Charles Wissink ’52
Charles Jay Wissink, 91, of Boca Raton, FL, departed this life on Friday, January 21, 2022. Charles was the first child of the Reverend Charles B. and Geraldine Wissink, born on May 23, 1930, in Orange City, IA. He spent his childhood in Iowa and Michigan, as the family moved among areas known well to those within the Reformed Church, often returning to Iowa during the summers. He graduated from South High School in Grand Rapids, and from there he went to Hope College in Holland, MI, where he majored in Philosophy. After a long period of what he thought was uncertainty about his future, he finally told his parents he was going to go to seminary, to which they replied that they already knew this. Thus began his life-long devotion to ministry and service to God. After graduating from Hope as a philosophy major in 1952, he received a Bachelor of Divinity from Western Theological Seminary (1955), a Master of Sacred Theology from Union Theological Seminary (1965) and a Ph.D. in Christian Education from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1975.
It was at Hope College where he met the love of his life, Barbara (née Wierenga). Married in 1952, Chuck (as he preferred to be called—either that or “the Reverend Doctor”) and Barb started their life together and had their first son, Scott, while at Western Seminary where he won the class prize for preaching. They then moved to Union City, NJ, where Chuck served as pastor of his first church, Hope Reformed, and he put into practice his gift for both preaching and educating. This is also where sons David and Steven were born. The growing family moved next to Clifton, NJ, where he served as pastor of Clifton Reformed Church, and where son Brian and (finally) daughter Sandra were born.
By the early 1960’s, Chuck was recognized as an inspiring preacher who thought deeply about theology, history, and how one could best serve God from the pulpit and in society. In 1963, in a major career change, he accepted a position as Professor of Christian Education at New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, NJ. It was here that Chuck’s religious calling expanded even further. Just beginning his new job, he boarded a bus and participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, witnessing firsthand Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. Several years later he represented the Reformed Church at the World Council of Churches meeting in Uppsala, Sweden. He became deeply involved in the ecumenical movement, and established close relations with members of all different faiths, a passion which continued for the rest of his career. He led tours of the Holy Land, and even brought back water from the Jordan River which he used to baptize children, including some of his grandkids. But his firm moral stance against all forms of intolerance led to righteous anger when the seminary refused to provide credit for a course he was teaching in NYC to gay men who were called to the ministry. As a man of strong convictions, Chuck felt he had no choice but to leave the Reformed Church.
In 1985, now an ordained Episcopal priest, Chuck became rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, PA, where he and Barb stayed for 10 years until his “retirement” in 1996. They then moved to Levittown, PA where Chuck continued his involvement with the Philadelphia Diocese and ecumenical issues until his “retirement” in 2009, when they moved to Boca Raton, FL. Here Chuck served as Associate clergy for St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, until his actual retirement around 2015. Through all the years, he preached almost every Sunday, whether the called minister, interim pastor, priest, or even volunteer, displaying a commanding presence on the pulpit, a unique ability to educate and relate the past to the present, and a wonderful sense of humor to bring it all together.
Chuck was also a man of many talents and interests, often teaching himself something new, mastering it, and then trying something else. He enjoyed music throughout his life, played piano, trombone, and ukulele, and even did some composing for fun. He taught himself oil painting, sailing, skiing, and quilt making, among other hobbies. He was fascinated by science and built a telescope, even grinding the lenses. Late in life he learned tap dancing. He authored numerous booklets and short stories for the amusement of his grandkids, while body surfing remained a life-long passion, one which he shared and passed on to his kids and grandkids.
Chuck’s life was not just limited to work, however. He was absolutely devoted to his children, going to their concerts, athletic events, model rocket launches, even bringing an Egyptian mummy the seminary stored in their house basement owned to one lucky child’s show-and-tell. He took his family to see the Mona Lisa when it was on display in NYC, and Michelangelo’s Pieta at the 1964 World’s Fair. And he was even more devoted to Barb, his beloved wife of 69 years, expressing his love to her even as his memory failed in his later years.
Chuck was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Geraldine Wissink; brother Rodney Wissink and his wife Betty; and sister Harriet Engbers. He is survived by his wife Barbara; brother-in-law James Engbers of Grand Rapids, MI; his children Scott Wissink ’76 (Jamee), Bloomington, IN, David Wissink ‘78 (Jennifer ‘79), Cortland, NY, Steven Wissink ’80 (Kaye), Marshall, MI, Brian Wissink ‘83 (Melinda), Laingsburg, MI, and Sandra (Wissink ’85) Laman (Mark ‘83), Boca Raton, FL; his grandchildren Christine Wissink (Mark), Gregory Wissink (Mariana), Gerrit Wissink (Michelle), Cassandra Armstrong (Jordan), Brianna Wissink (Jordan), Erika Laman, Rachel Kinney (Kyle), Grant Laman; and his great-grandchildren Cassius Wissink, Carter Armstrong, Alana Armstrong, Willem Wissink.
A memorial service was held Monday, May 23, 2022 at St. Gregory’s in Boca Raton, with interment of ashes in the church’s columbarium immediately thereafter. If interested in making a donation in Chuck’s memory, please consider supporting any of the Outreach programs of St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church of Boca Raton (https://www.stgregorysepiscopal.org/), or the charity of one’s choice.