Cover photo for John H. Van Ness's Obituary
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1930 John 2021

John H. Van Ness

January 28, 1930 — January 4, 2021

Rev. Dr. John Hasbrouck Van Ness died peacefully in his sleep on January 4, 2021, just 24 days shy of his 91st birthday. His family, in partnership with the First Church in Jaffrey, will celebrate a service of remembrance via livestream on Sunday, January 10, 2021 at 2:00pm EST. You can join the livestream at this link: https://video.ibm.com/channel/cynKKVxABf2

John Hasbrouck Van Ness was born on January 28, 1930 in Patterson, NJ to the late J. Harold Van Ness and Frances Hasbrouck Van Ness and grew up in Glen Rock, NJ. He is survived by his younger sister, Mary Lou and her husband, Clyde Slicker; three sons and their wives: Peter (Vickie Siems), Stephen (Jaime Polk) and Timothy (Eve Capkanis); 8 grandchildren: Eva Shute, Lia Borrelli, Tara Van Ness, Ethan Van Ness, Kristopher Stensland, Gabriel Van Ness, Michael Van Ness and John Van Ness; and 2 great-grandchildren: Jackson Forslund and Benjamin Shute.

In 1951 John was graduated from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA with a B.S. in electrical engineering. During his college years, John found increasing depth of faith through retreats with fellow students and rather than take an engineering job, he enrolled in New Brunswick Theological Seminary in NJ. While training at the Flatbush Reformed Church in Brooklyn, John met the love of his life, Patricia Ann Wood. They married on June 13, 1953, about a year before John was graduated with a Masters of Divinity.

John and Pat’s marriage thrived for 59 years until she died on March 21, 2012. By facing his own fears, desires, and illusions, and surviving a stroke; John found himself able to be mindfully present to Pat as he shared her 10 year journey through dementia.

John was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and served as pastor of several churches in New York State from 1955-1967, with one break in 1962-1963 when he and Pat and their three boys aged 7, 5 and 10 weeks moved to Céligny, Switzerland where John enrolled in the World Council of Churches’ Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies at the University of Geneva. Before returning to the U.S. John worked at the World Council of Churches headquarters in Geneva. He would recall that year as one which restored his faith that something could be done about the inner spiritual experience within the church, and that he had a role in it.

From 1967-1970 John was Director and Campus Minister at the Student Christian Center in New Paltz, NY until his activism became unacceptable to some local churches and he accepted a position as an administrator at SUNY New Paltz, where he became Acting Vice President for Student Affairs in 1978.

In 1981, John was accepted into the doctoral program at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now known as Sofia University) in Palo Alto, CA where he earned a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology. His time there deepened his own appreciation for diverse spiritual traditions, and led to his becoming a Whirling Dervish for a few years.

In 1985, John and Pat moved to Jaffrey, NH where they set to work designing an octagonal house built on land that had been in Pat’s family for several generations. They joined the First Church in Jaffrey where John served on the Church Council, several committees, as a guest pastor and became a highly respected member of the church, sought out by the congregation for his deep wisdom.

Many people in the community are forever changed, having been touched by John’s warm smile, clever humor and generous spirit.

As a member of the church choir, John held up the baritone section for many years. He also joined the Monadnock Chorus and joined them on their European tour. Beginning in high school, John played clarinet in the marching band. He continued playing clarinet well into his 70’s, occasionally sitting in with the band at local square dances called by Duke Miller in Fitzwilliam, Peterborough and Dublin, NH.

Until he retired in 2015 at the age of 85, John served as a pastoral psychotherapist, seeing patients in private practice and serving as Senior Therapist at Monadnock Area Psychotherapy and Spirituality Services (MAPS) in Keene. He also taught at Antioch New England Graduate School in Keene and served as a Mentor at Sofia University and Faculty Advisor at Norwich University in Vermont.

In lieu of flowers, John’s family would welcome donations in his name to MAPS https://mapsnh.org/

John will be buried next to Pat in Conant Cemetery, Jaffrey.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John H. Van Ness, please visit our flower store.

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