With mixed emotions, the family of the (or, for all those who know him, “just call me John”), 84, share that he peacefully rejoined his Lord on June 2, 2020. John valiantly fought his declining health due to Parkinson’s disease, and we rejoice that he is now free from pain, both mentally and physically, to finally have respite and joy.
John strived to live out his faith by serving others. He shared this journey with his beloved wife and lifelong partner, Tonye. The pair met in high school while involved in youth ministries. Just as their love of the Lord caught fire, so did their love for each other—they’ve been inseparable ever since. They married on April 26, 1957, and went on to have three children, Deborah, John Jr., and Rebekah.
After John graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary, they continued their new faith journey. Always humble, John believed that faith calls us to follow God’s lead and be cautious not to be overconfident in our own understanding. After being ordained, he accepted his first call guiding churches in Western Pennsylvania; first, serving both Clarksville and Jefferson Presbyterian Churches, then, with the First Presbyterian Church of Murrysville. From there, he was called to continue his work in Whittier, CA. As with all things, God had a hand in that, too, because the move fortuitously allowed John to help rescue Mike, Tonye’s brother. That intervention started Michael on his own acceptance of the Lord, and the faith circle grew exponentially.
The family then moved Lowville, NY for John to serve the Presbyterian church there. During that time, he enrolled in a program to earn his Doctor of Ministry so that he could find new ways to help others understand and deepen their faith. John’s final pastorate was with Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Uniontown, PA, where he ministered from August 1982 until his retirement in 2000.
John cherished his final years as a shepherd to Trinity parishioners. He embodied the belief that our Christian mission must reach beyond the church walls. Ever the reverent disciple, there are countless examples of his kindhearted and thoughtful approach to his understanding of faith and community. For instance, when John noticed that there were six high-rise apartment buildings for the elderly within walking distance of the Church, he established a Senior Ministries Program. That program has become so far-reaching that it has grown to become its own non-profit organization, Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Fayette Inc., and served thousands throughout the past 29 years. John similarly searched for ways to help to provide families with more opportunities to share in a vital encounter with Christ. He coordinated with Pine Springs Camp to increase awareness and exposure of their summer programming, scheduling visits and establishing scholarship programs to facilitate involvement. Lastly, John founded a summer reading camp to help students keep and increase learned skills to prevent them from falling back in acquired reading ability during the summer break. This too has expanded beyond Trinity walls—it is now in the hands of the East End Community Center.
John joins his parents Arthur and Catherine (Pepper), and his sister, Caroline, in Heaven. He is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Tonye; his son John Jr. (Terry) and daughters Deborah (David) and Rebekah (Randy). John will be fondly remembered by his sisters Bonnie, Sallie (John), Jean, and Nancy; grandchildren Natalie, Bianca (Dan), Natasha (Tom), Briana (Michael), Lyndsay (Jeremy), Alec (Haley), Katie (Elaina), and Lauren; great-grandchildren Vincent, Carmen, Charlotte, Madison, Nathan, Stevie Lea, Michael, Ayva, Waylon, and Jace. John will also be lovingly remembered by his many nieces and nephews.
We acknowledge with deep appreciation Dr. Hartley and Amedisys Hospice and the caregivers (Pasty, Paula, Kathy, Erma, Carla, Alisa, Joan, and Dana) for the exceptional care and compassion they provided.
In memory, we ask that you donate in John’s name to Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Fayette, Inc. or the charitable cause of your choosing. Due to the current health crisis, we will hold a memorial service in his celebration at a later time.