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Leading the Way: UPS retiree continues to deliver at pulpit and beyond

Joe Tyler, pastor of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, grew up on a farm in Mississippi, the middle of seven children.

"Our family was a close-knit, Bible-believing, churchgoing family," said Tyler, 61.

He attended segregated schools through high school, then entered the Air Force; he was stationed in Guam during the Vietnam War. After his stint of four years, four months, he got married and moved in 1969 to Modesto because he had relatives here.

One week after arriving, he landed a job with United Parcel Service and worked there for more than 29 years. During that time and after retirement, he pastored two churches in Modesto, following a call that he said started in 1975 when a church conference challenged participants "to be more than churchgoers, to seek a relationship with Christ."

In 1981, he said, "I accepted my call. Things were happening in my life that showed me the Lord was calling me to carry his message."

Here's more information:

Family: Lived with his mom and dad, who farmed and also worked in construction. There were five boys and two girls in the family; "I was dead in the middle." Tyler is married to Shirley, 62, a retired schoolteacher. They have three children — Latonya Guilford, 36; Rhonda Wossne, 35; Joseph, 34 — and four grandchildren.

Education: Associate of arts degree from Modesto Junior College; doctorate of theology from Sacramento Theological Seminary

Career: Worked for UPS for more than 29 years. Pastor at Solid Rock Baptist Church in Modesto, 1983-86. Pastor at Progressive Missionary Baptist Church from 1986-88. Resigned due to stress of trying to do two jobs. Returned as pastor of PMBC in December 1996; retired from UPS in 1997.

Future: "I don't know if it will come to pass, but I've always wondered what it would be like to relocate and pastor in Mississippi."

Greatest challenge: "Young people. To help them and direct them in making right decisions and choices, keeping them focused and off of the street. Helping them how to understand how important getting a college education is."

Greatest passion: "To see people come to know and love Jesus Christ."

Personality: "I'm a quiet person. I'm focused. I love people."

Spare time: "I find time to make sure I keep my body in shape by walking three miles five days a week. And I love to do some traveling with my wife. There are a lot of places in the United States I haven't yet been able to explore."

"Leading the Way" runs twice a month and profiles faith leaders — ordained and lay — in our community. To suggest someone, send the name and contact information to Sue Nowicki, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256 or e-mail