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‘That was John’s role, to help people;’ church family of explosion victim speak out

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 11:36 PM EST
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HURRICANE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The church family of John Gillenwater, who was killed in an explosion Tuesday in Belle, West Virginia, sat down Thursday to talk about the kind of person Gillenwater was.

“John left no doubt that he loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, strength and he loved people,” said Chad Cobb, executive pastor with River Ridge Teays Valley Church.

Gillenwater had been a member of the church for more than eight years. During that time, friends say he not only formed strong bonds -- but also touched many lives.

“In 2017, I lost my left leg below the knee and almost died,” Jeffrey Mangus told WSAZ. “I was septic and in the hospital for over a month, three separate surgeries, and John Gillenwater was there every step of the way.”

Mangus said Gillenwater even went so far as to buy and deliver a new washer to their door after their current one stopped working.

“He would just do anything for anyone,” Mangus said.

Gillenwater worked as a chemical operator at the Optima Chemical Company in Belle. He was working Tuesday night when the explosion happened. He was taken to the hospital but later died of his injuries.

“(I felt) lost, I mean personally and just for so many people that he impacted” Cobb said. “Then (John’s wife) and the kids, our church family and co-workers. John was impactful in everyone’s life that he came in contact with. So, everyone is feeling that loss.”

“He made this community a better place,” Greg Clutter, another church member and friend of Gillenwater, said. “He made our state a better place, he made me a better man. I cannot imagine this world without John Gillenwater.”

Friends said Gillenwater traveled to Haiti more than once for church service missions to help those in need. He also ministered at nursing and assisted living homes to those who got disconnected with their faith.

“He was in essence, another pastor, everyone looked at him, his home group and his influence in our church. He would show up at hospital beds and pray for people. While he was not on staff, he may as well have been,” Cobb told WSAZ.

Click here for the statement from Gillenwater’s family.

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