In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. James Calvin De Young

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Pastor, professor, missionary, pilot, gardener, skilled builder, and talented woodworker, James Calvin De Young was a man who enjoyed new challenges and liked to keep busy. He was able to fulfill many lifelong dreams before he died on April 23 in Sanborn, Iowa, at age 84, of complications of treatment for pancreatic cancer.

After high school, De Young studied at Northwestern College in Iowa; Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania; and the Free University of Amsterdam, where he earned his doctorate in theology. Following ordination in 1961, De Young became the founding pastor of Prairie Lane Christian Reformed Church in Omaha, Neb., where he remained for six years.

The rest of De Young’s career was dedicated to teaching—as dean and professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Mississippi as well as at Asian Theological Seminary in the Philippines. The Christian Reformed World Missions assignment to the Philippines was the realization of a lifelong dream to serve in the foreign mission field. Besides teaching, De Young loved to preach and spent many Sundays traveling to churches without pastors.

In later years, following a brief experiment with retirement, he served for five years as interim pastor for Conrad (Mont.) CRC. He officially retired in 1996.

Another lifelong dream, fostered by stories of World War II flying aces, was to pilot airplanes, a dream finally fulfilled at age 50 when De Young earned his private pilot’s license. He was able to combine his vocation and avocation by volunteering as a chaplain for the Mississippi Civil Air Patrol.

Retirement brought opportunities to spend more time on hobbies, including woodworking and gardening. De Young shared many of his woodworking creations with family and friends, the most treasured being his lathe-turned vases and bowls.

De Young is survived by Mary, his wife of 63 years; their children Patricia, James, Mary Lou, Cheryl Lynn, Robert, and Daniel, and their spouses; and by 19 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 

About the Author

A former nurse and chaplain, Janet Greidanus is a freelance news correspondent and long-time writer of the In Memoriam column for The Banner.