The Rev. Robert Van Gorder

The Rev. Robert Van Gorder

Passed on Friday, 11 December 2020
The Rev. Robert G. Van Gorder, a resident of Covenant Living, Cromwell, CT died at Middlesex Memorial Hospital following a recent illness. Bob is survived by his daughter Jan H. Losee of Lawrenceville, GA; two sons, Stephen R. Van Gorder of Lafayette, CO, and Jonathan G. Van Gorder of Fairfield, CT; two sisters, Betsy R. Minkler of Berkeley, CA and Barbara Coffin of Suffield, CT; four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his second wife Jane Winchel Van Gorder in 2018, and his first wife Joy H. Van Gorder in 1989. 

He was born in Peking, China on January 5th, 1927, the son of Dr. George W. Van Gorder and Helen Goforth Van Gorder, who were on the staff of Peking Union Medical College at the time. He graduated from Williams College and Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II.  Ordained in 1954, the Rev. Robert "Bob" Van Gorder served the following churches: The Old South Congregational Church of Farmington, Maine 1954-1959; the Federated Community Church of Hampden, MA,1959-1969; and the First Congregational Church of Westbrook, CT, 1969-1991.  As an expression of their appreciation for his ministry, the members of the Westbrook Church honored him with the title, Pastor Emeritus.

In the communities where Rev. Van Gorder served he was active in supporting a variety of programs. They included Literacy Volunteers, Planned Parenthood, Alcoholics Anonymous, the resettlement of several refugee families, and he directed a number of health organizations such as the Westbrook Public Health Advisory Committee and the Westbrook Mental Health Day Care Center, which later became Gateway Counseling. He was also a director for the Westbrook "Safe Harbor" elderly housing project, and served as Chaplain of the Westbrook Fire Department for eight years. Bob served on the United Church of Christ State Conference Committee on Aid to Ministers.

Bob was a gifted photographer, and won numerous awards for his photographs, including two international competitions. His photos often reflected his lively sense of humor and deep interest in people, and he had a special "eye" for the artistic and the beautiful. Bob enjoyed sharing his hobby at the New Haven Camera Club and created a wide variety of slide programs with music, as well as numerous prints.

Committal will take place on Saturday, May 22nd, 2021 at Cypress Cemetery in Westbrook at 10:00 a.m., followed by a Memorial Service at First Congregational Church of Westbrook at 11:00 a.m. The family requests that any memorial donations be sent to Covenant Living Benevolent Care Fund, and the Westbrook Congregational Church
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