In Fond and Grateful Remembrance: John Sherrill

Executive Editor Rick Hamlin pays tribute to a beloved and inspiring colleague, Guideposts editor and writer John Sherrill.

Posted in , Dec 4, 2017

Longtime Guideposts contributor John Sherrill

John Sherrill, one of Guideposts’ seminal editors and writers, died on December 2, 2017, at age 94. A man of passionate faith, he contributed to Daily Guideposts and was the author and editor behind hundreds of Guideposts stories. He and his wife, Elizabeth Sherrill, were an unparalleled writing team. They wrote with Pastor David Wilkerson the huge bestseller The Cross and the Switchblade and produced Corrie ten Boom’s spiritual classic The Hiding Place.

John and Elizabeth Sherrill; photo by Shawn G. HenryJohn came to Guideposts as an associate editor in 1952. He’d grown up in Kentucky, the son of a theologian. He joined the Army in World War II and was soon plunged into combat in the Allied invasion of Italy. For many years he didn’t talk about his wartime experience, hoping to put it behind him, but in 2014 he published a story in Guideposts shedding light on the moral injury and guilt from which he suffered for years.

That was so like John, always honest, always seeking to grow in faith, always ready to tell a life-changing story, whether it was his own or someone else’s.

He had an inborn knack for meeting people, turning strangers into friends. Elizabeth tells an amusing story about a recent family reunion when John mentioned something about Gladys. “Gladys?” everybody wondered. "Who was Gladys?" “Don’t you remember Gladys at the supermarket?” John said. “The one with three children, the oldest who is going to college. She works at the checkout.” 

John and Elizabeth loved to travel and wherever they stopped, they’d drop by the local newspapers’ office to find story leads. As they often emphasized in the many writing seminars they taught, “Look for a good story first. You’ll undoubtedly find that there is a faith element to it.”

When Guideposts launched its Writers Workshops in 1967, John and Elizabeth were crucial teachers and led those workshops and many others over the decades. He often stressed the importance of vivid scenes and dramatic storytelling and was a guide and inspiration for many as they launched their writing careers. 

John and Tibby—as he always called her—met on the high seas. The war was over and both of them were traveling to Switzerland to continue their university studies. It was love at first sight and the two were in wed in December of 1947.

They had three children, Elizabeth, John Scott and Donn. When the children were still young the family spent a year living in Africa and another year living in South America—once again, John and Tibby on the lookout for good stories.

Usually the books they wrote were under someone else’s byline but in 1964 John had his own story about the charismatic faith movement published in the book They Speak With Other Tongues. As he later described it, he’d been assigned to write a story about prayer and then he became part of the story when he experienced personally the healing power of prayer

To the end John was dedicated to praying for others. For the past eight years he and Tibby lived in a retirement community in Hingham, Massachusetts. First thing in the morning he would get up and walk down the corridors praying for his neighbors as he passed their doors.

This December the family was planning to gather in Massachusetts—the three children, spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren—to celebrate John and Tibby’s 70th wedding anniversary. There will indeed be a celebration on the weekend as planned but instead of an anniversary party, it will be a memorial for John. 

John will be fondly remembered by all who had the pleasure of reading him, meeting him, hearing him, praying with him. Godspeed.

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