There are some men whom you meet for the first time you just know they will become a great and forever friend. Such was our introduction to Pastor Tyrone Thorpe and his wife Alisha in 2014 at a marriage seminar in East St. Louis, Illinois.
Cathy and I were invited along with our wonderful friend, Carolyn Lilley to assist in a marriage seminar to strengthen believers at 15th Street Baptist Church in East St. Louis. Carolyn, Cathy and I are members of First Baptist Church, Branson, Missouri, and our church has had a mission’s relationship with 15th Street Baptist and their pastor Andrew Prowell for at least 10 years. We had done 2 marriage seminars in previous years in their church and were purposing to make this teaching seminar an annual event. At this particular seminar Pastor Prowell’s brother, Tyrone Thorpe and wife Alisha were in attendance, and we were introduced. At the time Tyrone was serving as Deacon in another church, and he and Alisha were not regular attenders at 15th Street Baptist.
Several personal qualities Cathy and I immediately noticed in Tyrone were his infectious smile and his exuberant joy in the Lord. He seemed to be continuously smiling and praising God for everything to the extent it initially seemed disingenuous. The more we were with them convinced us he was for real. His obvious love for his bride Alisha was genuine, and we were thrilled having them at our marriage conference. They had been married for 3 years when we first met them.
Before the conference was over the Thorpe’s spoke with us about the possibility of returning the following year to participate in a conference they would organize and manage, and we readily agreed. We believed their enthusiasm and energy was just the spark we needed for a very special meeting.
Throughout the summer and fall months we stayed in touch with the Thorpe’s anticipating either a spring or early summer marriage retreat, which they would plan and coordinate. They set a date which was compatible with our schedule and made more complete preparations for the seminar which included several other couples which would be in leadership roles. We agreed to be in prayer together for God’s hand to be on the conference, and because we were separated by such a distance a conference call prayer meeting was scheduled for every 2 weeks for 2 months.
What an experience the conference call was for Cathy and me since we had not been part of such an event! There were at least 6 people on-line each time, and each was respectful of the one who was praying. It was thrilling for Cathy and me to be part of such a diversified group of believers whose sole purpose was to ask for God’s blessing to be upon the marriage seminar.
The seminar was so well planned by Pastor Tyrone and Alisha it was by far the best marriage enrichment we have ever been fortunate to attend. A highlight for us occurred on the evening prior to the start of the meeting when Cathy, Carolyn Lilley and I joined Pastor Tyrone and Alisha for supper at the Golden Corral in Belleville, Illinois near the Thorpe’s home. Our enthusiasm in that restaurant was fueled by the Thorpe’s, and especially Tyrone who seemed to witness to everyone present in that place. It was there I was especially drawn to Tyrone’s love for Jesus and his sincere desire to share the gospel with everyone.
Tyrone had been delivered years before from the deadly trap of alcohol, drugs and the life-style they create. His life was a total wreck, including breakup of his marriage and family and resulting in a prison sentence. By his testimony of hitting rock bottom and being homeless, his deliverance by the Lord Jesus was dramatic and complete. He had an intense and abiding heart interest for men and women, who like himself were trapped by their sin and circumstances.
In addition to his deliverance from the deadly trap of sin, he was delivered from the initial effects of a head and neck cancer which had possibly resulted from his life-style choices. He received multiple irradiation treatments followed by chemotherapy, and for more than 5 years seemed to have been cured.
At some point following all of this, he met Alisha who was working as a nurse at the VA Hospital in St. Louis where he also worked. They began dating and decided it was God’s will for them to be joined in marriage. Alisha had endured the harm from an abusive husband in her first marriage and through her faith and trust in the Lord Jesus had become a strong and faithful witness for Him. Tyrone and Alisha were made for each other and were married in 2011. Together they developed a ministry of hope and encouragement for any person who had been damaged by sin and their poor life-style choices. It was 3 years after their marriage we first met them.
The final chapter in Tyrone’s earthly life began in mid-2016 when he developed increasing symptoms of severe throat pain and difficulty in swallowing. He phoned me on several occasions, and we prayed together for each other. I was having increasing symptoms of heart disease and growing progressively weaker. Our times of prayer together by phone always encouraged me and drew me closer to the Lord Jesus which I heard in Tyrone’s voice. He began the testing process which resulted in recommendation of a major surgical procedure to remove the recurrent head and neck cancer.Near the same time I was recommended to have open heart surgery.
As it turned out, our surgical procedures were on the exact same day, December 1, 2016. Tyrone was operated at St. Louis University Hospital, and my procedure was done at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Had they not been on the same day, we would have been present at each other’s hospital.
Tyrone’s operation for complete cancer removal was not successful and he grew increasingly worse from the cancer. Alisha faithfully cared for him day and night, using her nursing skills and doing many things which would normally be done by other health care providers. We stayed in touch as much as possible, and I gained enough strength for Cathy and I to travel to St. Louis to see him in the hospital in mid-April. He was so weak and couldn’t talk because of his tracheostomy, but we saw that special twinkle in his eye and felt the mutual love in the handshake and ever-present smile. He was surrounded by family members, but we were able to stay for several hours, and especially giving time for Cathy to spend together with Alisha. I was fortunate to have about 30 minutes alone with Tyrone and Veronica his lovely daughter from his first marriage.Veronica lives with her husband and children in Tampa, Florida, and she is a wonderful example of a Christian witness similar to her Father.
My brother Tyrone departed this life on April 26, 2017 at age 60 years, and his spirit was immediately taken into the presence of His Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. I can only imagine the reverence and awe he experienced and can also visualize the enormous joy and gigantic smile which is now continually on his face. I miss him very much but am confidant I will see that smile and sparkle in his eye once again. (I Thess.4:13-18)