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Pastor killed in accident recalled for decades of church work

The retired Rev. Benjamin Tims of Cottage Grove, Minn., who died Oct. 29, 2013.

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- The Rev. Benjamin Tims Sr., was a great church planter, a manager and a fabulous preacher, his son-in-law John Magee said.

“He was sort of a renaissance guy,” Magee recalled. “He’d do a little bit of everything. … He loved to split wood. He loved working with his hands, so building churches was what he enjoyed most.”

Tims, a longtime Cottage Grove resident who founded Light the Way Church as part of a 56-year pastoral career, died in an accident Oct. 29. He was struck and killed by a car while crossing the road outside his home.

Tims, 85, was hit by an SUV as he walked back from his mailbox, police said. Paramedics found Tims in the road unresponsive, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the SUV is a 52-year-old Cottage Grove woman, police Capt. Pete Koerner said. She cooperated with police and has not been cited or arrested. The woman showed no signs of impairment, and she was “obviously pretty upset” after the crash, Koerner said.

A man in another vehicle who witnessed the crash estimated that the woman was driving 35 to 45 mph, but the speed has not been confirmed by the crash reconstruction.

“We have no indication from this witness or even (the driver’s) statement that there were excessive speeds,” Koerner said.

A final report from the crash reconstruction will be forwarded to the Washington County Attorney’s Office for review for possible criminal charges. Koerner said that is typical in fatal crash investigations.

A southwestern Minnesota native, Tims had a personal experience with God on June 23, 1948, and went on to attend Central Bible Institute in Kansas City, Magee said. Tims met his wife, Frances, and after working as a pastor with his father-in-law, Tims moved with his wife from Kansas City to Red Wing, Minn., in 1960. He led a church there before moving to Hastings to establish a new church in 1962. The Timses served for a time in Hastings until they moved to Cottage Grove to establish their second church.

“I always called him the (Highway) 61 church planner,” Magee said.

Tims formed the Park Grove Christian Center in 1978, first meeting in his home and then in Cottage Grove City Hall. Tims bought land at the southwest corner of 70th Street and Jamaica Avenue, and he and the congregation built Light the Way Church. It opened Jan. 1, 1985, and Magee married the Timses’ daughter Lynn 10 days later in the church.

Magee joined Tims as a Light the Way pastor in 1985. Tims retired in 1994. In recent years he worked as a subcontractor and de facto site manager at the Rainbow Foods and adjacent commercial properties in Cottage Grove. He handled everything from contracts to parking lot  litter duty.

“He was a very hands-on person,” Magee said.

Tims’ funeral was Saturday at Light the Way Church. It drew a large crowd of current and past church members and local residents.

“It’s what Ben did for all of us — that was the connection,” Magee said. “The love for the Lord, the passion for preaching. That’s what brought us all together.”

Tims is survived by his wife, Frances; three daughters; a son; and other relatives.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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