MYAKKA CITY -- A preacher, a father and a friend to all.
The Rev. A.O. Hendry was all those things and more, said family members who are mourning the passing of a beloved preacher and patriarch who was a Bethany Baptist Church institution.
"A godly leader," said Carol Fuller, his oldest daughter.
"He brought us all up in the Lord's way," said Sara Hemperley, his middle daughter.
"He was a people person with a passion for preaching, a real calling," said Alice Moye, his half-sister and the church pianist for 39 years.
The Rev. Hendry passed Tuesday after a prolonged illness. He was 85.
"I praise God the suffering is over," Fuller said.
"It was his time," Hemperley said.
"I'm happy he's with the Lord," Moye said. "But it's going to be a hole in my life. He's been like a father to me."
Born in a settlement called Oak Knoll that once existed in eastern Manatee County, The Rev. Hendry descended from a family of preachers, several of whom pastored at Bethany Baptist Church at the intersection of State Road 64 East and Verna Bethany Road.
His grandfather, the Rev. James Madison "Boss" Hendry, was the first at the rural 125-year-old country church.
The Rev. A.O. Hendry served there 31 years total.
"His life revolved around ministering to people, preaching the word," Hemperley said. "He was a very open and giving person. Anybody needed help, he'd open the door for them."
That caring spirit made for some unexpected company at suppertime.
"When we were growing up we'd be gathered at the dinner table with people we didn't know, people down on their luck, but we'd welcome them as if they were family," she said. "Daddy had a big heart."
It wasn't unusual for Hendry to drive to Georgia on the spur of the moment should an old friend call in a time of need.
"If somebody called and a family member was sick or died, he'd move heaven and earth to get there," Moye said. "He'd get in the car and drive all night, then be back at church for Wednesday night services."
A World War II and Korean War veteran, the Rev. Hendry was a Texas Christian University and Southwestern Seminary graduate in Fort Worth. He was ordained in 1955.
Besides Bethany Baptist Church, he also served as interim minister at other churches from Sarasota to Hardee County.
The Rev. Hendry had planned to fill in for the vacationing pastor at Parrish Baptist Church late last month, but his health took a turn for the worst.
"There were tears in his eyes because he could not get there and preach," Hemperley said. "He was a poor country preacher who touched so many people."
The Rev. Hendry is survived by his wife, Trudy, and a large extended family, who will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. Friday at Shannon Funeral Home Town Chapel, 1015 14th St. W., Bradenton. A celebration and praise service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bethany Baptist Church, 22604 SR 64 E., Myakka City with interment to follow at Bethany Cemetery.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter:@vinmannix.