The Reverend Joseph H. Crocker, of Wells, ME, peacefully passed on to eternal life at Watson Fields Assisted Living in Dover, NH, on April 27, 2023 at the age of 95. He was surrounded by three generations of his beloved immediate family, as well as his adopted “extended family” – Watson’s deeply caring staff, many of whom, like his four grand-children called him “Papa Joe.”
Joe grew up in Saugus, MA and spent most summers with extended family in his parents’ hometown of Freeport, Nova Scotia. He graduated with a BA from Tufts College in 1950 and received his Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology in 1954. Steeped in music from an early age, Joe played trombone with marching and dance bands in high school and college, and sang with the BU Seminary Singers and countless congregations across the world.
As an ordained Elder in the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church since 1954, Joe initially served as pastor of local churches in West Roxbury, Allston, and Dedham, MA, where, as a young, single, forward-looking clergyman, he was beloved by his congregations, and especially the youth. His work in the mid-1960s as Executive Director of the Hattie G. Cooper Community Center and Director of the Ecumenical Center, both located in Roxbury, MA, were catalysts for his wider engagement in social justice efforts on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement in Boston MA, Vicksburg, MS and Selma AL.
In 1967 Joe married Marilyn (Mari) Miller, his wife of nearly 56 years. He was appointed by the Methodist Conference to serve as staff of the Ecumenical Institute, Chicago, IL in its educational programs of church renewal and international Human Development Projects in impoverished urban and rural communities. Joe, with his family, lived and worked in nations on six continents, inspiring and training local leaders and sharing effective methods of socio-economic community development. He later returned to local parish ministry in Orlando FL, Winthrop, MA and Providence, RI before retiring in 1997.
Having always been a “man on the move, committed to mission,” retirement was a challenge for Joe. Within a year he found a delightful 1794 Cape-style farmhouse in West Newfield, ME, to which he and Marilyn moved, and thrived for nearly 20 years. During that time Joe tried his hand at environmentally gentle practices, and learned how to run a sit-down lawnmower in summer and snow-blower for the 150 -foot driveway in winter. He continued his decades-long support to the NE Conference’s Covenant of Accompaniment with the churches of Iglesias de Cristo in Nicaragua, and the people there whom he had grown to know and love.
In 2016 Joe and Marilyn moved from West Newfield, ME to Wesley-by the Sea, Wells ME — an independent retirement community for United Methodist Pastors. There he thrived, until chronic, progressive dementia necessitated his move into Assisted Living.
Joe is remembered with love by family, friends, parishioners and work colleagues around the world as compassionate, kind, approachable, faithful, committed, and wise. His welcoming smile, hearty laugh, sparkling blue eyes and strong baritone voice linger in our memories.
Joe leaves behind his wife, Marilyn Crocker of Wells, ME; his twin sons and their wives, Benjamin and Karen Crocker, and Jonathan Crocker and Jenna LeMieux of Arlington, MA; and his four grandchildren: Daniel, Matthew, Caroline and Fiona Crocker. He was predeceased by his only, and deeply loved, sibling, June Crocker Whitenect, of Freeport, Nova Scotia.
The family expresses abundant gratitude for the care extended to Joe by Beacon Hospice – in Maine when Joe was still living at home, and in New Hampshire while Joe was at Watson Fields.
A memorial service will be held June 11, 2023 at 2 PM, at the Church on the Cape, Kennebunkport, ME. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Joe’s memory may be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center (www.splcenter.org); the United Methodist Global Ministries Advance Special 12109Z (www.umcmission.org); and the Alzheimer’s Association of ME (www.alz.org).
Catherine Welch says
Dear Marilyn and Family,
Joe was an icon among EI and ICA colleagues. What a presence! I can still see him in my mind’s eye seated at the head table during my first RS-1 course asking “Am I accepted?” in the Tillich conversation. I kept up with your journey through reports from the Whitneys. In gratitude for Joe’s life and your care for him.
Dharmalingam Vinasithamby says
I was fortunate to have worked with Joe (and Marylin) since the 1970s in the widely different environments of Kuala Lumpur, rural Maharashtra and Chicago. His presence gave our experiences there an added profundity. Cultural and social differences were not an impenetrable barrier for him. In India, I relished watching him eat and interact with villagers who knew no English. Despite the language difficulties, the rapport he established with them was deep. Working with Joe was a meaningful adventure.
