Pastor Spellman celebrates his 100th birthday with family, friends

Andrew Spellman is all smiles at his 100th birthday party at the Dover Modern Maturity Center on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Andrew Spellman is all smiles at his 100th birthday party at the Dover Modern Maturity Center on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER –– In 1916, Woodrow Wilson was president, the United States was on the brink of entering World War I and Andrew L. Spellman was born in North Carolina.

Mr. Spellman made Delaware his home in 1946 and celebrated his 100th birthday with 200 of his closest family members and friends Saturday afternoon at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover.

Proven by the extraordinary turnout for the birthday celebration, Mr. Spellman has made a significant impact on the lives of almost everyone he’s met.

“He’s probably taught me about 30 percent of everything I know,” said Deacon Marvel Shockley, a family friend of Mr. Spellman’s for 45 years.

“He taught me some really important things over the years, especially about marriage and family. I thought the Lord was always number one but luckily he taught me that the wife is also number one,” he joked.

Andrew Spellman is greeted by his grandson Jon Harris and wife Syreeta at his 100th birthday party at the Dover Modern Maturity Center on Saturday.

Andrew Spellman is greeted by his grandson Jon Harris and wife Syreeta at his 100th birthday party at the Dover Modern Maturity Center on Saturday.

Mr. Spellman has plenty of wisdom to offer about family life after being married for 73 years before his wife, Maude, died in 2012 and raising a dozen kids.

Coincidentally, Mr. Spellman and his late wife were both raised in families where they were one of a dozen children.

“When we came to Delaware we had two kids but eventually got to 12,” Mr. Spellman said. “When we first got here, I started out with animals –– I worked at a poultry plant then raised chickens on my own before getting into construction.”

He recalled in the late 1940s through 1950s that central Delaware was attracting many people from out of state looking for jobs and many initally wound up in farm culture like himself.

After starting a full-time career in construction in 1951 and part-time jobs as a Bible study leader and Sunday School teacher, Mr. Spellman built both a congregation and a church.

Matthew Spellman, left, with his father Andrew Spellman at his 100th birthday party.

Matthew Spellman, left, with his father Andrew Spellman at his 100th birthday party.

“I went around to camps and from door to door recruiting people until we got enough to start service which began at our house,” he said.

Once the congregation grew, Mr. Spellman built and founded Ellendale’s Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas. He served as shepherd and pastor of the church from 1958 to 2007.

Since Mr. Spellman’s retirement, his oldest daughter, Miriam C. Harris, has assumed the role of pastor at the church.

“For my dad, it’s always been about saving souls and that’s what’s kept him in it for so long,” said Matthew O. Spellman –– Mr. Spellman’s sixth child.

The elder Spellman still preaches every fourth Sunday, nearly 60 years since his first sermon, “Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?”

“His sermons always focus on the soul and that salvation is the way,” the younger Spellman said. “He wants people to understand why Jesus died. This message has been his sole focus his whole life.”

It wasn’t just the message he preached at church, but the message he preached at home in addition to the importance and power of prayer. He’s proud of how all his kids turned out.

“They’ve all done amazing,” he said. “They are all successful people and I’ve seen them apply so much of what my wife and I taught and (they)  teach it to their kids, too.”

Matthew attributed his father’s longevity to his enthusiasm in all his endeavors.

“When he came here, he had a wife, two kids, a 40-hour-a-week job,” the younger Spellman said. “He was eventually a busy father of 12, too, and on top of that, his mission never ended. He just has this motor that never stops. He stays so invested in what he does and that’s probably a trait that’s kept him around for so long.”

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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