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Fallen pastor defied the odds twice
The Rev. James Carlton and wife Phyllis marked their 50th wedding anniversary two years ago. - photo by Photo Contributed
The Rev. James Carlton defied the odds, not just once but twice.

In 1982, when he had a brain abscess removed, doctors said he was not going to make it. But he proved them all wrong, and before long he was back preaching at the First Assembly of God on North Main and East North Street (now the Valley Community Presbyterian Church) where he was the associate pastor.

Ten years later in 1992, he had another medical scare. This time it was a heart attack. As before, his doctors told his family this was the end of the road for him.

“His heart was so damaged he lost a large percentage of his heart due to damage,” recalled Phyllis, his wife of 52 years.

But after his quadruple bypass surgery, the pastor again proved his doctors wrong by bouncing back to health and returned to his job as pastor at Bethel Assembly of God in Yreka, Calif., where he was called to serve after ministering for 13 years at the First Assembly of God in Manteca.

But last Saturday, the lifelong servant of God finally went to his eternal home. He suffered another heart attack in Medford, Oregon, while he and his wife and their daughter Sherry Gumm were on their way to a family reunion in Washington. They had stopped at a hotel in Medford when it happened. Emergency medical personnel performed CPR and used a defibrillator before they rushed him to the hospital, but he never made it there. He was 73 years old.

Serving at Cornerstone
at time of his death
At the time of his death, Pastor Carlton was in his second year serving as associate pastor in charge of seniors ministry at the Cornerstone Church in Manteca.  Prior to that, he was in Altar Ministry at the Neighborhood Church in Modesto, a post he held since 1995 when he retired from his stint as pastor in Yreka and he and his wife came back to live in Manteca.

The family was known not only for their church ministry but also for their music. For many years, the harmonious voices of the pastor, his wife, and their two children – son Jim and daughter Sherry Gumm – were a familiar component of many services at First Assembly of God in Manteca and elsewhere. The pastor sang base, his wife was the soprano, son Jim was the tenor, and daughter Sherry was alto. Phyllis also provided the organ and piano accompaniments.

Music was, and still is, very much an integral part of the Carlton family. In fact, said Phyllis, “Sherry and I just sang at a Women’s Ministry (at Cornerstone Church) on May 16.”

The day after, at the Sunday service, the pastor preached his last sermon at Cornerstone Church.

It was, in part, the miracle of music that brought the Carltons together. They met while they were attending Bethany College, now Bethany University and a four-year Christian campus, in Santa Cruz. While at Bethany, the first college founded by the Assemblies of God, James and Phyllis travelled with musical groups throughout the 11 Western states.

They got married after graduating from Bethany and from there, started a life of ministry.

“We’ve ministered for 52 years, we’ve been married for 52 years, and we’ve been in ministry for 54 years,” Phyllis said.

“We’ve pastored in many places,” she added.

They were married in 1957; four years later, Pastor Carlton was ordained.

Came to Manteca from Carson City
Before coming to minister in Manteca in the 1970s, he was pastor of Capital Assembly of God Church in Carson City, Nevada. At the First Assembly in Manteca, he served as associate pastor to then- Pastor Don Annas for two years, and the rest of his 13 years at this church under the Rev. Richard Brown.

The Carltons were blessed with two children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Son James Jr., who is also an alumnus of Bethany University and now works for UPS, and his wife Tammy live in Littleton, Colorado.  Daughter Sherry and husband Jack Gumm live in Manteca. She is a senior escrow officer for Placer Title Company; he is an Adult Education teacher for the Manteca Unified School District.

The five grandchildren are Jennifer Mullings, David Gumm, and Rory, Rudy and Raimey Carlton. The Carlton grandchildren are all single.

Jennifer lives with her husband Jared and their daughter Faith in Ripon. David Gumm and his wife Tara are making their home in Alexandria, Virginia. A retired military man, David was in naval intelligence and is now a civilian contractor. Brothers Rory, 26, and Rudy, 25, are both graduates of Azusa Pacific University. Rory graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theology and is currently serving as a youth minister at Living Oaks Community Church in Ventura County’s Newbury Park. Rudy received his bachelor’s in psychology and his master’s in organizational leadership from Azusa. A semi-pro football player, he is currently a quarterback for the Boise Burn Team. The Carltons’ youngest grandchild, Raimey, is a senior at Faith Christian High School in Littleton, Colo.

The Carltons’ three great-grandchildren are Jack and Sophia Gumm and Faith Mullings.

P.L. Fry and Son on Union Road in Manteca is handling the funeral arrangements. Visitation will be held at P.L. Fry and Son on Friday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, June 20, at Cornerstone Church in Manteca located at the corner of East Highway 120 and Comconex, starting at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Park View Cemetery on French Camp Road in Manteca.

Memorial donations in memory of the Rev. James Carlton may be made to a church building project in Ghana, Africa. Phyllis Carlton said her husband went on a mission to Ghana a few years ago where another missionary from Manteca, the late Maybelle Martin, also served. After Maybelle’s death in January, the church in Ghana began building a church in her honor. Phyllis said all donations received in memory of her husband will go to this church building project in Ghana. Memorial donations may be sent to the Cornerstone Community Church, 17900 Comconex Road, Manteca, CA 95336.