John R. Loor Sr. Makes Case for Adventist Education

Loor, a lifelong church administrator who died last week at the age of 87, leaves a legacy that is inextricably linked to his Adventist schooling.

John R. Loor Sr. Makes Case for Adventist Education

At a time when financial turmoil at the church’s oldest boarding academy puts a new focus on Adventist schools, perhaps John R. Loor Sr. offers a reminder about the reason to invest in Adventist education.

John R. Loor Sr. posed as Adam in this well-known illustration from the book "Your Bible and You."
Raised in an impoverished family with an often-absent alcoholic father, Loor completed his first nine years of education in Adventist schools because of the sacrificial giving of an Adventist church led by F.D. Nichol, editor of the
Review and Herald (now the Adventist Review).

Loor later graduated from an Adventist college and became a longtime church administrator, serving as president of the Indiana and Northern New England conferences, pastor of the Southern Adventist University church, and even a model for book illustrations of Adam and Daniel that made him instantly recognizable among many Adventists.

Loor died surrounded by family in his home in Hendersonville, North Carolina, on Jan. 13. He was 87.

Even before Loor reached the pinnacle of his career in the church, he was held up at a General Conference session as an outstanding product of Adventist education.

Nichol told the 1962 session in San Francisco how Loor had preached to 16,000 young people at a youth congress in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and how many in the audience had dedicated their lives to Jesus.

“He preached with power, cogency, and appeal,” Nichol said with Loor standing at his side, according to the biography,
His Initials were FDN.

“For a moment we were there in the auditorium listening intently, and then again we seemed to be far away visiting a poor little home, broken and blighted by drink, with a mother supported by a sacrificial church so she could send her boy to the church school,” he said. “It was a very great day for us.”

The state of Adventist education is the subject of a lively discussion this month on Adventist news sites and social media after Mount Vernon Academy, founded in Ohio in 1893, decided to close if it fails to raise $3 million. General Conference treasurer Robert E. Lemon,
writing in the Adventist Review last week, called Mount Vernon a wake-up call for U.S. boarding academies to respond to present-day realities by consolidating.

Amid the discussion about Adventist education, few would likely dispute that Loor managed to touch many lives because of his schooling.

“Over my life, I wish I had $5 for everyone who has come to me and said, ‘I remember the week of prayer your dad held at my academy or college. What a blessing his messages were to me,’” said his son, John R. Loor Jr. “I don’t believe we will really know until heaven how many lives my dad touched for Jesus.”

Loor also posed as Daniel in the book.
Loor Jr., 65, executive secretary of the Adventist Church’s North Pacific Union, said his father’s secret to touching lives was the time he spent with Jesus in daily devotions.

“As we all know, when you live with somebody, you get to know that person very well and you get to see if their walk really matches their talk,” he said in prepared remarks for his father’s memorial service on Jan. 31 at the Fletcher Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. “The example my dad set when it came to spending quality time every day with Jesus will live with me for the rest of my life.”

From Church Member to Church Pastor

John Robert Loor Sr. was born on Jan. 7, 1928, in Washington D.C. to Ernest Loor, a painter, and Edna nee Green, an office secretary and native of England who immigrated with her parents to the United States.

When John was 2 years old, his parents and grandparents received an invitation in the mail to attend Adventist meetings in a nearby theater. The family, faithful Methodists, soon found that the presentations echoed a little book that they had purchased in England and brought to the United States,
Bible Readings for the Home. The mother and grandparents accepted the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and were baptized into the newly organized Review and Herald Memorial Church in Hyattsville, Maryland.

The United States was mired in the Great Depression. Ernest Loor struggled with alcoholism, and the young John lived with the grandparents much of the time. He was quickly taken under the wing of Nichol, the pastor of the church. At Nichol’s encouragement, church members raised the funds to send Loor to all eight grades at John Nevins Andrews Elementary School and one year at Takoma Academy.

