Ever since his days in seminary, John de Vries was compelled by Christ’s call to reach out to “the least of these” (Matt. 25:35-40). He went on to touch the lives of many through his ministry as a pastor and chaplain in a variety of places. He is remembered as a man with a positive, friendly, supportive, open-minded, and grateful attitude. Diagnosed with leukemia in August 2021, John died April 11, 2022, at age 77.
His family immigrated from the Netherlands to Canada when John was 6 years old. A graduate of Calvin College (now University) and Seminary, he was ordained in 1972. He pastored Sonlight Christian Reformed Church in Regina, Sask., and then, beginning in 1975, served as chaplain at a federal penitentiary in Laval, Que. From there he was called to pastor Fruitland CRC in Stoney Creek, Ont. In 1983, after moving the family to London, Ont., John returned to chaplaincy work, serving St. Thomas (Ont.) Psychiatric Hospital; Guelph (Ont.) Detention Centre; Chatham-Kent (Ont.) Health Alliance; and as chaplain coordinator for northern Ontario. John also was instrumental in helping shape the burgeoning Restorative Justice movement across Canada.
At the age of 46 John took up running. Over the next 30 years he ran 50 marathons—including running the Boston Marathon 20 times—often using his runs to raise money for various charities and causes. He and his wife traveled extensively in retirement.
John is survived by Elly, his wife of 54 years; three sons and their spouses; and eight grandchildren who refer to him fondly as “Opa.”