Rev. Jack Van Dyken, Sr., 90, a much-decorated military chaplain, Viet Nam veteran, church planter, and joyful Christian, passed away on January 9, 2009, from failing health in Portage, Mich.
Van Dyken was born in Edmonton, Alberta. As a young man he made his way to the United States, where he attended Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich.
Following his graduation in 1951, he accepted a call from the Reformed Church of Forest Grove, Mich. In l958 he became the pastor of Remembrance Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Mich.
In 1961 Van Dyken moved from parish ministry to chaplaincy in the U.S. Army. He served in that capacity until 1978, having reached the rank of colonel.
Following his military service, he settled in Ripon, Calif., planting the Almond Valley Christian Reformed Church. He served that congregation until his retirement in 1984. He remained active in various ministerial activities well into his eighties.
Van Dyken thrived in his military chaplain responsibilities. When serving in Viet Nam, he came to love the soldiers entrusted to his spiritual care, deeply aware that death could strike suddenly. He served not only the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, but he also became very involved with the Mutyards, a tribal people nearby.
It was reported that Van Dyken was the most-decorated U.S. chaplain of the Viet Nam conflict.
His congregants of Almond Valley remember Van Dyken as a man of honest openness about his convictions. Some were taken aback by that. But they also testify to his immense diligence in doing the work of ministry, which was richly blessed in the rapid growth of the church.
Van Dyken was gifted as a preacher but even more as a teacher. He experienced a direct connection between the strength of faith and scriptural knowledge.
His children remember him as a loving, adventurous man. During the years of army chaplaincy the family traveled a great deal and built fond memories together.
During his final years as a widower in a care facility, he came to be loved as a pastor to those around him.
Van Dyken was preceded in death by his wife, Henrietta, and is survived by their children Kay and Frank Apotheker, JoAnne Dunlop, Bette and Dale Dyksterhouse, Rev. Jack Jr. and Cathy Van Dyken, Connie Raymond Winfield, Fred Van Dyken, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.