Loor was forced to transfer to a public high school when his family moved, but he remained connected to the Adventist Church, marrying church member June Howes on March 31, 1948. The pastor who married them, Russell Quackenbush, recognized leadership and speaking skills in Loor and urged him to become a pastor. With that advice, Loor enrolled in Washington Missionary College (now Washington Adventist University).

One of his first churches to pastor was his old Review and Herald Memorial Church.

Loor posing for a photo.
As pastor, Loor was invited to model for pictures at the nearby Review and Herald Publishing Association and he was best known for posing as Adam and Daniel in the book
Your Bible and You. Loor’s stint as a model made him a sort of church celebrity, but many Adventists who recognized him mistakenly associated him with illustrations used in Arthur S. Maxwell’s The Bible Story, his son said.

“Yes, people did recognize him from the book,” Loor Jr. said. “When asked about what he thought about his role in the book, he would just smile.”

Also at the Review and Herald Memorial Church, Loor Sr. unexpectedly was invited to participate in the popular television game show
The Price Is Right. He sold his winnings—a new car, an island off the coast of Maine, and an antique fire wagon—and had just enough money left after taxes to buy a small lot for his family’s first home. Church members built the house in their free time.

A Sermon With Marvin Ponder

After Maryland, Loor accepted an invitation to work as pastor of the Dallas Central Church, the position he held when he made waves with his sermon at the youth congress. Loor built the sermon around the story of Marvin Ponder, a former teen rock-and-roll musician who earlier attended a similar youth congress in the same auditorium in Atlantic City while studying at Southwestern Union College (now Southwestern Adventist University). He had given his life to Jesus and decided to become a pastor in that auditorium. Loor, at the end of his sermon, brought Ponder onto the auditorium’s platform to sing the appeal song. Many people in the audience responded.

“It was one of those special times when one could feel the moving of the Holy Spirit in an amazing way,” said June Loor, his wife of 66 years.

Ponder, whose rich tenor voice is well known among Adventists for his many recordings, currently serves as a pastor at the Loma Linda University Church.

Also while in Dallas, Loor made a significant impact on the life of one of his son’s close friends, Rip Knight, known today as the Adventist musician Jim McDonald, Loor Jr. said. On the album jacket for “Pieces of My Life,” McDonald names Loor Sr. as a friend who loved and mentored him during his troubled youth.

Over the years, Loor worked in various churches and conferences across the United States, including a memorable time as the ministerial director of the Michigan Conference when he stood by to preach for evangelist H.M.S. Richards at camp meetings.

Loor posing as a patient suffering from ulcers on the front cover of Life and Health, now known as Vibrant Life, in 1958.
“Conference administration always had John standing in the wings prepared to preach just in case Elder Richards, who was always flying in at the last minute, did not get there in time,” June Loor said.

Loor Sr. spoke at numerous camp meetings and weeks of prayer at Adventist schools around the United States and abroad. He urged listeners to get to know Jesus better by spending time in private devotions.

“He really had a burden for Christian education,” his wife said. “That was the first love of my husband.”

Loor Sr. also wrote about private devotions in the book
Pack Your Life With Power, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association.

Late in his career he served as president of the Northern New England Conference, which consists of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and president of the Indiana Conference.

“He always felt it was a privilege to serve the Lord in whatever area and role the Lord chose to call him,” June Loor said. “He felt that administration gave him a greater opportunity to understand the needs of the church, to serve on hospital boards and union committees, and to have the opportunity to be a part of the General Conference in session where plans for the worldwide church are made.”

John Loor Sr. is survived by his wife, June; his son, John Jr., and wife, Susan; his daughter, Jane, and her husband, Jim; five grandchildren, Cindy, Jimmy, Ryan, Rob, and Jeremy; and two great grandchildren, Ira and Ellison. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the Fletcher Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Related story

“Threatened Closure of Adventist Academy Serves as a Wake-Up Call,” by Robert E. Lemon, Jan. 16, 2015, Adventist Review