Behind The Red Hoodie
Gary Cattell, also known as the Willard Preacher, is no stranger to the people who live in State College. He preaches for five hours a day, five days a week in front of the Willard building, hoping that the people who hear him would want to become Christian.
Cattell is married and has four children. He originally studied at Penn State for a little over two years before deciding to drop out. As a Penn State student, he was just like any one of us “I enjoyed the partying and fornicating so I understand what that’s all about,” Cattell says. He turned Christian and first started preaching in 1982, replacing the original Willard preacher, Bro Cope. As a student, Gary would listen to Cope preach every day and finally realized that the only time he was really happy was when he listened to the preaching.
As a child, Cattle didn’t grow up in a religious household. “Even though I came to believe that the Christian god was the god, I would try to read the bible and it didn’t really make any sense to me. I would go to church and wouldn’t be really interested, but I wasn’t hiding the fact that the Christian god was a god,” Cattell says.
This year marks Cattell’s 36th year preaching at Penn State. Before becoming a preacher, Cattell worked with mentally handicapped children. He says that “If I wasn’t preaching I’d suppose I’d still be doing something in that field somewhere. It’s been so long but I’d probably still be doing that or helping kids that are having problems.”
When asked if he would ever retire, Cattell says that “Unless I die first, I suppose I will retire from it someday. If something arose that I wanted to do more or physically I wasn’t about to preach anymore then I probably would retire. But absent of something like that, there would be no reason for me not to go out there.”
Cattell’s wife shares that “whenever the kids had a problem, they would always go to their father. He is the most kind, compassionate, understanding and caring human being out there. He would always be willing to help those around him. Once, someone called and said they had a tree fall over in front of their house. Gary immediately went and chopped it all down and took care of it. He’s just sweet in that way.”
Other than preaching, Cattell has participated in 15 marathons. Nowadays, his daily schedule involves him praying, jogging, and reading.
When asked what preaching means to him, Cattell simply states that “There’s nothing else that I would rather be doing. I like talking to people about faith. I like to see God working in people and opening up their eyes and watching them find the truth. As I said, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”