Dave Sturkey, who led Cornerstone of Lakewood Ranch for 18 years, died April 6, following a heart procedure.
LAKEWOOD RANCH — Founding pastor of Cornerstone of Lakewood Ranch Dave Sturkey preached his last service in Lakewood Ranch on Christmas Eve in 2010 after 18 years in the community. Although he hasn’t been behind the pulpit in East County for more than four years, his impact still lingers.
Sturkey, 52, died in his sleep April 6, at his home in Washington, approximately eight hours after he was released from the hospital following triple bypass surgery.
“Everybody thought he was out of the woods,” said longtime friend Bill Martin, who oversees Cornerstone’s adult education and leadership development. “There are lots of folks in this community who are grieving his loss, even ones who haven’t seen him in years. Whether you knew Dave for five minutes or five years, you had this sense he was your friend, and he truly was.”
Sturkey most recently served as pastor of the Community Church of Ephrata, in Ephrata, Wash., but Cornerstone is planning a memorial service for him locally. It is tentatively slated for 4 p.m May 3, at Covenant Life Church, in Sarasota, (the church that planted Cornerstone), but the location could change to Cornerstone, depending on projected attendance.
Described as a fun-loving man’s man who loved to hunt and fish, perhaps his biggest claim to fame was co-authoring the book, “Wild Hog Hunting.” Sturkey was also known for his knowledge of the Scriptures and his teaching style.
“He just had a way, when he spoke in front of everybody — the feeling you had in the pew was he was having a conversation with you personally,” said friend Dave Dickmann, now Cornerstone’s director of lay and family ministry.
Friend Connie Salyers called Sturkey an astounding teacher, who pulled insight from the Bible others would never think of. He often used props from the podium, one time cracking open a can of Pillsbury biscuits to demonstrate the kingdom of God’s likeness and two branches — one with green leaves and one dead and broken — to remind people that both branches are dead once severed from the tree, just like people apart from Jesus.
“I’ve gone to church all my life, but I really didn’t understand the Gospel until I went to Cornerstone,” Salyers said.
Scott Rockwell, who met Sturkey in 1998, still cherishes memories of discussing theology with drawings on the backs of napkins at Sonny’s BBQ after Saturday night services in the church’s early days.
“His legacy was he wanted people to understand the Gospel,” Rockwell said. “He got to know 50 people the way I got to know one. That was one of his unique qualities. That’s unusual to have someone who can genuinely be that close to that many people.”
Dickmann added: “He accepted people right where they were at. You didn’t have to be anything different than what you are. He brought that to the culture of the church. It’s always been a church where everybody wants you to come and listen and investigate.”
Sturkey easily related to others and took a genuine interest in getting to know the people he met. Having trained hunting dogs, Sturkey walked up to the doorstep of a man, whom the East County Observer is not identifying due to his law enforcement position, after he noticed the man trained K9 units. The conversation came easily, and, eventually, the man learned Sturkey pastored a church. The man didn’t know what he believed at the time, but he wanted to come.
“Dave was one of those special pastors who actually went out into the streets and met people where they lived,” the man said. “He didn’t do all his work at the church. He changed my life from where I was and my understanding of God.”
u201cWhether you knew Dave for five minutes or five years, you had this sense he was your friend, and he truly was.u201d u2013 Bill Martin, Dave Sturkeyu2019s long-time friend