Dave Alexander grew up a few houses down the street from Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
Alexander sang in the choir, ushered, taught Sunday school and was a youth leader. As he grew older, his pastor suggested that he consider the ministry.
About the same time in the 1960s, Alexander attended Broome Tech. Then three days after graduation, he received a draft notice.
Sent to Vietnam with the U.S. Army’s 1st Air Cavalry, he was wounded twice. Alexander says rather than a ticket home, he was sent back into action because of the need for troops during the Tet Offensive.
“My faith is what got me through Vietnam,” Alexander recalled.
“What I saw there and being in the hospitals and seeing so many wounded, I just felt that God was there for me,” he said. “I don’t think I would have gotten through it if I didn’t have a strong belief.”
He said the return home was less than welcoming. No one talked about Vietnam and there wasn’t counseling. It took him many years just to speak about his wartime experience.
After six months on third shift at IBM, Alexander decided to return to college. Following graduation, he went to work for the Town of Union Parks, eventually serving as head of the department. Then he moved on to Binghamton University before he “retired” in 2000.
Not content to put his feet up, Alexander drove school buses for the Maine-Endwell School District for seven years.
Then a new call came from his long-time church, Endwell United Methodist, where he was hired as facilities manager.
“Our pastor Mark Kimpland has allowed me to do a lot of things,” he said.
The list includes overseeing the Monday Night meal, chief gardener for the vegetable plot by the church, coordinator for National Night Out and organizer of flood relief efforts.
“You don’t have to be standing in the pulpit,” Alexander said. “You can minister by helping people do other things.”
Also active with the Broome County Council of Churches Faith in Action program, Alexander drives people to appointments.
“You can’t help be closer to God because of what you’re doing. Just the feeling of knowing you’ve helped somebody, that’s a strong commitment to what God has asked people to do — going out and ministering to others,” he added.
Alexander has also hosted and was a recent guest on the Council of Churches “Encounter” program on WBNG-TV and WNBF Radio.
And, several years ago he was asked to take over a project for the Red Bird Mission. More than 3,000 shoebox-sized hygiene kits are collected during the month of November from United Methodist Churches across upstate New York and Northern Pennsylvania. The items are then trucked to Beverly, Kentucky.
Alexander said the first visit to the mission with another truck driver was eye-opening. They found most people in the region make barely $7,000 a year.
“People are living in shacks with no electricity. We saw outhouses, we saw people washing their clothes in streams,” he said. “Both of us came back and said we have to do this again because it affected us so much.”
Plans are underway for collections for the mission project this year. Several congregations have already been in touch about participation Alexander said.
“He’s very sincere about his faith. He runs things quite well,” said Tom Jones.
Jones and his wife Laura worked for several years with Alexander on the Monday night meals. They say he’s well liked around the Endwell UMC.
“All the kids in the nursery school call him ‘Mr. Dave,’” said Laura Jones.
“I think the more you can do to help people within your own church, it helps them grow in their faith also,” Alexander concluded.
Position: Facilities Manager and Assistant for Outreach Ministries, Endwell United Methodist Church
Hometown: Johnson City
Education: Johnson City High School; Broome Technical College (now SUNY Broome); SUNY-Cortland, BS & MS Recreation Administration
Military Service: U.S. Army, Vietnam, discharged 1969
Family: Divorced; two children: daughter Kerry (husband, Dennis) Murtha; son Lee (wife, Jen); four grandchildren
Hobbies: Likes to read and garden. Used to hunt and fish.