"It was a blessing. I had two wishes at my wedding, and that was one of them — that he was to marry us."
CRESTVIEW — In one of his last official acts as pastor for Woodlawn Baptist Church, George Katzman officiated the May 4 marriage of two of his church's members.
Holding a microphone, he led the ceremony from the hospital bed in his Crestview home. Outside his window, the former Jessica Gronberg and her intended, Larry Smith of Crestview, held one another's hands.
"It was incredible to me, because these are people I've known for about four or five years, and they really wanted me to do the ceremony," said Katzman, 62, who has terminal cancer. "And I was just very grateful that they rearranged everything so they could come up to my front yard and I could still do it for them.
"They changed the dates and times, whatever they had to do, just so that they would let me get to perform the ceremony. That meant a lot, because I've know them for several years, and they've become good friends," he added.
Jessica Smith said there were a few issues moving up the previously scheduled June 4 wedding date.
"We didn’t get Larry’s tuxedo (or were) able to have as many family and friends there as we would like, but Larry’s mother and sister were able to come," Jessica Smith said.
"It was a blessing," said Larry Smith of Katzman leading the service. "... I had two wishes at my wedding, and that was one of them — that he was to marry us."
Katzman retired from his post May 11 in a meeting with some of Woodlawn’s staff members, which was posted on the church’s Facebook page.
His wife, Cynthia, held his hand as he read a brief statement.
As a means of honoring Katzman’s works through the church, they established the George Katzman Seminary Scholarship Fund, and will rename Building C the George Katzman Center for Christian Education and Ministry.
"I think it’s only fitting that that building bears your name — not just for the fact of you’re an awesome guy and we want to name a building after you — but your heart and your passion to see people growing in Christ and to see people serve. I think that presence and that focus and that spirit, will live on in that," said the church’s new pastor, Jason Allen.
The trustees also presented him with a retirement bonus equivalent to seven months of his salary.
"There are a lot of good things that happen, and there's a lot of heartbreaking sadness," Katzman said of his 30 years in service. "And a lot of it's the spiritual and emotional that you deal with, plus trying, because you're always on call, there's a balance between family and between work."
Of his family, he said, "my wife has her own ministry. She's not just the wife of me as a minister. People go to her as a Bible teacher and counselor, just like they would to me. My children are also faithful Christians, which is one of my greatest joys in life.
"Even at the end, God has given me even greater blessings in ministry than when I was more able to get out and do things physically ... I had 30 years of the best job ever."