When he was in his teens and long before he became a minister, the Rev. Don William Shelton did something that was quite out of character.

Shelton was president of a local youth group at the time and heavily involved in religious activities. Then one day he up and disappeared.

He'd bought a bus ticket to Las Vegas, said Dick Shelton, Don's brother. Their parents contacted the police and Don was brought home, where he never pulled something like that again.

Dick Shelton, recalling that story with a laugh Wednesday, is convinced his brother realized he had a calling and was frightened by the responsibility.

"He tried to run away," Dick Shelton said. "You can't run away from God."

Don Shelton, 68, died Sept. 26 after battling cancer. A Celebration of Life service is scheduled for Thursday.

Born in Bakersfield on Oct. 22, 1943, Don Shelton graduated from Bakersfield High School in 1961, attended Bakersfield College and then transferred to Northwest Christian University. He graduated in 1967, and while there met his wife, Linda, with whom he enjoyed 47 years of marriage.

He was a minister at many churches, most recently serving as interim minister at Mill Creek Christian Church in Bakersfield, where he'd served years earlier as minister when it was called First Christian Church.

Linda Shelton said Wednesday that Don was quiet and unassuming in public, but funny and energetic around friends and during church services. People couldn't believe it was the same person, she said.

"I can't imagine having a life partner that provided more entertainment and adventure," she said.

Her husband's faith was authentic, Linda said. There was no pretense or flash; he just tried to live as Christ asked him, she said.

"Don was very open and accepting of all people, no matter what color, what faith, what size or shape," Linda Shelton said. "He loved others as he understood God loved him."

Dick Shelton said one of the main things he thinks about regarding his brother was his sense of humor. He liked a good practical joke and would poke fun at himself, even using self-deprecating stories about himself as parables for others.

Don Shelton also used humor to engage children during church services, Dick Shelton said. His brother would use a dummy to tell stories to children.

In addition to Linda and Dick, Don Shelton is survived by two daughters, Shonna Shearson (John) of Bakersfield, and Stacy Shelton (Jay Reid) of Ione, Ore.; and three grandchildren, Lucas and Logan Shearson and Lily Reid.

The Celebration of Life service is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Mill Creek Christian Church at 1660 S St. Memorial gifts may be made to the Shelton Family Scholarship Fund at Disciples Seminary Foundation in Claremont, or Mill Creek Christian Church.