The Life and Times of Presiding Elder Henry John Legolie
By James Ellis and Theo Messiah, 15th Episcopal District
On Sunday, September 3, we chatted to Presiding Elder Henry Legolie about some of his highlights in ministry as well as his life experiences. Presiding Elder Legolie lives in a small town in South Africa, namely Robertson, with his eldest daughter. He turned 104 on August 30, 2017. He joined the ministry in the late 1940s after serving in World War II.
Presiding Elder Legolie was born in De Doorns, a small town in the grape growing region in the Western Cape, South Africa. He was the third child of Presiding Elder William Legolie and Elizabeth Legolie (September).
Elder Legolie started his schooling at the AME Church School in De Doorns. He completed his Junior Certificate at the Rhenish Training College in Worcester.
In 1940, he joined the Army and had his initial military training in Kimberley. In 1941, he left to join the fight in Northern Africa. He spoke of traveling through places like Mombasa, Abyssinia, Addis Ababa, Mogadishu, Suez port, Cairo, and Tunisia. He returned unscathed at the end of 1942. He still has his suspenders for his pants worn during the war. He left the Army as a sergeant in 1944 and returned home. He received the general issue bicycle for his service. It is suspected that he is the oldest South African WWII veteran alive today. We are hoping to confirm this shortly with the South Africa Military Veteran’s Society.
He and his wife, Maria Mia from Barkley West, were married in 1945. They had nine children. She passed away in 1992. He spoke proudly of his fidelity and being a “one woman man.”
Elder Legolie was ordained as a deacon by Bishop Isaiah Bonner in 1949. In 1951, he received his ordination as an itinerant elder from the aforementioned bishop. His first appointment was to Trinity AME Church in Touwsriver in the Montagu District. When asked about his “proudest achievement” in the AME Church, the Rev. Legolie indicated it was the work he did in the Beaufort-West District. He said, “There was no money, but there was a love for God and a love for each other.” He served at Sutherland, Laingsburg, Carnarvon, Williston, and Calvinia. He also served at Bethesda AME Church in Worcester.
Elder Legolie was appointed presiding elder by Bishop G. Dewey Robinson in Kensington. He received his last appointment in 2004 at the age of 91. In 2005, he was officially retired from the AME Church.
When asked about advice for the AME Church in the 21st century, Elder Legolie indicated the church has moved away from the basics. Knowing the Bible and singing hymns are some of the things he said we need to instill again. We asked him about his favorite book of the Bible. He then asked his grandson to hand him a thick, dusty hardcover book, a synopsis of the Book of Acts. “You will find all you need to know there,” were his words.
Presiding Elder Legolie attended the first Boland Annual Conference in Montagu in October 2016. At 103, he addressed the Conference and prayed for the presiding prelate, Bishop David R Daniels.
Elder Legolie indicated his willingness to receive an appointment at the Annual Conference in October 2017. He said, “I will gladly take the Beaufort West District, let Bishop know I’m coming to get my appointment.” His hearing is fading fast; yet amazingly, he doesn’t use reading glasses.