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The Harvey County Independent
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Halstead, KS 67056

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John Alton Sterling, 87

Posted 11/8/2018

John Alton Sterling was born in El Dorado, Arkansas on Dec. 6, 1930 to James and Ouida Sterling. His first eight years were spent in Mississippi before the family moved to eastern Nebraska. After graduating from Weeping Water, Nebraska high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served aboard aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan.

In 1951, John married Joy Lenker. John and Joy had five children and were foster parents to many children spanning a 28-year period.

John received the call to the ministry while aboard an aircraft carrier in the Sea of Japan and never in the ensuing years ever questioned that call. He was honorably discharged in 1954, enrolled in Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, earning a bachelor’s degree and then completed a graduate degree in Theology and Ministerial Studies in 1962. He served as an ordained minister for the next 65 years, pasturing churches in Kansas and Alabama. John was the minister of the Halstead United Methodist Church in the mid-1960s.

He was a man of many interests and talents. He loved to read, analyze the stock market, collect model cars and tractors, enjoyed woodworking, gardening, and talking about his antique car. Most of all, he loved his family and his greatest joy was to be with them.

After a nearly miraculous healing from a life-threatening illness in 2013, God gave John a dream about a men’s Bible study in which there were six men, three of whom he knew and three he did not. The dream was so vivid, he pondered it for several weeks, mentioning it to several others. At the first meeting, there were six men present, three he knew, and three he did not. The Bible study eventually grew to nearly 20 committed men who met every week to pray and study. He was still leading the Bible study the week before his death and regarded it as one of the highlights of his life.

John died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes on Oct. 22, 2018 just three hours after enjoying a church service and a quiet time at home.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his four-year-old son Jason, and two brothers, Edwin and Charles (Joe) Sterling. He is survived by his wife of 67 years and four children, John (Melanie) of Chattanooga, Tennessee, James (Betty) of College Station, Texas, Joel (Tonya) of Silverhill, Alabama, and Jeanne Hampton of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He has 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, a sister, Daleene Ossenkop of Lincoln, Nebraska, a foster son, Carl Buck of Pensacola, Florida, and many nieces and nephews.

Joy Sterling resides in Silverhill, Alabama, P.O. Box 585, ZIP 36576.

John’s death leaves a big hole; he impacted countless lives. We will always be inspired by his devotion and commitment to his Savior, Jesus Christ, and his love for everyone whose life he touched. He was truly a man of God, and when he entered heaven, surely God said to him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”