Rev. Orlando McGruder Jr., 29, dies of heart attack in Wisconsin He was graduate of Wilde Lake

June 29, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Early on, the Rev. Orlando McGruder Jr.'s mother knew her son had a gift.

"He was dedicated to helping anyone at any time," said Alberlena McGruder, of her son, a former associate minister at Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Mr. McGruder, a 1981 Wilde Lake High School graduate, died of a heart attack June 22 at his Madison, Wis., home. He was 29.

Mr. McGruder apparently suffered a series of minor heart attacks but mistook them for indigestion or gas, family members said. He did not seek treatment, said his wife, Felitia Nesbary McGruder.

Mr. McGruder was an associate minister and co-director of the youth ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Madison. He was also an engineer at Wisconsin Power and Light.

Alberlena McGruder recalled how she would overhear him counseling classmates, late at night over the telephone. Once, he dissuaded a friend from committing suicide, she said.

"Even when Orlando was in high school, friends and classmates brought him their problems," Alberlena McGruder, of Harper's Choice Village, said, "and he would talk for hours."

Felitia McGruder said her husband was so sensitive to others' needs that "he would feel their pain or feel that something was wrong."

He often called home to say he would be late for dinner because he needed to counsel someone or teach a group of youngsters, she said.

He was a Dale Carnegie instructor, and was a founding member of the African-American Ministers Clergy Association, which explores the issues and concerns of African Americans and other minorities. He was also involved in the Madison Urban League, and the Big Brothers & Big Sisters organization.

"Every day he was working for the Lord," Felitia McGruder said.

The Rev. J. C. Wright, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, said the former associate minister befriended youngsters easily.

"He was a young man himself," Mr. Wright said. "He just had a gift for relating to other people. That seems to have been his calling. He could talk with them about any subject."

Mr. McGruder will be buried at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Starr, S.C., about 120 miles north of Atlanta, Ga. A memorial service is scheduled for tomorrow at Calvary Baptist Church, 3911 Garrison Blvd. in Baltimore.

In addition to his wife and mother, Mr. McGruder is survived by his father, Orlando Sr. of Harpers Choice Village; and a sister, Shawn McGruder of Washington.

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