Russell Block ’53

Rev. Russell Block was born on November 12, 1930 to Charles and Ida Helzel Block in New York City and grew up in Cliffside Park, NJ, graduating from Weehawken High School. He attended the University of Chicago and Hope College before earning a Bachelor of Ministry degree in 1956 from Western Theological Seminary in Holland MI. That year he married Nancy Thoms, a medical student, before being ordained in the Peapack Reformed Church, Peapack-Gladstone, NJ where he served for 3 years. Subsequently Rev. Block and his physician wife spent 2 years in India, affiliated with the United Church of South India. Upon their return he served Presbyterian churches in Phillipsburg, Union and Hillside, NJ. During his 8-year tenure as Associate Pastor at Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church in Union, Rev. Block focused on ministering to youth but also, given the interracial turbulence of the ’60s, he reached out to clergy of all affiliations to form a Council of Congregations to bridge religious and racial differences and support the integration of the township’s schools as well as establishment of Headstart programs and a senior citizens’ center. He organized religious art exhibits and formed the Ecumenical Theater of Union, producing thought-provoking dramas for groups in NJ, NY and PA. As a media consultant to the New Jersey Council of Churches Rev. Block was a recipient of Hollywood’s prestigious Angel Award for religious programming on the NJ Cable Television Network. Beginning in 1965 at the inception of the Elizabethport Presbyterian Center, Rev. Block joined its board of directors, serving as its chairman for 40 years. During that time with Rev. Joseph Garlic’s leadership the Center brought a preschool and many other services to the Port community, while its offshoot, Brand New Day, renovated and built scores of new affordable housing units, transforming the neighborhood. In later years while living in Berkeley Heights, Rev. Block assisted in housing homeless families at a local Methodist church, chaired the town’s environmental commission to establish Peppertown Park and build walking/biking paths along the Passaic River, served as a docent and developed educational programs at the Morris Museum, and provided art appreciation sessions for local elementary school children. He also wrote numerous stories for family and friends as well as letters to newspaper editors on topics of concern, and he published a book, “Christianity’s Relevance for Today: a Personal Perspective”. He loved playing his Steinway grand piano for his own enjoyment and for sing-alongs. Beloved by many family members and friends for his open warmth, his steadfast faith, integrity, generosity of spirit and sense of humor, Rev. Block is survived by his wife Nancy, sons Kenneth Block (Jean) and Robert Block (Carrie), daughter Connie Krupa (Paul), grandchildren Alyssa and Mandy Block, Rebecca Block and Katelyn Errigo (Nick) Samantha, Kelsey and Melanie Krupa, Jennifer Miles, Amber Suero (Obed) and Paul Krupa Jr. as well as great-grandchildren Anthony Lake, Lucas Lake, Leo Errigo and Oak Quesnel.

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