Joel William Elder

January 6, 1954 ~ March 26, 2024 (age 70) 70 Years Old


Rev. Joel William Elder, 70, of Rolesville, NC, was surrounded by loved ones when he was called home and walked pain free into the arms of Jesus on March 26, 2024. Joel’s long list of nicknames (Daddy, Pop Pop, Moses, JW, Soul Joel, Mr. Joel, Joe…) is only a small way of showing how he was so special to so many through all his walks of life. He was a good and faithful servant who spent his life dedicated to sharing the Good News and saw every conversation as an opportunity to tell others about Jesus. Joel was born on January 6, 1954 in Spartanburg, SC to the late Betty McCraw Ravan and William Hartwell Elder. He graduated from Spartanburg High School and earned his BGS in Education and Business from The University of South Carolina Spartanburg (USC Upstate). While in college he played on the tennis team, wrote for the school newspaper, founded a very popular christian organization, Universal Love, and met many of his special lifetime friends. Joel also earned his Masters of Divinity in Religious Education and Ministry from Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. In both college and seminary Joel found his love for performing skits and making others laugh. He was a natural in front of a crowd and a wonderful public speaker. Joel was involved in a lifetime of ministries, some of which were: the Baptist Student Union at Appalachian State University, Camp Tekoa, Look Up Lodge, Summershine Ministries in Sherwood Forest KOA, North Myrtle Beach, Cape Hatteras KOA in Rodanthe, and even taking mission trips across the world with Greater Europe Mission. A few of his most memorable roles were Youth Pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in Raleigh, Co-Founder of CLUB Ministries with his best friend, Rev. Chris Thore, Executive Director of Camp Oak Hill in Oxford, NC, Youth Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Camp Director of Rock Fish Meadows in Rose Hill, NC, Children’s Pastor at Turner Memorial Baptist Church in Garner, NC, and Co-Founder of Connection Ministries at East Carolina University and William Peace University. In recent years Joel shifted gears and decided to combine his lifetime hobby of collecting comic books with his love for connecting with others, and opened a comic shop - Fantastic Comic Worlds in Rolesville, NC - alongside his son, Will. His battle with cancer may have limited his time in the shop physically, but he still managed to make a “super hero” sized impact on every person who walked through the door. He loved getting to know his customers, telling them about Jesus, praying with them, listening to their stories, and always offering a good discount! All of these roles meant so much to Joel, and to the many people he impacted while in them, but the role he cherished most was being a proud father to his children, Katie and Will, and “Pop Pop” to his three grandchildren. He will forever be remembered for his silliness, and how much he loved banana pudding, sweet tea, staying up late to watch movies together, and most of all - Carolina Hurricanes hockey. As a season ticket holder for 24 years, his children, grandchildren, and many friends will have him in their hearts and minds with every “Let’s! Go! Canes!” for years to come!

Joel is survived by his children, Katie Bagwell of Wendell, her husband Austin, and Will Elder of Rolesville, as well his grandchildren: Olivia, Charlie, and Millie Bagwell.

A celebration of Joel’s life will be held on Thursday, April 4, 2024 at 2:00 pm at New Hope Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. No one disliked a tie more than Joel, so please feel free to dress comfortably, even wearing a blue dress shirt or polo (his signature look) in his honor, your favorite t-shirt from any of his camp or campus ministries, or your best Carolina Hurricanes gear - we know any of these would make him smile big! The family will receive visitors following the service in the sanctuary of the church.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to be made to Camp Oak Hill & Retreat Center (, or to Joel’s Go Fund Me page ( to help with outstanding medical expenses and funeral costs.

The family would like to thank the doctors and staff at Duke Cancer Center in Cary for their knowledge and care in helping our dad with his hard fought battle against cancer, as well as the many friends who helped with transportation for chemo appointments, dinners, and encouragement over the years. They would also like to thank the wonderful medical staff in the Oncology unit at Duke Raleigh Hospital for taking the very best care of not only our dad, but us as well, and for treating us like family during his final days. We will cherish our 5th floor family forever.

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