My brother Claude Welborn Pharr, 80, ended his earthly pilgrimage July 26, 2018. Jeff Trotter gave the funeral sermon at the North Main building in Mocksville, NC, where Claude had been the preacher for the last 14 years of his life. A large crowd was in attendance with uplifting congregational singing. He was buried in the cemetery of the nearby Jericho Church of Christ at Mocksville.
Claude was born July 2, 1938, in Wilkesboro, NC, where we grew up. Claude obeyed the gospel in his teens. Our background as a family was with the Methodist Church in Wilkesboro, NC. We were led to New Testament Christianity chiefly under the influence of Cliff and Lucille Walter, who had moved to Wilkesboro for business, but with the determination to start a congregation. In the providence of God, they became our neighbors. Our mother, though lacking advanced education, was an avid searcher of the Scriptures and when brother Walter turned conversations to the truth about salvation and Christ’s church, she was willing to listen. Claude inherited that love for truth. Eventually our entire household obeyed the gospel. Our family never forgot God’s goodness in bringing the Walter family into our lives.
Some years ago in an informal conversation with a few preachers and other men, a brother was criticizing what he had understood to be old fashioned methods of evangelism back in the 1950s. Claude reminded him that it was just such “old fashioned” teaching that had brought him and many others to the way of truth.
He was a full-time gospel preacher for 58 years. In the earlier years he worked with congregations in Lenoir, NC; Martinsville, VA; Lansdale, PA; Charlottesville, VA; Baltimore, MD; and Indiana, PA, before coming back to North Carolina about 30 years ago. For 16 years he worked with the South Fork congregation in Winston-Salem. After leaving South Fork he continued to live in the Winston-Salem area and served with the North Main Church of Christ in Mocksville for the last 14 years of his life. The total years of ministry in North Carolina surpasses that of most preachers ever in the Carolinas.
We have sometimes been asked how we decided to be preachers. There seems to be no specific answer, but Claude seems never to have doubted that it was the thing to do. His devotion was to local work, preaching sound sermons, expounding the meaning of Scripture, helping people and winning souls. Though never a compromiser over essential issues, he was always devoted to maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Claude seemed in excellent health until spring of this year when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He spent 85 days in Wake Forest Baptist Hospital undergoing treatment. For a few weeks he was able to be at home. His 80th birthday (July 3) was celebrated with a drop-in party at the North Main building. On the weekend of July 22 he suffered a stroke and passed away on the following Thursday.
He and his wife Jo were married for 58 years. They had met while I was preaching for her home congregation in Point Pleasant, WV. Her devoted parents had instilled in her a strong character, a modest lifestyle, and lifelong convictions. She was Claude’s mainstay through all the changes of life. All who know her admire her courage and steadfastness even through the most trying days of his terminal illness. Also among survivors are Brett Pharr (Nancy) of Charlotte; a sister, Sheron Ward of Winston-Salem; a granddaughter, Brittany Pharr of Nashville, TN. (Their daughter, Claudia Jo died in childhood,) Our only sister Ruth proceeded him in death several year ago.) All are faithful Christians. Brett is an elder with the Gold Hill Road congregation in Ft. Mill, SC.
A few days after Claude’s passing I asked one of his long-time friends, Carl O. Cooper, to share his feelings. He wrote: “Claude, I love you like a brother and I miss you. You made me a better man. All those years I sat at your feet and listened to your logical explanations of Scripture, your expository Gospel sermons, and your very informing Bible classes have strengthened my faith and given me greater knowledge of the Scriptures. You were always there when I was ready to teach a Bible class or write a book. You always had ideas and Scriptures that helped me in my studies. We studied together, we went on mission trips together, we taught lost souls together, we laughed together, and we were good friends. I miss you Claude. Heaven is an even better place because you are there.”
David was the former editor of the Carolina Messenger and is on its board of directors. We extend to him our sympathy on the loss of his brother Claude.
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”