By Bob Allen
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship leaders shared fond memories of Tom Cleary, one of the first field personnel appointed by the Decatur, Ga.-based CBF, who died March 19 in Tampa, Fla., after emergency surgery for a ruptured aneurysm the day before.
“The passing of Tom Cleary is a loss that I feel personally, and I know that all of CBF Florida feels as well,” said Ray Johnson, coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida.
“Tom was a friend and a true servant who cared deeply for people,” Johnson said. “His love for people poured out as he and Joyce ministered in south Florida. He was tremendously funny, extraordinarily gentle and a tremendous encourager. In our sadness, we nevertheless pray with thanksgiving for his life and ministry.”
Jim Smith, interim coordinator of CBF Global Missions, reflected on Cleary’s work in Poland, where he and his wife, Joyce, taught English to university students as the nation transitioned from communism to a free-market economy in the 1990s.
“Tom loved people and befriended others on a daily basis,” Smith said. “Students that Tom and Joyce met in class became lifelong friends. They helped lead retreats and field trips beyond the typical role of teachers. I know Polish believers who point to the Clearys as the ones who introduced them to faith in Christ.”
Cleary, 76, is survived by his wife, Joyce, and their two sons. A memorial service is scheduled March 22 at Bayshore Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla.
— With reporting by Aaron Weaver of CBF communications.