BAYONNE, NJ - Rev. H Gene Sykes, pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church, has died as the result of complications related to the COVID-19 virus, Mayor Jimmy Davis confirmed Tuesday.

Davis described Rev. Sykes as “one of the Bayonne’s most prominent clergymen.”

“Rev. Sykes will be remembered for moving his congregation to a new location where he renovated and expanded a former synagogue,” Davis posted on the city Facebook site. “Friendship Baptist Church established a soup kitchen and other services that reached out to the entire community.”

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A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Rev. Sykes was married to Mrs. Fannie Steen Sykes, and was the father of three children.

As a high school student Sykes worked towards obtaining a certification for drafting and design, and  later attended Florida A&M University where he majored in Industrial Education. Sykes would also go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and technology from the Cleveland Institute of Technology. 

Finally, Sykes attended the Eastman School of Marketing and North Eastern Bible College. 

Pastor Sykes was a Vietnam era veteran of the U.S Air Force where he served in various assignments as an Aerial Reconnaissance and Aircrew Systems Training Specialist working with flight crews on various reconnaissance systems and aircraft types.

Before becoming a member of the clergy, Sykes held positions with Eastman Kodak Company where he worked as a systems engineer and customer engineer, and Singer Company as coordinator of special projects and later as a Test Director, Project Engineer and Test Engineering Manager in the company’s Link Commercial Airline Flight Simulation Division.

Pastor Sykes began his work in the ministry in 1977 serving as Associate Minister at the Shiloh Baptist Church, Plainfield, moving on to serve as assistant to the Pastor of the Concord Baptist Church, of Perth Amboy, and later at St. Luke Baptist Church in Paterson.

In 1992 Pastor Sykes retired from the business world to devote himself to ministry full time and has for the past twenty-two years served as Pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church of Bayonne.

An active member of the local community, Sykes was vice chairman of the Board of Commissioners of The Bayonne Housing Authority and vice president of the Bayonne Branch NAACP and has served on the board of directors of several local, state and national ministerial organizations.

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