A RESPECTED and loved Inverkeithing pastor has died just a few months after his retirement.

Pastor Ross Brown led Inverkeithing Baptist Church for just over 20 years, taking regular assemblies, serving the local schools and nurseries and was familiar to several generations of pupils, parents and staff.

He also supported the local community council, was chaplain to the Scouts and led the town’s Remembrance services regularly.

Although the church has just 30 worshippers, their Facebook page has been flooded with hundreds of tributes to Ross from people whose lives he touched.

The baptist minister, who was just 64, took early retirement in February to care for his wife, Julia, who had been ill for a few years.

He discovered a few months ago that he had a bone marrow disorder and although he went through various treatments, died from infections which his body couldn't fight off, including sepsis.

Helen Guyan, secretary of Inverkeithing Baptist Church, told the Press: "Ross was a big man in every sense of the word, who always had the time for an encouraging word with everyone he knew.

"His wife, Julia, says they could never walk along the street without it taking ages, as Ross stopped to chat with everyone!

"Ross was always our first call in times of trouble – health, family problems, financial and practical.

"He came out to any of us any time of night without thought for himself – yet also managed to care faithfully for his own wife and family.

"Over the years, he must have sat with people at thousands of hospital bedsides, comforted the grieving and rejoiced with the celebrating – and not just church people but many in the wider community.

"Ross was always known as a ‘people person’ while remaining God’s man. He achieved that rare balance of coming alongside people as an equal while maintaining the high standards of the Bible in his own life and teaching.

"Inverkeithing Baptist Church will miss Ross and Julia in so many ways."

Ross worked for many years for the homeless charity, Bethany, before entering the ministry and also worked as a joiner and plumber, as well as a pastor!

He preached his farewell service on February 23 but sadly never made a retirement party planned for the following Saturday as he had fallen ill.

Inverkeithing councillor Alice McGarry said: "I've known Ross many years and the news of his death is very upsetting.

"He was hugely supportive and enthusiastic and just a great soul.

"The fact that he never got his retirement is just tragic – we were all due to go to his party but never got to celebrate with him.

"I am so sorry for Julia and his family."

Many community leaders in Inverkeithing have said that Ross was highly thought of in the town and couldn't praise him enough.

Caroline Gardiner, Inverkeithing Primary School headteacher, said: "We are so sad to hear this. Rev Brown was extremely supportive of our school community and always happy to come and share our moments of special celebration and share his faith and wisdom with our young people.

"We have missed him since his retirement. We would like to pass on our sincere condolences to his family at this sad time."

Other religious leaders in the town have also been deeply saddened by his death and poured out their tributes.

The Rev Dean Norby, of St Peter's Episcopal Church, added: "Ross was the real deal! He was very sacrificial and as well as a pastor, helped other people and other churches with all building skills.

"He really cared for Inverkeithing and was faithful to his church, his community and to the gospel of Jesus Christ."