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Adele Carmichael, 101; Longtime Minister Taught Bible Study Classes Till the End

October 19, 2003|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Adele Boatwright Carmichael, one of the oldest and longest-serving ministers in the country, has died at the age of 101 after collapsing on her way to teach a Bible class.

Carmichael, who was ordained at age 16 in 1918 by the evangelistic Assemblies of God, died Tuesday of natural causes at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, said her granddaughter, Carol Carmichael Parks.

The diminutive but dedicated Carmichael had preached, taught, played the organ and sung on street corners, in jails, hospitals and tents, in churches and schools for well over 85 years. Her words were heard by audiences as small as one and as large as 3,000.

Until her death, the 98-pound minister taught Bible study classes Sundays and Tuesdays at the New Hope Church in Westlake Village, drawing devotees from as far as Hollywood and Santa Barbara.

"Every time I open the Bible and begin to preach, something comes over me. I don't even know I have a body when I'm preaching," the seemingly frail Carmichael told The Times in 1998 as she celebrated 80 years as an ordained minister. "I read the Bible straight through six times a year. That's partly why all denominations come to my Bible class. We go verse by verse, and anyone who loves Christ is interested in that."

Carmichael lived alone in a double-wide trailer in a Thousand Oaks senior citizens mobile home park, decorated with canvases she had painted and dolls she had hand-carved. She walked twice a day, baked and sewed. Her family attributed her longevity to good genes and a positive approach to life and her religion.

Born Adele Frances Boatwright, she was converted to the now 2.7-million member Assemblies of God along with her Iowa family when she was 8. After her father became a preacher a year later, she went along to assist.

"We went around the state in a Model T Ford. We preached on the street, in tents or in the downtown slum missions. I always had a part in his talks, quoting Scripture," she told The Times.

Although the Assemblies of God always permitted women in its pulpits, her ordination in Davis City, Iowa, as a teenager before American women could even vote legally, did raise a few eyebrows.

"I met some opposition," she said. "But I had a call to preach the Gospel."

As Adele Boatwright, she led evangelical tent revival meetings in what is known as Shepherd of the Hills country around Branson, Mo. In 1922, she became one of the first ministers to utilize radio for preaching the Gospel, and was on the air for a decade from such cities as Springfield, Mo., Quincy, Ill., and Fargo, N.D.

She attended her church's first educational institution, Central Bible College in Springfield, and in 1923 met and married fellow preacher Richard Carmichael. They became a team, evangelizing in 40 states and serving as co-pastors of an Assembly of God church in Ventura during the 1950s. Her husband died in 1960.

Carmichael, who had earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and philosophy and a master's in education from San Jose State in her middle age, served as dean of women at the church's Evangel College in Springfield. She also taught in church mission schools and was a substitute teacher in Ventura high schools. But the preaching and teaching of the Bible never stopped.

She is survived by her son, composer of religious music Ralph Carmichael of Camarillo; her daughter, Ruthadele Martin of Westlake Village; two brothers, Jack and Phil Boatwright; a sister, Violet Cox; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

A viewing is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Pierce Brothers Mortuary, 5600 Lindero Canyon Road, Westlake Village.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the First Assembly of God Church, 11455 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, with burial to follow at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

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