Feb 13, 1923 - Jul 20, 2011
Max Kell retired pastor of El Camino Baptist Church and a 42 year resident of Sacramento died July 20, 2011. He was 88 years old.
Max was born on February 13, 1923 in Lyman, Washington. He was the oldest of three children born to Maxville and Nancy Kell. He was not officially a junior because his name was not the same as his father’s, but his family and friends still called him Junior or Tucky. He grew up on a farm in that small community about 100 miles Northeast of Seattle. He learned to work hard, but he also learned the importance of faith, family and friends.
Max graduated from Sedro Wooley High School in 1941. He was not an enthusiastic student but he was a member of the school’s 1941 championship football team. He would jokingly say he was the best end on the bench. He was also on the boxing team.
During World War II Max volunteered for service as a member of the United States Navy’s Armed Guard. He was a gunner on several merchant ships seeing action in the South Pacific. One of those ships was a part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history. He received several citations and medals for his service to our country.
After the war Max returned to Washington and went to work for Skagit Steel and Iron Works and planned to be a machinist. In 1947 he married the love of his life Margaret Eloise Bryson also from Lyman. Their first son, Randy, was born in 1948, but died just a few days later. A second son, Grant, was born in 1949.
Max’s work as a machinist was interrupted by a call to the ministry. Max went to see their old Baptist minister and told him he thought God was calling him to preach. The wise old preacher asked him if he wanted to preach and Max said, “No, I’d rather do anything else.” The preacher said, “Then He’s probably calling you.” Max was ordained to the gospel ministry by his church in Washington in 1950.
Max, Eloise and one little boy left for North Carolina later that same year so Max could go to college at Mars Hill Junior College and then Carson Newman College, where he graduated in 1954. While he was attending college Max served as pastor of Flag Pond Baptist Church in Flag Pond, Tennessee. Two more boys, Philip and Neal, were born in 1951 and 1952.
In 1954 Max, Eloise and three little boys travelled back to Washington to spend the summer with family. Another son, Lance was born that summer. In August Max, Eloise and four little boys moved to Berkley, California so Max could go to Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. While in seminary Max worked at several jobs including one at a candy factory and another at General Cable. He would go to school during the day and then work the swing or graveyard shift to support his family.
During his last year of seminary he was called as pastor of the small congregation at Pine Hill Baptist Church in Eureka, California, over 330 miles away. While the family lived in Eureka, he attended classes in Berkeley, during the day, worked the swing or graveyard shift, and then travelled to Eureka by Greyhound Bus every Friday night so he could pastor the church on the weekends. Then he would ride the bus back to Mill Valley on Sunday night so he could get to work Monday afternoon or evening.
Max graduated from Golden Gate in 1958. His class was the last graduating class at the Berkley campus of the seminary. A young Billy Graham was the guest speaker at his baccalaureate service.
The small church in Eureka could only afford to pay Max a part time salary, so after seminary he got a job at a saw mill to make ends meet. He worked there until he was hired as a probation officer by Humboldt County in 1959. He would work a full time job for 12 years while he also served as pastor of that little, but growing church. In 1958 a girl, Denise and in 1962 another boy, Todd joined the family.
In 1969 Max was called as pastor of El Camino Baptist Church in Sacramento where he served for 29 years until he retired in 1998 at the age of 75. Under his leadership El Camino Baptist Church experienced substantial growth and added additional property and buildings all of which were debt free at the time of his retirement. After his retirement, Max was named Pastor Emeritus by the Church.
Max was also active in the larger faith community. He held a number of offices with the North Coast Baptist Association, the Sacramento Southern Baptist Association, the California Southern Baptist Convention and the national Southern Baptist Convention. In addition, he served as the Prayer Chairman for two Sacramento Billy Graham Crusades and was an active participant in many other ecumenical efforts in the Sacramento area. At the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky in 2009 Kell was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
Max was a member of the board of directors of the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Sacramento for almost 30 years, and a chaplain himself for most of those years. Even during his retirement years he would ride along with officers on the graveyard shift, and be on call for emergencies. After his retirement, the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Sacramento established a scholarship fund in Max’s honor. Max was also honored by the California Highway Patrol for his efforts as a police chaplain. At the time of his death Kell was a member of VFW Post 2324 Town and Country and serving as its adjunct.
Of all his accomplishments and awards, Kell was most proud of his family. Kell was preceded in death by his parents Maxville and Nancy Kell; his son Randy; his son in law Mickey Coppage; and a great-grandson, Moses Hance. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Eloise Bryson Kell; his brother Lyle Kell and wife Dorothy; his sister Martha Bryson; his daughter Denise Coppage; his sons and their wives, Grant and Gail, Philip and Debbie, Neal and Faith, Lance and Becky, and Todd and Rachel; 16 grandchildren; 19 great grand children; and 2 great great grandchildren, as well as a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. He was fond of saying that he wasn’t interested in collecting anything but friends. Max will be remembered as a mighty man of prayer.
Visitation will be held on Monday, July 25, 2011 from 4 pm to 8 pm at Eastlawn Mortuary, 5757 Greenback Lane, Sacramento. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 10:00 am at El Camino Baptist Church, 2805 El Camino Avenue, Sacramento. In lieu of flowers gifts may be sent to the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Sacramento or El Camino Baptist Church for its building fund.
East Lawn Mortuary
5757 Greenback Lane