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Elwood mourns death of pastor who served entire community

Rev. Ben Capshaw died Thursday in a highway crash in Madison County.

ELWOOD, Ind. — The city of Elwood is mourning the loss of local pastor Ben Capshaw, who expanded his ministry far beyond his own congregation. 

Capshaw died Thursday morning in a crash on SR 37 in Madison County.

He was the pastor at Elwood Central Wesleyan Church. Capshaw also served as the chaplain for the City of Elwood.    

Just a day after her husband’s death, Amanda Capshaw found the strength to talk about her loss. 

Amanda placed handmade mementos on the ledge of a stained glass window in the sanctuary of the church. All the items were given to Ben by children he served in ministry. 

One plaque read “My hero Pastor Ben” spelled out in Scrabble game letters glued to a painted ceramic tile.  

"This one is from a young man that he's been working with in Elwood," said Amanda. “We’re praying for this boy.” 

Credit: Capshaw family

Amanda read a message she prepared before answering questions: 

“Ben knew most everybody from Elwood and Lansing (Michigan), and all the places he had been by name. He knew your hearts. He knew your stories. He prayed for you all. He worked closely through life with many of you. You were important to him. 

Our hearts are broken. Some of our hearts feel shattered to pieces. I honestly don't know how I'm doing this, only God. 

Death and loss will break our hearts, but so will so many other things. Your mind, your heart might have been broken for a long time, maybe because of abuse, sickness, cancer, divorce, other tragic experiences that have touched your life. That brokenness creates a massive and daunting hole.  

There's only one way to fill that hole, and it's Jesus. Drugs, alcohol, sex, money, even making all the shots at the basketball game or getting good grades, even good deeds, never heal our broken hearts or make us whole. Only Jesus can do that. 

This is what Ben lived. This is what Ben taught.  Bringing Jesus to your broken heart is what he would have wanted for you, because Jesus is the only one who can heal it.”   

Credit: WTHR

Pastor Capshaw died in a fiery crash Thursday morning about 10:30 a.m. on State Road 37 just south of State Road 128. 

Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger says the pastor’s SUV was northbound on State Road 37 and crossed the centerline, colliding head-on with a southbound semi-tractor trailer. A witness said that the SUV caught fire immediately, becoming fully engulfed. The pastor was not able to exit the vehicle. The semi also caught fire but the two people got out with non-life-threatening injuries. 

Credit: WTHR

The sheriff is still investigating why the SUV crossed the center line.  

Capshaw served as pastor for the past nine years at Elwood Central Wesleyan Church. 

He became friends with Roger Gardner, pastor of East Main Street Christian Church, just four blocks away from Capshaw’s church.

"A lot of us as pastors, we tend to get pretty focused on our church, our people,” said Gardner. “Ben always helped us to see that bigger picture, that church is more than that. I think all of us are going to have to carry that vision."

Elwood Mayor Todd Jones asked Capshaw to serve as the city chaplain after Jones was elected in 2015. Capshaw provided counseling to the police and fire department and citizens in emergencies like the accident that took his life. 

“I remember the police coming to the door, banging on the door at one o'clock in the morning for different things, and the relationships he had with the police when things happen,” said Amanda. “I know the suicide prevention, he was always there for those people at the school." 

A moment of silence was observed for Pastor Capshaw and a prayer given for his family during the opening ceremonies Friday for the Elwood Glass Festival. 

"This city - no matter what our beliefs are - we always pull together in times of need,” said Jones. "For Amanda, for Noah, and for Isaac - the city is here for you and we love you - just like Pastor Ben was here for all of us." 

Capshaw was 41 years old. He is survived by his wife, Amanda, and two sons, 13-year-old Isaac and 10-year-old Noah.

"I'm worried about my boys,” said Amanda as tears rolled down her face. “I want them to grow up be strong and independent men of God, just like their dad. I don't know how they're going to do it without a daddy."

Amanda quit her job this summer to focus on opening a youth center in Elwood with Ben's help. 

“I know the people of this community will come together and rally, and there is a catalyst for change,” said Amanda. “That Catalyst Youth Center will somehow open. I wish it would be where Ben and I could hold hands and walk in it together first. But that’s not the way it was supposed to be.” 

The Elwood community is making plans for a vigil to remember Ben and pray for the Capshaw family. 

“They weren’t sure what to do about a candlelight service for Ben,” Amanda said. “Because when there was a candlelight service, Ben was the one doing it.” 

In a Facebook post Thursday, Jones remembered Capshaw, a pastor in the city, as "a man who has always put the needs – especially the spiritual needs – of others in front of his own." 

"In our greatest times of need, Pastor Ben was always there. In our greatest times of joy, Pastor Ben was always there," Jones wrote. "His faith was fiercely strong, and his commitment and love for our city, especially our youth was evident in his words and actions."

Several people who knew Capshaw shared their memories with The Herald Bulletin Thursday evening.

"He was really funny and always joking and smiling," said Everett Dickey, who played in a softball league with the pastor. "He was the light of the room — every room he walked in. He touched everyone’s heart."

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