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).