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John McCormack steps away from Rescue Mission after 54 years

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR News) - A lifetime of service coming to an end.

John McCormack has given the first Sunday of every month to the Roanoke Rescue Mission for 54 years, and, at a week short of 92-years-old, he made Sunday his final goodbye.

Three members of John's church will continue doing his work after he's gone, but they all agree that this Roanoke staple will never be replaced.

91-year-old John McCormack has been preaching at the Roanoke Rescue Mission once a month for 54 years, absent only a few times for health reasons.

He says his empathy stems from his experience with poverty - he's the son of a West Virginia coal miner, was raised on a sharecropper's farm, and has only an eighth grade education.

"And every time I leave that place, I'm thankful that I have a home to come to," he said.

John has been devoted to religion since he embraced it 62 years ago - he's gone to church three days a week since and even started preaching to jail inmates at age 80.

He says if it weren't for the bad knees he developed over his career as a delivery salesman, he'd continue forever.

"I hate to give it up. I just- I really wish I could keep on going, but there's a time you've got to realize you just can't do it any more," he said.

He doesn't keep track of how many people he's touched, but imagines it's somewhere in the thousands - he takes Sundays so seriously that he once turned down tickets to see his beloved Washington Redskins, a team he's still not yet seen in person.

John says religion turned his life around, and credits it for his child, grandson, four great grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.

"I quit going to the honkytonks, and quit drinking, and started going to church. And I haven't taken a drink of liquor since I got saved," he said.

Dave Widener, David Eccleston, and John Kraciuk - the three fellow New Grace Baptist Church members who will be filling in for John - agree that he's nothing less than a rock.

"He's probably one of the most consistent people I've ever met...I think that's the very definition of greatness," said Widener.

John, predictably, disagrees.

"Well, I wish I would have done more," he said.


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