Born in Montreal, Canada during the middle of the WWI, and known within his family as Edwin, Rev. John E McKinley began his journey with art in ink, pencil, chalk, and oil at the ripe young age of 12. The year was 1927, and while living in Maine, “Edwin”” started his love affair with art through a correspondents course. Fortunately, many of his early works using pencil and ink have been meticulously preserved, alongside with the grades and comments from his professors that said pieces inspired. In fact, the earliest piece we have well conserved is a chalk drawing of a deer in the Maine woods which surrounded his boyhood home; the good Rev. created this while honing his skills all the way back in 1936.
It was around this time the world was preparing for a second World War, the big one as they say, and Rev. John decided he wanted to represent and fight for the country that had been his home since his earliest childhood. Taking 2 years of dedicated study to become a naturalized citizen of the USA, Rev. John then entered the prestigious United States Marine Corps in 1940, transforming himself to become part of the spirit of success for the USA to win the war abroad. On New Years Eve, 1941, while stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, Rev. John attended a service at the First Baptist Church there and met a stunning beauty, his soul mate Betty Thomas, whom he married almost two years later on September 14, 1943. Due to an unfortunate military jeep accident while on base which left him unable to compete in combat, Rev. John turned his attention to aircraft study and became a highly regarded teacher of airplane mechanics to young recruits.
Upon leaving the military in 1945, Rev. John entered into the spiritual academic life, earning a BA and a Masters in only 5 ½ years. He began his ministry work immediately upon graduation, where he pastored at a church in sunny, coastal Pensacola, Florida for a years time. From there, Rev. John moved to the Norwood Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for a lengthy stay of five years. Following Jacksonville, Rev. John became the pastor at Lake Forrest in Orlando, before returning back to Jacksonville after accepting a pastoring position at Englewood Baptist. He preached here until 1961, when “Edwin” moved to Hollywood, Florida and began speaking at the Lake Forest Baptist Church for thirteen enlightening and fulfilling years. In 1974, Rev. John accepted his last post as a pastor at Rainbow Lakes Baptist, where he delighted churchgoers with his sermons until his retirement in 1990. The following year, Rev. John and his beloved wife Betty moved to tranquil Ocala, Florida, the horse capital of the world, and this is when the good pastor accelerated his love of painting and his spectacular skill working with oils.
Rev John E McKinley’s most prolific and productive time for oil came during the latter part of his life. Tragically, his cherished wife begin to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in the late 80’s, just as Rev. John was beginning to retire. Having always depended on his beautiful wife to be his muse and main source of inspiration, the good Reverend was ever thankful for the friendship he had developed with his son-in-law, professional wrestling legend Dory Funk Jr. While his daughter was truly one of the brightest lights in his life, having always longed for a son, Dory became the son Rev. John never had had himself, and in turn, helped inspire this great man and terrific artist through the later years of his life.
At FunkMcKinley-FineArt, Marti Funk, Rev. John’s daughter, and her husband Dory pay tribute to this powerful figure in both their lives, and hope to memorialize a man and artist who inspired all that he met with his kind soul, wonderful sermons and awe-inspiring artwork.
Photography: Dave Schlenker