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Leroy Charles Bass, 98, of Washington Island, Wisconsin, died peacefully in the comfort of his home, with his wife by his side, Monday afternoon, March 6, 2023.
He was born January 17, 1925 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of G. (Guy) Russell Bass and May Pease (Kibbe) Bass, of New England Yankee families. Leroy grew up working on farms in his earlier years, and especially enjoyed that he had worked for a farmer named Dick Tracy. He attended Smith's Agricultural School Northampton Vocational School in Northampton, Massachusetts, and studied carpentry. Leroy would have graduated with the class of 1943, but he was pulled from school for military assignment and received his diploma later by mail. An accident with ax shrapnel in Leroy's leg while chopping wood deferred his entry into active military service, which the family speculates may have saved his life. He was initially employed with Ostrowski and Delisle Construction in Westhampton, Massachusetts. Although interrupted by military service, Leroy obtained eight years' experience as a journeyman carpenter. He was inducted into service in the United States Army at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, during WWII and was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Fort Gordon, Georgia, for training. The atom bomb was dropped on Japan while Leroy was en route overseas on a troop ship. He was stationed in Calcutta, India, and Shanghai, China. Leroy's fellow soldiers gave him the nickname "Deac", for deacon. He was honorably discharged from the Army with the rank of Sergeant on December 9th, 1946. Leroy is believed to have been the last surviving WWII veteran on Washington Island.
His parents were Baptists, but as there was no Baptist church in their community, they attended the Congregational church in Westhampton and later the Methodist church in Easthampton, Massachusetts, where he had a desire to be baptized by immersion, as Jesus was, and to become a member, which he did. However, Leroy had never heard a salvation presentation and at a later point he had a vision in which he cried out to Jesus to save him, and experienced what the Psalmist relates in Psalm 40:1-3: ". . . he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth . . ."
Prior to military service, Leroy and his family, through the sharing of his convictions and study, accepted the seventh-day Sabbath. This conviction was strengthened while overseas in Calcutta, and after he returned home, he went on to study theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster, Massachusetts. There, Leroy met Marjorie Ann Darrow, who was attending South Lancaster Academy. They were united in marriage on August 29, 1954 in New London, Connecticut. Leroy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion with a Ministerial Certificate from Atlantic Union College in 1955. Upon graduation, he went back into carpentry while organizing and ministering to a Seventh-day Adventist fellowship in Litchfield County, Connecticut until he began attending the Potomac University Seminary in Washington, D.C., three years later.
Leroy was licensed in 1959, and then in 1961, he was ordained at the Seventh Day Baptist church in Paint Rock, Alabama, where he served as pastor from 1959 until 1963, followed by a pastorate in Nortonville, Kansas until 1965, and then a year at Eastern Baptist Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Following this, in 1966, he and Marjorie were commissioned by the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society to Guyana, South America. While there, Leroy taught at the interdenominational Guyana Bible College, completely structuring a course on Bible geography, culture, and customs. He also wrote the curriculum materials for church VBSs and youth camps, taught Family Spiritual Retreats, and conducted Evangelistic Crusades. Leroy rebuilt the kitchen in the mission house with hand-made counters and cabinetry. As Missionary Supervisor in Guyana, he was successful at "working himself out of the job", turning the leadership of the churches and Conference there over to the Seventh Day Baptist Guyanese nationals. Leroy loved the Guyanese people, and these were some of his happiest years and memories. Upon return to the United States eight years later, he served as pastor in New Auburn, Wisconsin, until 1977. During that time, Leroy attended the Decision School of Christian Writing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was assigned as Church Growth Trainer to the Seattle Seventh Day Baptist Church. Later, he assisted in organizing a Seventh Day Baptist church fellowship in Madison, Wisconsin where he functioned in a pastoral leadership role for five years.
Leroy and Marjorie moved to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1977, where Marjorie had been accepted into medical school. While in Madison, he took the Clinical Pastoral Education course at Mendota Mental Health Institute, Wisconsin, and then was employed for seven years as Protestant chaplain at the Southern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Union Grove. During this time, Leroy served as a leader in the Personal Enrichment Clubs of the Narramore Christian Foundation, and conducted an Interpersonal Relationship Seminar in Guyana, South America. Upon completion of Marjorie's Family Practice residency and acceptance of the position as medical doctor on Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin, he and Marjorie moved once again and there purchased an old farmhouse with acreage in order to make Washington Island their permanent home. Leroy used his carpentry skills to begin remodeling the house and employed G&G Construction for major renovation. During his retirement, he performed about fifty marriage services with counseling, some funerals, and assisted in Memorial Day outdoor services on the Island, while Marjorie served the local community as Island doctor for 16 years. Leroy and Marjorie ministered to missionary families on furlough by providing free vacation accommodations in their home. Leroy loved people and could be found around the Island interacting with others as he drove the Washington Island school bus for twelve years, and for eight years provided guided Island tours on Findlay's tour bus. He would frequently give a cheerful "Hello" or word of encouragement to many whom his path crossed.
Leroy and Marjorie also enjoyed many winters in their St. Petersburg, Florida home during this time. He ministered in the Bradenton Seventh Day Baptist Church, Florida, through a weekly Bible class. Back on the Island, Leroy was a regular attendee at the Bethel Church Men's Prayer Breakfasts.
He was an accredited minister of the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference, USA and Canada, Ltd., for 60 years. Leroy was an ardent Sabbath keeper and believer in the Bible Sabbath. In addition to his many decades of membership and support of the non-denominational Bible Sabbath Association, he served ten years as a director and four years as BSA president. Leroy also served ten years as Recording Secretary of the Seventh Day Baptist World Federation and was a longtime member and supporter of the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society.
He was an avid reader, correspondent, and Bible student, often writing for publication, and sharing his studies with others. Leroy was a lifelong photographer, enjoyed the outdoors, was very fond of and knowledgeable about trees, and enjoyed working around his and Marjorie's acreage, and daily walking in the country.
He will be deeply missed by his wife, Marjorie, with whom he was blessed with over 68 years of marriage; children, Gordon Leroy (Lucinda Chapin) Bass of Jacksonville, FL, Vivian Marlene Allen of Hungry Horse, MT, Clifford Wendell (Elizabeth) Bass of Madison, WI, Valerie Charlene (Daniel) Gregg of Washington Island, WI, and Marvin Walter (Mutya) Bass of Louisville, KY; grandchildren, Kristin and Kelsey Bass; Adriana, Sean, Geoffrey (Veronica), and Jeremy McNeme, Leana (Michael) Lovelace, Christina (Camaren) Gaines, and Timothy McNeme; Amii (Jimi) Best, Heather (Travis) Bernhardt, Ryan (Sarah Ramseier) Wright, Kerith (Elias) Grande, and Benjamin (Gabrielle) Wright; Yosef and Shoshanna Gregg, Miryam (Austin) MacGregor, Tamar, Ari, and Kirah Gregg; and Jonathan, Ethan, and Noah Bass; fifteen great-grandchildren; sisters, Shirley Fuller of Morgan, VT, June Nelson of Clinton, MA, and Lillian Baxter of Westhampton, MA; and many nieces and nephews.
Leroy was preceded in death by his parents, G. Russell and May Bass; and by his siblings, Russell Bass and Jewel Horrocks.
A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, June 26, 2023 at Bethel Evangelical Free Church, 1821 Main Road, Washington Island, WI 54246 with Pastor Rick Smith officiating. Leroy will be laid to rest in the Town of Washington Cemetery on Washington Island with military honors by American Legion Post 402. Refreshments will follow the graveside committal, back at the church.
Visitation for family and friends will be held at the church on Monday, June 26, 2023 from 12:30 p.m. until the time of service.
IN LIEU OF FLOWERS OR TREES, Leroy's preference is that memorials specified for overseas missions work be given through the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society (https://sdbmissions.funraise.org or SDB Missions, 1031 33rd Street, Denver, CO 80205).
“Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
Casperson Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Sister Bay, WI is assisting the Bass family. Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of Leroy may be shared with his family through his tribute page at www.caspersonfuneralhome.com.
Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society c/o SDB Missions
1031 33rd Street, Denver CO 80205