William D. “Bill” Gorrell spent a lifetime serving others and pointing them toward heaven. On Dec. 15, 2021, he joined them and was greeted by his first wife, Evelyn; his second wife, Peggy; his son, Steve; baby Jacob; and countless people who are there today because of his faithfulness.
“He had a boyish, wide-eyed wonder about the world and appreciated and loved people,” a longtime member of his church said. “Bill embodied Christ’s caring like no one I had ever met. The world is poorer today, but I know you are enjoying your riches.”
Bill was born on Oct. 18, 1931, in Mexico, Mo. He excelled in both academics and athletics and twice was recognized as the top scholar athlete in his high school. After seeing his best friend die in a tragic accident, he felt God calling him to be a pastor, and he never wavered in his commitment. Although Bill’s path through life took him far from Mexico, he never forgot the small-town values that shaped him and visited his hometown whenever he could.
Bill earned a bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones University and a master’s of divinity from Golden Gate Seminary. While in seminary, he met Evelyn Marr, whom he married on May 21, 1955. They raised a family and served together until she passed away on Feb. 4, 2000. Bill pastored Bayside Baptist Church San Mateo, Calif., and College Heights Church in Ventura, Calif., and was seniors pastor for South Coast Fellowship in Ventura. He was especially known for caring for the less fortunate, helping found College Heights Christian School and being a leader in the charismatic movement that swept Southern California in the 1970s.
After Evelyn passed away, Bill married a longtime family friend, Peggy Eckstein, on Nov. 18, 2000, and relocated to St. Louis. They enjoyed many happy years together, including vacations to Scotland, China and many other places. Bill led a men’s group in his church and shared the gospel with thousands of people during several mission trips to India and Guatemala. Bill and Peggy never missed a birthday celebration or grandparents day at their grandchildren’s schools, and he enjoyed taking them swimming at a water park near his home. Bill was proud to have baptized each of his grandchildren and performed the wedding ceremony for one of his granddaughters.
Bill and Peggy later relocated to Arizona. After Peggy passed away last spring, Bill moved to the Kansas City area to be near his daughter and her family. He frequently said “God saved the best for last” as he regularly attended church and a men’s group, visited his hometown, enjoyed a concert by Andrea Bocelli and celebrated his 90th birthday.
Bill will long be remembered for his commitment to Christ and his church, love for his family and friends, and passion for those in need. Even near the end of his life, he loved to visit others, watch football, try new restaurants and drop a few puns into his conversations. Anyone who knew him understood that even after nine decades, he never ceased to appreciate the joy and wonder of life. As his grandson once remarked, “Grandpa is amazed a lot.”Bill is survived by his son, Clark (Wendy) Gorrell of Bend, Ore.; daughter-in-law Rose Gorrell of Bend; daughter Sherilyn (Alan) Goforth of Lee’s Summit, Mo.; grandsons Jonathan Goforth, Ryan Eckstein, Jason Eckstein and Brandon Eckstein, granddaughters Brittany (Jesse) Johnson, Natasha Gorrell and Sydney Eckstein, great-granddaughter, Gia Johnson; and the Sparks family.
The family is planning a celebration of life in California in the spring. Donations can be made in Bill’s name to City Church California (www.citychurchca.com) or TGIW (www.characterthatcounts.org). Arrangements have been entrusted to Meyers Funeral Chapel in Blue Springs. Memories of Bill and words of comfort for his family may be shared at meyersfuneralchapel.com.