The Rev. Marion F. Stokes, 87, of Pine Hill, a longtime pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church who ministered at more than a dozen churches on the East Coast, died of congestive heart failure Monday, July 12, at his home.

During his last 20 years as a pastor, he was based out of small churches in the Harrisburg and South Jersey areas.

Though his natural mission was to spread the word of God, Dr. Stokes also enjoyed working to improve his community, said his wife, Felicia.

While pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Camden in the 1980s, he was involved in the development of Camden's waterfront and aquarium.

He retired from Grant A.M.E. Church in Chesilhurst in 1998 after four years.

Members of the many congregations where he preached stayed in touch with him over the years.

"He was a people's pastor, confidant, and friend," his wife said.

Dr. Stokes loved to write letters and cards. He also liked to escape serious religious reading every now and then.

"He loved to read Stephen King when he wasn't in the Bible," his wife said, laughing.

Dr. Stokes was born and raised in Sumter, S.C., with a pastor father. After graduating from high school, he started taking courses for Christian ministry and enrolled in college.

In 1950, he graduated with a bachelor's degree from Allen University in Columbia, S.C.

After being ordained in 1951, Dr. Stokes began his pastoral ministry at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Boston. For the next 13 years, he traveled to New England churches.

In 1964, Dr. Stokes was transferred to Mount Zion Church in Plainfield, N.J. Other stops in New Jersey included Princeton, where he met his wife. The couple married in 1973.

After five years at Monumental A.M.E. Church in Steelton, Pa., the couple wanted to move back to New Jersey to prepare for retirement. In 1994, Dr. Stokes joined Grant A.M.E., and the couple settled in Berlin, where they lived until a few years ago.

Dr. Stokes received an honorary doctorate of divinity from Monrovia College in Monrovia, Liberia.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Stokes is survived by sons Marion, Janus, Samuel, and Robert Stokes and Kyle Simpson; a daughter, Grace Stokes-Winder; 11 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; a brother; and three sisters.

A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, July 16, at Grant A.M.E. Church, 718 Fourth Ave., Chesilhurst. Burial will be at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Cemetery, Arneytown.