The Rev. Mr. Wells Grogan

The Rev. Mr. Wells Grogan

Passed on Tuesday, 07 December 2010

The Rev. Wells Grogan died on the morning of December 7, 2010 of a massive stroke.  He served as Senior Minister of First Church in Cambridge for a number of years before accepting a call in Madison, WI.  Most recently, he had been living in retirement on Cape Cod, where he was a member of the Federated Church of Orleans.  He is survived by his wife, Helen, and their daughter, Martha. 

A memorial service for The Rev. Wells Grogan will be held on Saturday,January 22 at 11:00 am at The Federated Church of Orleans, 162 Main Street at Meetinghouse Road, East Orleans, 02643 In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to:

Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod, 411 Main Street, Suite 6, Yarmouthport, MA, 02675
The Federated Church of Orleans, PO Box 761, East Orleans, MA 02643

Notes of condolences to Mrs. Helen Grogan, 54 Old Colony Way, Unit A, Orleans, MA 02653

from the Boston Globe

Rev. Wells Grogan Shared His struggle with church
By Bryan Marquard
Globe Staff January 20, 2011

During 14 years leading the church, Rev. Grogan “was instrumental in overhauling the bylaws,’’ said Arthur Anger of Concord. “Wells was more of a hands-on administrator.’’

Along with budgetary changes, Rev. Grogan approved removing several rows of pews to make the front of the church less cluttered. A new organ was installed, and the choir moved from the front to the left side.
“The choir was very big, but there were paid soloists,’’ Harter said. “Wells, partly for financial reasons and partly for social reasons, did not think there should be paid soloists. He thought there should be a more democratic choir.’’

Born in Duluth, Minn., Rev. Grogan was the second of five children. His family moved to Wisconsin, where he graduated from West Bend High School in 1941 and joined the Army Air Corps a year later. A second lieutenant, he flew a B-17, was shot down over Austria in 1944, and was a prisoner of war. He took classes from a Catholic priest from Scotland during his months in the prison camp and struggled to reconcile God and the evils of the Holocaust.

After the war, he went to DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., where he met Helen Picken, a student there. They married in 1949, the year he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology. Three years later, he graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York City with a bachelor of divinity degree. His first church as senior minister was in Barrington, R.I., where he stayed nearly 10 years before moving to Cambridge in 1962. In 1976, Rev. Grogan left to spend a decade leading First Congregational Church in Madison, Wis., before retiring to Cape Cod, where for about 10 years he was chairman of the Brewster Housing Authority.

Upon arriving in Cambridge at the beginning of the turbulent 1960s, Rev. Grogan inherited a church with a growing divide.  “I felt he integrated that church so there were more conversations and more things going on between the older generation and the younger generation,’’ his wife said.

“Wells began talking with the younger people about ways to do things in a different fashion,’’ Harter said. “It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually people were nominated and took responsibilities on committees. I think he had a more positive influence on the place than he may have thought when he left.’’ In addition to his wife, Rev. Grogan leaves a daughter, Martha of Orleans; two sons, Wells of London and Douglas of Steamboat Springs, Colo.; and three grandchildren.

A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Federated Church of Orleans. Thoughtful and thorough, Rev. Grogan did so much preparation that he often ran out of time to finish a sermon, and the theological topics would surface later in discussions.

“Wells was a curious and questioning fellow,’’ said Perry Neubauer. “One on one, he and I would talk about things, and I think he was still questioning stuff that we were all force-fed when we were growing up. He helped me sort out my own thoughts about what to believe and what to take as allegorical.’’

Joan Reddy of Lexington, who was Rev. Grogan’s secretary, said: “He also knew how to have you over to the house and pour a glass of sherry and relax and have informal conversations. He was a good storyteller, a weaver of yarns.’’ One was about his time as a prisoner of war, when the bread of life was more than metaphorical. “He was elected by the other prisoners to slice the bread; they had a half a loaf for 50 men,’’ Hsiao said. “They trusted him to be fair. And when we went to his home, he would slice the bread and tell us the story of when he was a prisoner, when he sliced so evenly that every slice was the same thickness as the others.’’

The following article appeared in the Cape Codder online:

The Rev. Wells Brown Grogan, affectionately known as Brownie, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, supported by his wife Helen and daughter Martha. He was 87. Wells had been a resident of Brewster and Orleans for 23 years following a long relationship with Cape Cod for most of his adult life. He was born in Duluth, Minn., in 1923 and raised in West Bend, Wis. He was a B-17 bomber pilot in the 15th Air Force in World War II, and held as a prisoner of war. He entered DePauw University following the war where he met his future wife Helen Picken, from Rockford, Ill. Together, they went to Union Seminary in New York City, following their marriage in the fall of 1949, where he studied for a degree in theology. He had a lifelong career as a minister in the United Church of Christ, leading parishes in Barrington, R.I., Cambridge, and Madison, Wis. During that period he undertook two sabbaticals in Europe, studying at New College in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1958 and again at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh as a research fellow and for a semester at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1973/1974. Wells and Helen retired to Cape Cod in 1987 where they continued their commitment to community support, working for Cape Cod Habitat for Humanity, where Wells was the 1st president. He also served as Chairman of the Brewster Housing Authority from 1993 to 2003. A loved member of the Federated Church of Orleans, he was frequently spotted on Skaket Beach in the better weather in the bible study group. He is survived by his wife, Helen of Orleans, his daughter, Martha also of Orleans, his sons Wells Campbell, of London, England and Douglas Brown of Steamboat Springs, Colo., and his grandchildren; Jack of Madison, Wis., Rachelle of Folla Rule, Scotland and Rose of London, England. A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Donations in his memory may be made to the Federated Church of Orleans or Cape Cod Habitat for Humanity. For online condolences, please visit online at


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