Some called him pastor, but to many more he was a friend.
For Wayne Watkins, the Rev. Dr. Mark Weaver was both and much more.
“Mark was the pied piper of Grace Presbyterian Church and of Dawsonville,” said Watkins as he recalled his “bud” and the long talks the two shared.
“He got me back on track as far as being a good Christian,” Watkins said.
Weaver, 61, died Thursday following a brief illness.
Weaver had been in Dawson County since 2005, when he was called to help develop the county’s first Presbyterian church.
Under his leadership, the church began several ministries that focused on the core values of social justice in the community.
Weaver played integral roles in the church’s efforts to feed the hungry with a twice-a-week soup kitchen and nurse the sick through a free clinic established in the church’s basement.
Gary Pichon, who was part of the initial group that chose Weaver as the church’s pastor, agrees his friend had a way of collecting people.
Pichon said Weaver will be remembered for his ability to be an “instant friend, empathetic listener and counselor” to his flock.
“He truly enjoyed being around people, and he truly touched the lives through his pastoral skills,” Pichon said.
Born in Miami, Weaver grew up in the Baptist Church and trained at Baptist seminaries.
Pichon said that background shaped Weaver’s oratorical pulpit skills.
“Sunday after Sunday, he was a great pulpit preacher who worked on his sermons,” he said.
Watkins said he didn’t enjoy going to church until he met Weaver.
“When I met Mark, I started looking forward to Sundays and that warm, friendly feeling of the church,” he said. “The sermons always fit and made sense.”
Weaver received his master of divinity and doctoral degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
The former pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Toccoa and First Baptist Church of Cornelia, Weaver was serving as moderator of the Cherokee Presbytery at the time of his death.
He was also involved in numerous community organizations, including the United Way, Meth Task Force, Wee Books and Family Connection.
He also participated in Leadership Dawson, the local chamber of commerce, the United Church of Dawson and the Dawson County Rotary Club.
Weaver helped to raise awareness of the need for Habitat for Humanity in Dawson County.
“The community is going to miss him because of his involvement in just about everything,” Watkins said.
Weaver is survived by his wife, Donna Weaver of Dawsonville; mother, Naomi Weaver of Dawsonville; three adult children and their spouses; and two grandchildren.