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six sisters and a preacher

by John Arlon Hawke

Find out more about the Free Will Baptist Board of Retirement and Insurance by calling (877) 767-7738 or by visiting

“I never thought I’d be this old!” Mrs. Joanne Rice says with rolling laughter from Greer, South Carolina, where for six years she has lived in a retirement home.


Unexpected Death

Joanne (73) learned the importance of planning ahead for retirement when her 65-year-old husband died suddenly in 1993. They never got a chance to enjoy retirement together after her preacher husband had a cerebral hemorrhage and stroke.

“I would advise every minister and his wife to invest right now with the Board of Retirement,” Joanne says. “It’s a good investment. Retirement is coming for us all. Plan for it. Don’t be caught unprepared.”

Reverend J. B. Rice, Jr., (Joanne’s husband) had a retirement plan with the Board of Retirement. Before J. B. died, he took a joint-life annuity that gives her an income stream.


Six Georgia Sisters

 “I was raised in a home of six sisters,” Joanne says. “Oh, we weren’t that bad, but it’s probably a good thing we didn’t have a brother. We could have been tough on him.”
 Life started for Joanne Hammond in 1933 in an Athens, Georgia, home where her father worked as a roofer and sheet metal man.

 “Being one of the middle sisters,” she says, “I got used to people. That came in handy with all the places where God sent J. B. and me.”

During World War II, Joanne’s versatile dad worked in the Navy yard in Charleston, South Carolina. He later moved the family back to Georgia and worked for the Mayor of Atlanta. She watched and learned, and did not know then that it was all preparation for the rest of her life.

Hand of God

She became a Christian at age 11 after hearing a missionary from Japan speak. Then, a University of Georgia student studying education and agriculture rented a room from her aunt. His name was J. B. Rice, Jr., and he was not a preacher. J. B. and Joanne married in 1949, and 44 years later had raised two children, pastored three churches, and served 11 years as superintendent at the Children’s Home in Turbeville, SC.

After J. B. was called to preach and began pastoring, “I learned about miracles from the Lord,” Joanne says.


Churches and Children’s Homes

Their rookie pastorate was at First FWB Church in Waycross, GA. Then came four years in a full-time work at Lockhart, SC, followed by a nine-year run when the Rices became the first joint-home missionaries with South Carolina’s Beaver Creek Association and started a new church in Greer.

 “We never left a church where they wanted us to go,” Joanne says with satisfaction.
 She and J. B. were asked to lead the work at the Children’s Home. Others had taken note of the energetic couple and seen how effective they were in ministry.

 “It was a hard decision to make,” Joanne says. “Once we got to the Children’s Home, that’s where I learned patience. J. B. was in charge and I was his general flunky.

 “We did a little of everything. Sick calls, birthday cakes, wiping tears. And some of those three-year-old kids arrived with a serious problem. It usually took me about two weeks to clean up their language.”


Water Color Retirement

They retired after 11 years at the Children’s Home, and J. B. began preaching in a small church that could not find a pastor. Then came the cerebral hemorrhage and stroke.

“God gave me the ability to roll with the punches of life after J. B. died,” Joanne says.
She is a woman on the move, active, and curious about life. She returned to her love of art, mostly water colors. She’s also an assistant Sunday School teacher.

She stops, laughs aloud, and says again, “I never thought I’d be this old!”

Six sisters in one home filled with love – but only Joanne got the preacher.


John Arlon Hawke is a freelance writer and journalist with a wide range of publishing experience. He currently makes his home just south of Nashville, TN. Find out more about the Free Will Baptist Board of Retirement and Insurance by calling (877) 767-7738 or by visiting

©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists