BRANDON — Bell Shoals Baptist Church Pastor Forrest Pollock, killed this week in a plane crash along with his son, was highly regarded by friends and supporters as a visionary leader and a powerful communicator with a potential future on the national religious stage.
"He had a passion to reach people with the Gospel," said Tom Biles, executive director of the Tampa Bay Baptist Association.
Pollock, 44, and his son Preston, 13, died Monday when the small plane they were flying apparently crashed into the side of a mountain in North Carolina.
A gathering of friends will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the church, 2102 Bell Shoals Road. A "celebration of life" will be held at 11 a.m. with a fellowship reception to follow. Interment will be next week in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Pollock leaves behind his wife, Dawn, and five other children, Courtney, 15, Brooke, 14, Hope, 12, Blake, 10, and Kirk, 8.
Community leaders, including Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee and state Rep. Trey Traviesa, considered Pollock a friend and confidant.
"He was a force to be reckoned with," said Traviesa, a Republican whose district includes much of eastern Hillsborough County.
Traviesa said he often sought Pollock's counsel on tough issues like antiabortion legislation. Pollock's advice, Traviesa said, was straightforward: Do what you believe is the right thing, always.
Pollock had flown his single-engine Piper airplane to North Carolina on Sunday to visit his mother. Brooke was also on the flight but stayed behind with her grandmother when Pollock and Preston took off to pick up a friend in Arkansas en route to a conference of Christian leaders in Texas.
Pollock was heavily involved with the church on a national level. There was even talk that he might someday be president of the powerful Southern Baptist Convention, the governing body of more than 42,000 churches in the United States.
Pollock started a multimedia company called PDC Productions in college and sold it in 1990.
He went on to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas and in 1994 became senior pastor at Rosen Heights Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He served there until 1997, when he moved to Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La. Pollock had been at Bell Shoals since 2002.
Cindy Pokluda, Pollock's administrative assistant at Rosen Heights, said staffers and church members were often "tickled" at his ideas.
One time, she said, Pollock asked her to find a suit of armor and a live cow for a crusade at a local high school because he thought it would be "fun for the kids."
"He was full of energy, full of life," Pokluda said. "Every day was a new day for him."
Jan Wesner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 661-2439. Staff writers S.I. Rosenbaum, Jessica Vander Velde and Ernest Hooper contributed to this report.