A man who spent more than 50 years ministering to the people of Conway, Dr. John Robert Shell died Thursday. He was 87.

Dr. Shell spent more than 30 years of his professional life as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, arriving in 1958 after serving at churches in Dermott and Tillar. Even after retiring as the full pastor in 1989, Shell stayed on as Pastor Emeritus, continuing to help church members.

"He was such a fixture in the community," said David Grimes, Conway Alderman and member of First Presbyterian Church. "I don’t think you could meet a kinder, gentler man anywhere,"

Grimes said that although his family had been members of First Presbyterian Church for the past 10 years, long after Shell had retired, he would often step in on Sundays and still deliver a powerful message.

"We have six-year-old twins, and even at his advanced age, Dr. Shell performed their baptisms," he said. "I think it may have been one of the last baptisms he performed."

Although he officially retired in 1989, he and his wife, Gwen, served as volunteers in ministry at the Presbyterian Mo-Ranch Conference Center in Hunt, Texas. He also served as interim pastor at several locations in Arkansas including Dermott, Walnut Ridge, Benton, Stuttgart, Clarksville, Mountainburg, Beebe, Mena, and Pine Bluff.

Even when not serving in an official capacity, Shell enjoyed being involved with the Conway community.

"A tradition that we loved at work was when Dr. Shell would bring his homemade peanut brittle to our office at Christmas," said David McCollum, sports columnist of the Log Cabin Democrat. "It was definitely something we looked forward to."

Shell is survived by his wife, four children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church with Rev. Drew G. Travis presiding.