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Liberty Journal

Tragedies hit Liberty community

Spring 2012 : Liberty University News Service

In the last few months, the Liberty University community has lost some of its champions. Liberty continues to lift the families of these men and women up in prayer.

Hannah Williams
Liberty University student Hannah Williams, 18, was killed Thursday, Nov. 17,  2011 in an accident on a train trestle in Amherst County.

Chancellor and President Jerry Falwell, Jr. spoke at her funeral on Nov. 22 in her hometown of Sanford, N.C. He shared how Williams, a freshman, touched many lives at Liberty in her short time there. She had already been on a mission trip with the school, volunteering to help flood victims in the Northeast.

Falwell read some messages he had received from her friends, who spoke of her as “strong and outgoing,” “a beautiful woman of God,” “a born leader,” and someone who “loved people with a heart that was purely of God.”

Also attending the service were Falwell’s wife, Becki; Liberty’s Senior Vice President for Student Affairs, Mark Hine; campus pastor Dane Emerick; and several Liberty students.

Williams had planned to study government and journalism at Liberty.

A memorial service was held on Nov. 29 at the nearby Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Students have shown their support for the Williams family, by holding a special prayer time during convocation the day after the accident and taking up a special offering to help underwrite the remaining funeral expenses and to establish a scholarship fund in her memory. They collected more than $12,000.

Roscoe Brewer
Roscoe Brewer, former chairman of Liberty’s missions department, ended his two-year battle with cancer on Dec. 8 at his home in Canton, Ga.

Brewer served as a youth pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church, and later was named the director of missions at Liberty shortly after it was founded in 1971. Brewer hired several qualified professors with doctorates to teach in the program and led the department to regional accreditation.

“Rather than just offering college classes in missions and academic experience, Brewer pointed students to the mission field and went with them,” said Liberty co-founder Dr. Elmer Towns.

Towns recalled some of those trips in a tribute he wrote for Liberty’s website after Brewer’s death.

“I sat in a ditch in Haiti, pouring a foundation for a school, then before dawn in Thailand we were boiling over 200 chickens to feed the hungry later that day.  We sat on the bow of an old destroyer searching the horizon of the South China Sea for survivors.  The real Roscoe Brewer had dirty hands, and tired feet, and a broken heart for the lost.”

Robert DeVaul
Robert E. DeVaul, Sr., 66, of Concord, died Jan. 21 after a battle with cancer. He was a photographer at Liberty for 12 years, from 1978-1991. From his campus studio, he documented news and events at Liberty, ranging from construction to sports to drama productions and dignitaries. DeVaul has photographed four presidents.

Les Schofer, friend and current senior photographer at Liberty, said DeVaul took about 170,000 images in his 12 years at the university. His wife, Carol, worked with him in the studio, numbering and referencing every photo.

DeVaul arrived at Liberty at the end of the first year of classes held at the current campus on Liberty Mountain in1978.

“Either Bob or I shot the pouring of concrete of every building erected on campus,” Schofer said.

Schofer spoke at DeVaul’s funeral. He said his friend “inhaled the dust, slugged through the mud, ran up and down the sidelines, and waded through the crowds with a couple of cameras and several lenses around his neck … all to ‘get the shots.’”

DeVaul had recently returned to work at Liberty, importing his images into Liberty’s digital archive.

Tom Coble
Liberty University Board of Trustees member and alumnus Tom Coble died in a plane crash in Alabama on Friday, Jan. 20.

News reports say the crash occurred Friday evening at a small airport northeast of Birmingham, Ala. Coble was flying his L-39 fighter jet to Burlington, N.C., and crashed on departure.

Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. said Coble will be remembered at Liberty for his work on the Board, for his support of Liberty’s School of Aeronautics and for being his father’s personal pilot. From early 1976 to mid-1979, Coble flew Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr. to speaking events all over the country.

“Tom flew my father and some of Liberty’s earliest student singing groups around the country to spread the word about the new college in a World War II vintage DC-3 airplane,” Chancellor Falwell said. “I learned in 2008 that Tom had become a successful businessman and I asked him to serve on Liberty’s Board of Trustees.  He agreed and provided important leadership and wise counsel to the university in recent years.”

Coble earned his instrument, commercial and multi-engine ratings while he was a student at Liberty (then Liberty Baptist College). He graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in church history.

Coble had more than 40 years of flying experience.

He lived in Burlington, N.C., with his wife, Debby. He was the president of Coble Trench Safety, a construction firm headquartered in Greensboro and specializing in underground equipment and training. He was the cofounder and treasurer of the Coalition of Concerned Christians Political Action Committee and Foundation located in Burlington.

Stacia Anderson
Stacia Anderson, 17, the daughter of the Rev. Keith and Renee Anderson, died Friday, Jan. 6 in a car accident on Mayflower Drive in Lynchburg. The Rev. Anderson is Dean of Students at Liberty.

Stacia’s friend, Breanna Boyd, also died in the crash. The friends were seniors at Liberty Christian Academy.

Stacia had planned to attend Liberty and pursue a health-related career.

Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. spoke at Stacia’s funeral.  He said it was difficult to understand why God would allow something so tragic to happen to such a wonderful daughter and sister, but he said it reminded him of a similar tragedy in his own family.  He told how, in 1931, his grandparents, Carey and Helen Falwell, had three children.  Their middle daughter, Rosha, was like Stacia; she had a winning personality and everyone loved her because of it. When she was 11, she became ill with appendicitis and died.  Her parents were devastated.  They were in their late 30s and had not planned to have more children but, after Rosha’s death, they decided to have one more child.  After a miscarriage in 1932, Falwell said his father and twin brother were born in 1933 and that his father, Jerry Falwell, Sr., was named after Rosha (her middle name was Geraldine).  Falwell, Jr. explained that, in a way, his father was a living memorial to Rosha all his life. “The twins became the delight of my grandparents’ lives but they never stopped grieving for Rosha.  I remember my grandmother still had a huge framed picture of Rosha on her wall when she died in 1977.”

He then told the Andersons, “I’m not saying you should now have twins, but I do believe that, despite all the pain, God has a plan for the Anderson family like He did for the Falwell family.  It may be decades before that plan is revealed but there is a plan.  Romans 8:28 promises that all things work together for good for those who love God.”