Ivan B. Hewitt, 84, of Philadelphia, who led Thankful Baptist Church in North Philadelphia for 25 years, died Friday, Dec. 26, of heart failure at Cliveden Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Mount Airy.
Pastor Hewitt was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in Philadelphia. He attended city public schools, graduating from Bartram High School. He also attended La Salle College and the Manna Bible Institute.
He was a preacher's son - his mother, Linda, was a minister, and her example led Pastor Hewitt to begin preaching himself as a child.
Pastor Hewitt became a minister at age 14, his wife, Angie Hambright Hewitt, said, and was ordained at age 19.
Angie Hewitt met her future husband when she was cutting his hair. Even then, something about him struck her, she said.
"At first sight, I thought he was a great person," she said.
Pastor Hewitt first served as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Delaware. In 1989, he was installed as pastor of Thankful Baptist, on West Allegheny Avenue.
Under Pastor Hewitt's leadership, the church flourished, members said. Its governance structure was strengthened, its building renovated, and its spiritual life enhanced.
He founded or expanded numerous efforts at the church, including a scholarship ministry, a women's retreat, and a dance ministry.
Pastor Hewitt was "a giving person, a praying man," his wife said. He did much for others, but preferred not to take credit for it.
Congregants always said they learned something from his sermons, but Pastor Hewitt told people he would rather be known as a great pastor than a great preacher. "He would always say he wanted on his gravestone, 'When it came to the church, he tried,' " Angie Hewitt said.
He became ill in March, but remained pastor of the church until his death, which came a minute after Christmas Day ended.
In addition to his wife of 49 years, Pastor Hewitt is survived by a daughter, Laura Hewitt-Winston; two granddaughters; and a sister. Another daughter, Nellie Crystal Hewitt, died in 1998.
A viewing will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2, at Thankful Baptist, 1608 W. Allegheny Ave., Philadelphia 19132. A second viewing will be held at the church from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 3, with a service at 10.
Burial will follow in Northwood Cemetery.
Memorial donations may be made to the Hewitt Scholarship at the church's address above.