Anita Sawyer Presented With A Presbyterian Women’s Honorary Life Membership
Anita Smith Sawyer was born in Opelousas, LA., on September 18, 1939, to Allen Key Smith, Jr. and Isabel Bull. She has three siblings which included two brothers and one sister.
The Smiths lived in Opelousas until 1942, and for two years during World War II, they moved and lived where their father was stationed at Fort Knox, KY. They returned to Opelousas around 1945 and the children attended school there. The family moved again around 1952 to India where their dad, Allen, worked and helped the local farmers with their farming. While there, she and her siblings attended a Catholic Convent School that was operated by Irish nuns. In 1954, they returned to Opelousas and she finished High School in 1957.
Anita started college in the fall of 1957 at L.S.U. and this is where she met her future husband, James Walter Sawyer. They were in the same chemistry lab course together. She graduated with a degree in Dietetics in 1961 and did her Internship at Baylor University Medical Center.
On June 10, 1961, Anita married Jim Sawyer in Springhill, Louisiana, after three years of courtship. They lived in Abbeville, Louisiana, where Jim began his ministry at the First Presbyterian Church of Abbeville. They were there for five years. Anita and Jim had two daughters, Kathryn and Eleanor and they have one granddaughter, Maya Crose.
After the five years at Abbeville, Anita and Jim moved to Port Allen and he served as our Pastor for three years. Anita started working in Baton Rouge as a dietitian at the old Baton Rouge General Hospital from 1970-1978. She also helped Rev. Jim with his Church work and assisted in women’s activities, sang in the Church Choir and helped raise their two children in a Christian home and environment.
In 1973, Anita and family moved to Baton Rouge and Rev. Jim became the founding pastor of Sherwood Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge. Anita was still working at the BRGH and the girls started attending school. After they both helped build Sherwood’s church community, Rev. Jim served 27 years as their pastor before he retired. In the year 2000, Jim wanted to return to WBR Presbyterian Church and decided to do so as a part time Pastor in Port Allen for 20 more years. They continued to live in their home in Baton Rouge. Anita would have our Women’s Bible Study Group over for supper and the lesson, and would help with our mission projects such as crocheting Prayer Shawls and continued to help Jim with his church work especially after his health started declining.
In 2007, when Jim became blind after back surgery, Anita continued to support and help him and the family adjusted to the changes that affected their lives. She also helped our church make changes so Jim could continue being our pastor for another 14 years.
Thank you, Anita, for your service and caring you have shared with your family and your Church family over the years.
Reflections (Wholly Ramblings) – April 25th
Over this past month, I’ve been reflecting on the things I learned being Jim Sawyer’s daughter and growing up in our family. When your father is a minister, he is at the heart of the church community and sets the tone for worship and engagement with parishioners. I remember his joyful approach and the way that many of his sermons were centered on Christ’s love as a foundation for life.
In our home, we grew up listening to Dad’s playful banter with friends when they would visit or talk on the phone. Dad enjoyed laughter, but he was always open to a deeper conversation if something more serious was going on. Our parents valued the people they knew, and that led to their lives being filled with friendship and community.
I learned how to be a good friend by watching my dad make friends and keep in touch with them over the years, in person and by phone. What makes someone a good friend? They care about you. They really listen to you and try to understand your truth, even when it is not their shared experience. You know that they love you because they show it in their actions. They consistently “show up” for you, offering support and encouragement by simply being there. Things that may seem like small gestures become something much more when done consistently over a lifetime. Our dad always showed up for us. He kept in touch on a regular basis, and when we grew up and moved away we still spoke daily. Many times the conversations were short and sweet, with him just wanting to say hello and hear our voices.
We always knew that our dad loved us by his words and his actions, and both were important. The Bible reminds us “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) We are called upon to be reflections of Christ in the way we move through the world. We are all reflections of each other, our families and our communities.
Jim’s daughters, Kathryn and Eleanor, want to thank you for being a part of our parents’ loving community. His warm spirit was a reflection of you, and we will continue to be reflections of him.
~ Kathryn Sawyer
A Farewell — James “Jim” Walter Sawyer (Reverend Doctor)
Reverend Sawyer was born in Springhill, Louisiana on August 27, 1939. He died at home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 1, 2021, survived by his wife Anita, their two daughters, Kathryn and Eleanor and granddaughter, Maya Crose, along with a vast community of people who loved him.
Jim grew up in Springhill (northern Louisiana), but he found his true home in southern Louisiana, after attending college at LSU in Baton Rouge. It was there at LSU where he met his wife of nearly 60 years, Anita Smith Sawyer. Sawyer and Smith were assigned to the same table in chemistry lab. This alphabetical twist of fate would lead to a lifetime of loving partnership.
Jim began his undergraduate study in pre-med, then got the calling to the ministry and changed his plans to attend seminary at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas.
Jim and Anita were married on June 10, 1961 in Springhill, Louisiana, after three years of courtship.
He experienced a deep personal loss when his only brother, Eddie, died of cancer in 1966 at the age of 37. He carried his brother in his heart the rest of his life.
Jim began his ministry in the First Presbyterian Church of Abbeville, Louisiana, where he served for five years. He then spent three years at West Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church, whose members would always be special to him.
In 1973, Jim became the founding pastor of Sherwood Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge. He and Anita began building Sherwood’s church community in a trailer, as the church was being planned and constructed. Jim served there for 27 years, growing attendance as his ministry found its voice in the loving kindness of Jesus’ teachings. After retiring from Sherwood Presbyterian Church, he returned to West Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church as Stated Supply Pastor, and continued his ministry in Port Allen for 20 more years!
Jim advanced his education over the years, earning a second master’s degree in family counseling from LSU, and earning a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.
Jim and Anita maintained a love of people and especially animals, raising German Shepherd Dogs and owning a number of Peruvian horses. Jim approached life with a passion and especially enjoyed cross-country traveling and adventuring in the west. He and Anita took several camping journeys in the western US, even one on his motorcycle as far as the US/Canadian border.
Jim and Anita regularly planned summer vacations in Colorado where they had a cabin retreat near Colorado Springs.
Jim loved to read stories about the Wild West and enjoyed John Wayne movies and other western movies and literature. He also loved sports and exercise and became an avid bicyclist.
Tragically, Jim was blinded during a back surgery in 2007. Though he spent his last nearly 14 years in darkness, Jim continued to shine his light in his family and surrounding community.
Jim understood the complexities of life and embodied the values that he preached. People were always drawn to Jim. There was joy in his spirit coupled with a depth of personality that understood the importance of being present and aware, traits that never waned as his body was losing ground. He was a good friend to many, and he maintained lifelong relationships with care and consistency. He will be missed and forever cherished by the people who had the pleasure of knowing and loving him, and being loved by him.