CHAMPAIGN – The Rev. Lundy Savage liked to say "stir it up!" as life advice, a friend recalls, and he certainly did so in his own life.
The first of 10 siblings raised in a Chicago housing project to go to college, he ended up as a beloved pastor, so beloved that his funeral service, which does not have a firm date yet, will be held in two sessions to accommodate the crowds.
The 40-year pastor of Mount Olive baptist Church, 808 E. Bradley Ave., C, died Tuesday at Carle Foundation Hospital at the age of 70.
Funeral times are not set, said his widow Carolyn Savage, but arrangements are being handled at Leek & Sons Funeral Home, 304 E. Williams St., Danville.
A close friend, the Rev. B.J. Tatum, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church, Urbana, was to have served as guest speaker at a 40th anniversary celebration in May.
Tatum, who came to Champaign-Urbana in the same year as Rev. Savage, 1971, called his friend "a great pastor and a man of vision."
Besides his dedication to his flock, friends and family, Tatum said, the pastor was devoted to his denomination.
Rev. Savage served as the former president of the state convention of the National Baptist Convention USA and held a top post in the national organization, which has more than 8 million members, Tatum said.
"He just loved denominational work. He was highly regarded on the national level as well as in the state," Tatum said.
"He was greatly accomplished in building his church, with many additions and new buildings," Carolyn Savage said, noting that the sanctuary had increase to hold 500 people in his tenure.
"He was a great educator. I learned so much about the Bible from his Hour of Power classes," said niece Karen Hampton. "And he made it fun, even the homework."
Tatum said his friendship was treasured.
"Some people you meet and you just mesh together. We both had young families. We just grew together and enjoyed fellowshipping together. He was my confidant and I was his," the pastor said.
He said their friendship included accountability, a necessary factor.
The "stir it up" motto came from a situation where Rev. Savage literally did not stir it up, his friend say.
The pastor poured sugar into his coffee without mixing it, and told Tatum it was very bitter. But as he reached the bottom of the cup, the coffee grew ever sweeter, and Rev. Savage said life could be like that.
He said people need to stir up their lives, and make something of themselves, and used that message in a sermon more than once, Tatum said.
Carolyn Savage said the couple met in Chicago in 1965, and married the next year.
"I thought he was different, and special," she recalled.
The couple moved to Tulsa for about 18 months, where he taught at Langston University. His first pastorate was in Dixon, Ill., and his second and lifelong was at Mount Olive.
"This is where the Lord led us for our spiritual adventure," said Carolyn, who served in the young women's ministry.
The couple raised two children, Scott and Christie. He's an assistant principal; she's a social worker.
"He took a great interest in education," she said, noting that he graduated from Judson College in Eureka.
Hampton said her uncle was a powerful force in her life.
"My faith taught me a lot about who I am," she said. "When I moved to Champaign, I was in the right place at the right time, and he – and the entire Mount Olive family – helped me so much with finding my place."