986,” Jeannine said. “It will be a bittersweet change in our lives when he no longer writes those sermons, but one that is well-deserved.”
“The change in his lifestyle will be less stressful but the love for everyone he knows and everyone he meets will always be apparent,” Jeannine said. “He’s a great pastor, comforter, father, grandfather, friend and husband.”
“My prayer is that he’ll enjoy all that his retirement holds for him,” Jeannine added.
Case said he was a firefighter in Munroe Falls and Mogadore for 26 years.
“Trying to do things my way didn’t work and now God is in charge of my journey,” Case said. “It will be a challenge to keep me busy but my goal is to stay busy. I will go out in the middle of the afternoon or middle of night to help others. That is God’s plan for me.”
Case and his wife Jeannine have been married for 33 years and live in Tallmadge.
“We met through the city of Stow at my father’s retirement and were married three months and three days later,” Case said. “When you give God the control, he’ll work with you every time and he did.”
They are a blended family with his daughter Heather and her husband Bill Pincoe who live in Streetsboro and her sons Todd Kirkner who lives in Las Vegas and Jeff Kirkner and his wife Holly in Stow. They have five grandchildren.
“I found Christ on a Monday morning on a hill in Portage County,” Case said. “It was a moving experience.”
Case was in the business world and preached on Sunday morning but would be on a plane in the afternoon and not return until Friday, he said. But he had success in helping people find Christ.
In 1975 Case started Helping Others Become One in Christ or HOBO inC and three churches Case served changed that to their mission statement.
“We celebrate it every year at this church and others by dressing up as hobos and having a dinner and white elephant raffle, Case said. “I’m the auctioneer and we send money to a needy organization. It causes a lot of laughter. We are allowed to laugh in our church.”
When Case began at the Community Church of Stow it was financially in the red but it is now more than twice in the black. They have had 110 new members in 8 years with 60 adult and child baptisms. The cosmetics of the church have change with a new front entrance, carpeting and prayer guard.
“I’ve seen a lot of changed lives,” Case said. “If I’m forgotten for everything else I’ve done, my biggest mission was to find Christ.”
The Community Church of Stow has tripled in size with an average of 65 to 75 members, he said.
“It was 22 [members] when I got here,” Cases said. “But those were the workers. They kept the church alive, and they did the work.”
Judy Faris, office administrator at Community Church of Stow, described him as the most understanding and supportive boss and encouraged her to put family first.
“It has been a pleasure working with Pastor Case, “Faris said. “He and Jeannine will be missed.”
“Pastor Jim was always there with prayer and support with people were sick or members or friends had passed away,” said Carol Zeh, associate lay pastor. “He was always there with prayer. Jim and Jeannine are a vitally active part of our church. They are a great team that involves themselves in all church activities.”
Pastor Jim has been a wonderful pastor, said Jim Pierce, moderator of the church council.
“When our son, Steve, passed away, he was with us every step of the way as a pastor and also as a good friend. Jeannine was by his side throughout the whole ordeal, which was greatly appreciated.”
Case also is chaplain for the Stow Police Department and Tallmadge Police and Fire departments. In addition, he is chaplain for the VFW Acker-Moore Memorial Post 4738.
Stow Police Chief Jeff Film said Pastor Case started as a police chaplain in May 2012 for the Stow Police Department.
“He built a great relationship with the officers and the community through the chaplaincy program,” Film said. “His duties put him in the cruiser with the officers doing ride-a-longs. This allowed him to assist families throughout the community with crisis and spiritual interventions.”
His duties included hospital calls and helping family members with burial and funeral arrangements, Film said. His whole mission was to help people and let them know that they are not being ignored or alone.
“Everyone is important to him,” Film said. “He leads with his strong faith and always has a helping hand and welcoming smile.”
If church members hear a siren from a first responder vehicle during his services, they stop and pray for the first responders headed to the call and they pray for the people that they are going to help, he said.
“While he may be retiring from the church, he has no intention of leaving the chaplaincy program,” Film said. “We look forward to working with him for years to come. He truly is a blessing.”
Tallmadge Police Chief Ron Williams said the police go to a crime scene and investigate the incident looking for facts but Case focuses on the family. He’s available when there is a tragic death like accidents or overdose.
“He’s there for the family,” Williams said.
Tallmadge Fire Chief Michael Passarelli said Case is one of the department’s two chaplains along with Father Mike Matusz of Our Lady of Victory.
“He is going to continue to be chaplain for us and spend a little more time with us,” Passarelli said. “We’ve used him as an alternative when we’ve had another chaplain in the past and the guys really liked him. When the former chaplain retired, he was natural shoo-in.”
Case and Matusz have helped with the Sept. 11 ceremony for the past two years, Passarelli said.
“He’s very helpful and willing to do anything you ask him,” Passarelli said. “We hope he spends more time in the building after retirement and we see him more.”
The department uses Case when someone has passed away and the family needs someone to talk to, Passarelli said. The grieving process is traumatic and he helps with that.
“He’s not just a chaplain for us, but for the community,” Passarelli said. “We claim him along with the police. He’s an all-purpose guy.”
Case said he will continue to work as chaplain and will continue to serve three funeral homes.
“I go to between 40 and 50 homes per year for funerals,” Case said. “I meet with the family and sit with members. I focus on Jesus Christ and the families.”
Case said he uses the gospel of John 14 that begins “Let not your heart be troubled...” to comfort families.
“I assure them their loved one is with our Lord who prepared a place for them and now it is the time to let them come home,” Case said.
He also quotes I John 4:7-8 that “God is love.”
“No matter what, their loved one was and is loved by our Lord,” Case said. “I let them know you have to trust and give God a chance.”
“The world needs to smile again,” Case said. “Every day is a gift from God. Use it and don’t waste it.”
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org