“John Rickers was a kind and humble pastor with a servant heart and a deep love for Jesus and for people, particularly unbelievers in our community,” said a former parishioner who knew him for over 50 years. “I could write a book about how he loved us and provided spiritual support and encouragement through the years,” she added. John was always grateful and enjoyed life to the fullest. He offered smiles readily, told jokes with a twinkle in his eyes, and gave big hugs. He died Dec. 1 at age 96.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Mich., John left high school after 11th grade and joined the U.S. Navy in August 1944 during World War II. While stationed at Little Creek Naval Training Center, Norfolk, Va., he requested a Bible from his mother. He then carried and read that Bible throughout his military service, earning him the nickname “Deacon.” Following his honorable discharge in June of 1946, John studied at Calvin College (now University) and Seminary, graduating in 1955.
After ordination John pastored Noordeloos Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich. In 1960 he accepted a call to serve a hospitality house for service members in Norfolk, Va. Over the years, a congregation formed, and in 1963 a church was planted under his leadership. It was formally established Jan. 18, 1975, as Ocean View CRC. John remained there as pastor until retirement in 1991.
He then served as interim pastor at many churches from New York to Alaska. He enjoyed spending time with family, traveling, visiting friends, participating in Bible study and choir, and worshiping at Outer Banks Presbyterian Church in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., from 1992 to 2020, where he and his wife lived before returning to their home church of Ocean View CRC for the past two years.
John is survived by his wife, Mildred, three children and their spouses, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.