Schoolteacher, missionary pastor, church planter, chaplain, superb athlete, loving father, model caregiver. Through the many phases of his life, Earl Holkeboer is remembered for his kindness, integrity, and steadfast trust in the ways and goodness of God. He died in New York City on April 26 at age 93.
The U.S. Navy “called” after Holkeboer’s first year at Hope College in Holland, Mich. After attending Midshipman’s School at Northwestern University, he served during World War II, including the final campaign in Okinawa. It was during and right after his military service that, as Holkeboer would later observe, “I found spiritual realities becoming more meaningful, personal, and relevant.”
After the war, Holkeboer graduated from Hope College and then completed an education degree at the University of Michigan. He began teaching at Baxter Christian school in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he met his future wife, Helen. Several years later, heeding the call to ministry, he graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. While in seminary, he helped plant a new congregation 20 miles away, prompting his interest in becoming a church planter/missionary pastor.
After ordination in 1957, Holkeboer went on to plant and pastor three congregations: First CRC in Denver, Colo.; Community Church in, Toledo, Ohio; and Community CRC in Fort Wayne, Ind. Along the way, he attended Union Theological Seminary, obtaining a master’s of theology with specialization in pastoral counseling.
After retirement in 1987, the Holkeboers moved to Wappingers Falls, N.Y., where, in addition to two terms serving as interim pastor at Immanuel CRC, he also served as chaplain to the AIDS support group at Green Haven Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Dutchess County.
A superb athlete, Holkeboer played basketball at Hope College and pitched for the church softball league until he retired at 65. He played his last round of golf just weeks before he died. Also an avid fisherman, he fished the remote lakes of Minnesota and Canada with friends.
Holkeboer is survived by his son, David. He was predeceased by his wife, Helen, in 2015 and his son Robert in 1995.