COLFAX — Rev. Dr. William Alexander Leist, age 87, husband of JoAnn Clayton Leist, died peacefully on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.

Born in Ronceverte, West Virginia, he was a son of the late Marie Orndorff Leist and Stanley Philip Leist. Dr. Leist was a retired Presbyterian pastor who served for 40 years in churches in Kenly, Rocky Mount, Gastonia, and Smithfield in North Carolina and Monroe, Georgia, and as a Parish Associate in Asheboro. Rev. Leist was a graduate of Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia and Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Seminary in Chicago. He was a member of Salem Presbytery and attended First Presbyterian Church of High Point.

Dr. Leist is survived by his wife, JoAnn; his three children, Philip Ackerman-Leist (Erin), Paige L. Tolar (Robert), and Nathan Leist (Christine); six grandchildren, Asa, Ethan, and Addy Ackerman-Leist, Erin and Elizabeth Tolar, and Will Leist; a brother and sister-in-law, Andy and Anne Clayton; and six nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother and two sisters.

Besides finishing his sermons only minutes before the commencement of services, Bill also enjoyed biking, camping, flying small planes, buying unnecessary gadgets, singing beyond his range, walking the halls and paths of his beloved River Landing community, and making sure no one was a stranger—no matter the setting. When he pulled out the harmonica, he was sure to entertain, often at his own expense.

He believed in the equality, dignity, well-being, and inclusion of all people and often stepped out bravely to say what needed to be voiced publicly, and not in whispers.

The family held a private memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 14. A Celebration of Life Service will be held at a later date in 2022.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 918 N. Main St., High Point, N.C. 27262, First Presbyterian Church, 420 W. Walker Ave., Asheboro, N.C. 27203, or Hospice of the Piedmont, 1801 Westchester Drive, High Point, N.C. 27262.

Condolences may be expressed to the family online at