When John Malestein received Calvin Theological Seminary’s 2011 distinguished alumni award, it was said of him, “He preached poignant, revealing sermons. He practiced hospitality. He engaged a broad range of people, from laborers to bank presidents—including unbelievers—with consistent intelligence and grace. He lifted up Jesus Christ in everything. He cared deeply about Reformed integrity in church architecture and liturgy. He mentored seminarians so memorably that 30 years later they still speak of his intelligence, warmth, and wit.” Malestein, 98, died May 31.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Malestein’s life was tragically changed when he was 3 months old by the death of his father in an automobile accident leaving his mother to raise eight children under financial and emotional duress. In 1942, after finishing high school, Malestein was drafted into the United States Army Air Corps and stationed in New Guinea. After World War II he studied at Calvin College (now University) and Seminary and was ordained in 1951.
He served Escalon (Calif.) CRC; Lafayette (Ind.) CRC; New Hope Church, Lansing, Ill.; and Richfield CRC, Clifton, N.J. From 1968 until retirement in 1988, he pastored North Hills CRC in Troy, Mich., during which time he was blessed with sabbaticals to study in England at the University of Durham and later in Israel. When North Hills CRC celebrated its 50th anniversary, it established a scholarship in Malestein’s name to be given annually to a seminarian at Calvin seminary demonstrating giftedness in homiletics (preaching).
After retirement, the Malesteins moved to Gulfport, Miss., and joined Westminster Presbyterian Church. He served there and at other area churches as guest preacher. He was an avid reader and loved doing crossword puzzles.
Predeceased by Thelma, his first wife of 38 years and by Lavonne, his second wife of 16 years, as well as by a daughter and a son, Malestein is survived by five children and three stepchildren and their spouses; 18 grandchildren; 33 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.