The Rev. Dean Bryant gave up the full-time pastorate more than a decade ago, but he never gave up ministering to ailing patients and their families.
In the past few weeks, even as he lay on his own sickbed, he continued reaching out to people.
"No matter who came in (the room), he would call them by name," said his daughter, Debra Maxwell of Dahlonega, recalling him on Wednesday. "(These were) people I didn't remember, but Dad would, no matter how long ago. He pastored their church or whatever."
Family and friends are mourning Bryant's passing Tuesday, remembering him as a great preacher quick to share his faith and always generous in showing love and compassion toward others. He was 79.
"A friend last night said they had a brother dying of cancer and when they would tell him my daddy's car was coming up the driveway, his whole countenance would change," Maxwell said, crying as she spoke.
"He would go from looking so pale and sick to having a bright look on his face. There wasn't anybody my daddy didn't love. He would just do anything for anybody, no matter what time of the day or night."
Bryant's funeral services are set for 3 p.m. today at Cavender's Creek Baptist Church in Lumpkin County, with the Revs. Roger Dunagan, Stephen Adams and Ricky Stone officiating.
Burial will follow in the church cemetery with a dove release.
"A dove, in the Scripture, has always been representative of the spirit of the Lord," said Adams, Cavender's Creek's pastor. "In this particular instance, it's a picture of (Bryant's) flight to heaven."
Adams also is grieving over Bryant's death.
"I've known Dean as long as I've known anyone. He was the pastor at the church where I grew up, Wahoo Baptist."
Bryant's "sermons were powerful and unforgettable, and more importantly he was always concerned about seeing people come to know the Lord and being saved," Adams said. "That was his life's mission."
A lifelong Lumpkin County resident, Bryant served as pastor of 16 churches in Lumpkin and Hall counties, having been called to the ministry when he was 17.
He had four different tenures at Wahoo Baptist: 1963-66, 1967-74, 1977-82 and 1996 until his retirement in 1998.
Bryant then began his ministry to the sick, traveling to homes and hospitals all over Northeast Georgia.
He also was busy at funeral homes, officiating at more than 100 funerals between 2007 and 2008.
Bryant's life's work caught the attention of government, as well, as the state named the intersection of Ga. 115 and Ga. 52 in Lumpkin County after him.
He began to slow in 2009, confining his work to five counties and trying to avoid trips to hospitals in places like Atlanta or Augusta, he said in a 2009 interview with The Times.
"When I get up, some days I don't feel like going and I don't ask questions ... I just go," Bryant said. "It's on those days that I've had the sweet presence of God that touches me and that old tired and sick feeling just leaves me."
Asked about how long he would keep up the ministry, Bryant said, "I hope the Lord calls me, and I fall out on a hospital floor."
He suffered from leukemia over the past few years, his illness progressing to where he needed chemotherapy, Adams said. "Following those treatments, his health began to decline and he was in a nursing care facility when he passed."
Bryant "knew it was time for him to go," Maxwell said. "He told me this past week it was getting close. He said he thought he would be going home in about three days."