The Rev. Jerome Del Pino of St. Paul, a former professional boxer, learned lessons in the ring that helped in the pulpit.
Del Pino, who once led Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Paul, died on March 27 in Apple Valley of congestive heart failure.
He was 94.
The Florida native, who was known as the "Tampa Flash" during his career as a welterweight boxer in the South, had grown up in a family of 14 children. Getting paid to fight had been an attractive prospect, family members said.
In 1932, he quit the ring, went to work in social services and married his wife, Flossie.
Del Pino had been considering the ministry, said his son, the Rev. Jerome Del Pino of Nashville, Tenn. When he nearly lost his leg to infection after a trolly accident in the early 1930s, he made the decision.
Del Pino attended college and was ordained in 1936, but he never forgot his years as a fighter.
Boxing helped give him tenacity, a sense of independence and an appreciation for physical health, said his son.
"He related the church to the community, and the community to the church," said his son.
Over the decades he was a pastor in communities such as Clearwater, Fla., Savannah, Ga., and Lexington, Ky.
In 1952, the church moved him to St. Paul.
He was known for helping struggling parishes succeed, said his son.
In St. Paul, he served in organizations to racially integrate schools and was instrumental in integrating the Methodist Church in Minnesota, said the Rev. Gloria Roach-Thomas, pastor of Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, St. Paul.
"He was very outspoken in a time when it wasn't easy, and sometimes not safe, to be outspoken," Roach-Thomas said.
In the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, he helped bring a new school, Maxfield Elementary, to St. Paul, when black children's schools were often run down, said his son. And when highway construction bore through the black community, he helped to ensure that a new Maxfield School was built nearby.
"He challenged the white majority community to do the right thing," said his son. "He did that in the spirit of bringing people together."
In 1969, he was assigned outside of Minnesota.
Del Pino retired from the ministry in 1978, moving back to St. Paul, where he served as a chaplain at St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center and was officially associated with St. Paul's Central Park United Methodist Church.
He received his seminary training at what is now called the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.
For many years, he traveled to South America and Asia doing mission work. He is the author of "The Call to Preach."
He also sang and played ragtime piano, said his daughter, Judy Mercedes Henderson of Burnsville.
"He taught us the love of God and what God could do in our lives," said his daughter.
His wife of 53 years, Flossie, died in 1985.
He married Marguerite in 1989; she died in 1998.
In addition to Jerome and Judy, he is survived by his other sons, the Rev. Julius Del Pino of West Bloomfield, Mich., and Jacob of Rosemount; other daughters, Juanita of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Jessica of Los Angeles; fifteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. today at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, 585 Fuller Av., St. Paul.
Visitation will be held 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the church.