Joel O. Tompkins was born in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 22, 1933. He married Peggy Green on Sept. 7, 1952, and graduated from Southern Missionary College with a bachelor’s degree in religion in 1955. After graduation, Joel and Peggy taught school one year in Alabama and then pastored in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida before being called to the Northern New England Conference in 1966. There Joel served as ministerial director and conference evangelist.
The family moved to New Jersey in 1971, where Joel worked as conference evangelist. One year later, he was asked to be the conference president. From there he was called to the Kansas Conference, later combined with the Nebraska Conference. In 1983 he accepted the presidency of the Mid-America Union. In that position, he chaired the Union College Board of Trustees, as well as several Adventist Health System hospital boards. He also served on the boards of Loma Linda University, Andrews University and Oakwood College.
In 1995, Joel and Peggy returned to the South, and in retirement volunteered for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, visiting churches, camp meetings and conventions as requested. They wintered in Florida, volunteering with friends at Pine Lake Retreat. Summers were spent in Maine, Tennessee and, lastly, Georgia.
Joel is survived by his wife of 65 years and their two children: Joel Don and his wife, Kellie, are living in New Jersey where Joel Don is the conference treasurer. Their daughter, Susan Schnell, is an RN/infection preventionist consultant. She and her husband, Arnold, live in Saint Marys, Georgia, where Arnold pastors the Brunswick and Camden Churches.
Joel and Peggy have four married grandsons: Eric and Katie Schnell with sons Cooper and Caleb in Calhoun Georgia; Ben and Natalie Schnell with baby Eva in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Andrew and Anuradha Tompkins with sons Abishek and Andre in Berrien Springs, Michigan; and Dan and Semira Tompkins with daughter Rihanna and son Robeson in Boston, Massachusetts.
On Sept. 15, 2017, Joel went peacefully to rest while in Cleveland, Tennessee, after evacuating from Hurricane Irma. He wants to be remembered as “one who dearly loved Jesus with 100 percent appreciation for what He did to save me, and a deep indebtedness to my family for their loving care over the years and especially in my last days.”