are mourning the loss of Cornerstone TeleVision President Ron Hembree, who died
in his home June 10 from an unknown illness. He was 72.
Frank Wright, president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), said
Hembree, who served on the group’s board, was an “encourager, teacher,
godly example and friend” whose “steady leadership and optimistic outlook will
be sorely missed.”
“Ron had a zeal for the Lord, a profound appreciation for the impact of
Christian television and a clear understanding of the issues that confronted
those in gospel broadcasting,” added Craig Parshall, NRB senior vice president
and general counsel. “His labors in God’s vineyard, I am sure, will
continue to yield a great harvest for years to come.”
Hembree, who in 2002 became
president of the Pittsburgh-area Christian station, was born in Missouri,
the son of a preacher, and served as an Assemblies of God (AG) minister before beginning
his media career. He was a writer for the national headquarters of the AG and was
later a news editor for KWTO radio in Springfield, Mo., according to the NRB.
He also wrote more than
70 books and hundreds of articles that were published in Billy Graham’s Decision
magazine and in Christian Life, which united with Charisma
magazine in the 1980s. Once aspiring to be a missionary, he also operated Good Friends, an outreach ministry that supports orphanages worldwide, among other work.
Hembree, however, is best known for launching the program Quick
Study, which takes viewers through the Bible in one year. The show
has been airing for more than 20 years, and Hembree had just finished filming 11
new episodes hours before he died. For a
time Hembree also hosted Cornerstone’s popular show His Place.
In addition to
developing programming, Hembree is credited with leading Cornerstone out of
deep debt. His son Chad Hembree, who produces Cornerstone’s flagship
show Focus 4, said the station was in millions of dollars
of debt when his father took over.
“The last I heard, we were $200,000 ahead of budget right
now,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We’re far out of the
red. That’s something you can attribute to his leadership. He fulfilled the
goals that he had.”
Chad Hembree told the
newspaper his father’s death was unexpected. He said Ron Hembree suffered what
was thought to be a mild heart attack about a month ago in Canada, but doctors
said it was the effects of stress. Hembree was told to make some lifestyle
changes and two days before his death was given a clean bill of health.
On June 10, when
Hembree returned home from filming episodes of Quick Study, he sat down
and lost consciousness.
Richard Hatch, who
hosted a talk show on Cornerstone in the 1980s and was in talks with Hembree
about returning to the station this fall, told the Gazette that Hembree
was “the most godly” man he ever knew.
“He had all the
flaws of human nature, but I found no guile in him at all,” Hatch said.
“There was never anything on his mind except the Lord’s work.”
Norma Bixler, who
founded Cornerstone in 1979, said Hembree was “a great teacher and my friend.”
“We all loved him very much,” she said, “and he loved us.”
Hembree is survived by his wife, Cathy; his
mother, Lucy; six children and six grandchildren. A memorial service is to be
held July 7 at 11 a.m. in Delmont, Pa.