Wanda Holcombe says
Dear Marilyn and Family,
Joe was the needed Profit for our times for Social Justice and Progressive Ecumenical Religious Faith.
It was an honor and deeply transformative experience for George and myself along with our two children to work with both Marilyn & Joe in Human Development Projects around the world and especially in Singapore where the Twin Boys were born…..a courageous place to birth Twins in those days. That was who they were as a family every place they served.
Joe and your whole family have always continued to care for the World and ALL the People. May your memories sustain you as you carry forth the Legacy of Joseph Crocker…the Profit and Care Giver of All.
Grace and Peace
Frances Cole and Nkosi Anthony says
Dear Merilyn and family,
Nkosi and I are saddened by the passing of our beloved Pastor, Rev. Joe Crocker. His memories will live on in our hearts. May his soul rest in Heavenly Peace.🕊️🙏🏽🕊️✝️✝️✝️✝️🙏🏽🙏🏽🕊️🕊️🙏🏽 Frances Cole and Nkosi Anthony
Jann McGuire says
I also have memory problems, but I believe you and Joe took me out for a lobster dinner when I visited a friend in Portland a number of years ago. It was a rich treat on so many levels.
I celebrate with you and the family Joe’s wonderful completed life.
Joaquina Rodríguez says
Dear Marilyn and family
My condolences to you, I am from the Southamerica. I remember both of you, since my time in Chicago You and Joe were a sign of welcome, with your face and hearts. That energy and spiration state wit us forever.
Sarah Buss says
Both his life and his death were a blessing. It is with gratitude that both he and Marilyn are a strong part of my memories. Their service around the world and often in particularly challenging locations, epitomized the gift that their family has been to the world.
May both family and friends remember Joe from their personal encounters and their observations of a life well lived. And may each be comforted by their memories.
With love and kindness, and outstretched arms,
CATHERINE ANDERSON says
How I loved visiting with Joe and Marilyn in my ministry with the Preachers’ Aid Society! Joe ‘s passion for social justice, his sense of humor, his pride in his family, his deep love for Marilyn, and the joys and challenges of owning an old cape are the things I’ll remember most from our visits together! I feel so blessed to have known Joe. My deepest condolences go out to Marilyn and the family in this time of great loss.
George and Elise Packard says
Our family is forever grateful for the strength that Joe invested in our shared work of social justice through The Ecumenical Institute and the Institute of Cultural Affairs. We cannot think of Joe without thinking of Marilyn and the example of love for each other that they provided for us. And we cannot think of Joe and Marilyn without appreciating Ben and Jonathan, who shared their dad with so many others in churches, neighborhoods and villages around the world.
Thank you to “The Crockers” ; and much love as we all remember and are grateful for the life of Joe.
George and Elise Packard, Truman and Maicah
Mark Jewell says
I will always remember the kind and deep laugh with his trademark smile that Joe possessed. Joe and Marilyn were always people I could count on for support as I made my way toward adulthood. It is with many fond memories that I will remember as I smile and celebrate the wonderful gift Joe gave to all of us with his charm, charisma, and deep love for Marilyn, his children, and his life’s work. I mourn with everyone at Joe’s passing but also lift a glass tonight to toast his wonderful and meaningful life.
Dulce Maria Olivas Solis says
Mi mas sentido pésame a la familia Crocker. Lo siento mucho en mi corazón ♥️ Que Dios lo tenga en su reino . Un hasta luego amado Joe Crocker.🙏
Deborah Winsor says
I don’t know nor have I ever met this beautiful soul. Wish I had.
I saw his obituary in the Newfield happenings
Was drawn to his gentle face and appearance. After reading about his life story, I can see why.
This is the kind of person anyone would be happy to know
My condolences to Joe’s family, and the people who were lucky enough to know him.
He certainly shined his Light.
Sara Petkevitch says
So enjoyed having you and Joe for neighbors for many years. He had a wonderful laugh and a humerous twinkle in his eyes. What an impact he had on so many.
Marilyn , as Joe’s wife and caregiver you unselfishly provided the mostly loving environment for Joe. Such a gift must not go unmentioned.