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After 60-plus years, minister prepares a farewell to pulpit

Dr. Eugene Marie Frost recently celebrated 67 years marriage.  Dr. Frost is also celebrating 66 years as minister is

Dr. Eugene and Marie Frost recently celebrated 67 years of marriage. Dr. Frost is also celebrating 66 years as a minister and is retiring from Big Rock Baptist Church. | Marianne Mather~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 10, 2011 2:23AM

BIG ROCK — The Rev. Eugene Frost could have parlayed his theological degree into a glamorous, high profile career when he graduated from Wheaton College in 1943. In his youth he toured as a gospel quartet singer with his friend and classmate, Billy Graham. Later, several nationally known churches offered him their pulpits.

“Big churches tried to entice him to lead them because he was such a good preacher. They said he was wasted on a small church,” recalled Frost’s wife of 67 years, Marie.

But after two years serving as a Navy chaplain in San Diego, Frost spent the next 66 years in Illinois, building small churches into large ones.

“Some of the best work you can do is in small churches. You can help them grow and get stronger,” he said.

Today will mark Frost’s last official appearance behind a pulpit, as he preaches his farewell sermon in a special service celebrating his retirement from Big Rock Baptist Church.

He became the minister there in 1994, expecting to stay only a year because he was already 65-years-old.

“I was still in good health — I still am, in fact — and I didn’t see any reason to quit because of my age,” he said. “I love preaching, and I love helping people connect with the Lord, so I didn’t want to stop.”

Frost’s message transcends denominations: while he now serves a Baptist congregation, he has run Westminster Presbyterian Church in Elgin and started the Evangelical Free Church of Wheaton. His mission wherever he preaches has been to help people incorporate their faith into their daily lives.

His style, despite his skill behind the pulpit, is to treat his parishioners as friends he can help rather than as a flock to be led. A cornerstone of his ministry is to invite parishioners to Sunday dinner each week.

“Our table has always been filled on Sundays,” Marie Frost said. “People say, ‘My word, I’ve never been invited to a minister’s home for dinner before.’”

“I’m gratified by people’s response to me,” Frost added. “I have a natural ‘friendship thing’ going that makes it easy for people to feel comfortable with me. I’ve formed many very intimate friendships in terms of (parishioners) confiding in me about their problems and their questions about the Lord.”

Frost credits his wife with much of his success as a pastor. After a 20-year career as an elementary school teacher, Marie Frost became a best-selling author, writing children’s books, self-help books and Sunday School instructional materials. She is perhaps best known for her children’s series starring Hattie Hart.

“She’s been a great help,” Frost said. “Working in small churches doesn’t bring in much money. She enabled us to send our children to Christian elementary school, high school and college.”

Marie Frost also started an adult Sunday School class at Big Rock Baptist Church that she will continue teaching after her husband’s retirement.

In retirement, Frost plans to write his memoirs. He also hopes to learn how to use a computer and join the Internet Age.

“I never got into this computer thing,” he admitted. “I wrote all my sermons by hand. One of my ambitions after I retire is to get into computers and find out what they’re all about.”

The couple also looks forward to spending more time with their five children, 30 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. Their eldest son, Eugene Jr., is headmaster at Wheaton Academy; their younger son, Mark, works in an investment firm; their daughters Sharon and Kay are home raising 10 and five children, respectively; and their daughter Linda works in a hospital after retiring from her job as a Wheaton mail carrier.

First, though, Frost will stand behind the pulpit once more and preach a sermon that reflects on the philosophy that drove his long career.

“I took my inspiration from the title of a book, ‘How Then Shall We Live’,” he explained. “It’s going to show how my entire ministry is about living a well-ordered life in the Lord and trying to do His work as well as possible.

“I’m also going to refer to 1 Corinthians 13, because over the years I’ve learned that love is the remedy for human failures.”

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