By Wally Kennedy
As a Presbyterian minister, William “Bill” Christman spent much of his career leading congregations in Scotland. In 1991, he became national prison chaplain for the Scottish Prison Service and the first full-time Protestant prison chaplain in the country. Twice Christman was invited to preach at Crathie Church and enjoy the hospitality of Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle.
Closer to home he was known for his work as the founder of the Community Clinic of Joplin. Christman died Tuesday at the Joplin Health and Rehabilitation Center from injuries sustained in a fall on Aug. 4. He was 73.
Christman’s family founded the Christman Department Store in downtown Joplin. It was Joplin’s largest dry-goods store from 1890 to 1955.
Services were held Friday at Thornhill-Dillon Mortuary in Joplin. Private family services and burial followed at Mount Hope Cemetery in Webb City.
In 2003, Christman was named Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, an honor he received for his work with the Community Clinic, which has given free medical treatment to thousands of patients in the Joplin area.
Barbie Bilton, director of the clinic, said she met Christman in 2009 when he visited the clinic at 701 S. Joplin Ave.
“I struck up a friendship with him,’’ she said. “He was such a wonderful, caring individual. His legacy is going to live on forever in the Community Clinic. The number of people he has helped in this community is unbelievable — both far and wide. This loss will be deeply felt.’’
Terry Dolanc and his wife, Karen, are the directors of music at First Presbyterian Church in Joplin, where Christman served as a minister.
“He was very humble type of person,’’ Terry Dolanc said. “You would never know it, but he got a Christmas card every year from the Queen.’’
He said Christman had devoted his whole life to helping others.
“He helped with so many things — the Community Clinic and Children’s Haven. I only know the tip of the iceberg,’’ Dolanc said. “He did a lot of wonderful work, but he never wanted to take credit for any of it. Everything was at a low key. He was not that type of person.’’
Dolanc said he recalls Christman taking telephone calls in his office from prisoners who, when released from incarceration, would need a job.
“He did so many things people did not know about. If they were incarcerated and needed a job, he would help them get a job. He worked with recovering alcoholics and drug addicts to get them back on their feet,’’ he said. “He would help someone in whatever way he could.’’
Christman was born Sept. 6, 1938, in Joplin to Arthur B. and Jane (Harsh) Christman. He was raised in Joplin and was a 1956 graduate of Joplin High School. Christman received his bachelor’s degree in ministry from University of Edinburgh, New College, Scotland; his doctorate from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Texas; and earned a Fulbright fellowship to Harvard University School of Education.
He resided in Scotland for more than 30 years, during which time he was the minister of various churches.
He married Georgina “Gina” Boyle on Oct. 11, 1975, in Glasgow, Scotland. She survives. Also surviving are two daughters, Stephanie Christman and partner, Mark Atkinson, of Caversham, England, and Laura Pilcher and husband, Ben, of Denver, Colo.; one grandson, Paul Pilcher; his mother, Jane Christman, of Jefferson City; a brother, John Christman and wife, Carolyn, of Gladstone; and one sister, Marilyn Christman, of Jefferson City.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.thornhilldillon.com.