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.
Dear Colleagues on the Long March of Love, Although I gifted Joe with a Gateway computer (🙄) all his own on his 70th birthday, complete with an early AI program (Dragon Naturally Speaking) that could recognize his voice and allow him to “dictate” his wisdom onto the screen, he never cottoned to it. So I fully understand that I have no way of communicating to a few of his contemporaries (not many still around at age 95), but hope I can, via this e-mail, connect with you.
Thank you for reaching out with words of condolence and love to Jon, Ben and me at this time of sadness, We three crafted together his obituary, back and forth, thanks to 21st century technology.
We are blessed to have scheduled Joe’s Memorial/Celebration of Life service at our home UMC – Church on the Cape in Kennebunkport, ME, and that our beloved friend, Joe’s former District Superintendent, The Rev. Dr. Gwen Purushotham who is also our neighbor here at Wesley by the Sea, will be the pastoral officiant. We love you and the friendship you have offered to our family over the years. Grace and peace,
~~ Mari, Ben and Jon
Dear Marilyn, Jon, Ben, families and Colleagues in the Long March of Love,
Marilyn, thank you for your note regarding Joe’s death. Your brief details helped us all participate in his transition event. Many of us understand we too are candidates for up-and-coming final moments. And yet, death seems to always come as unique and stunning, much like Joe’s death.
To colleagues witnessing to Joe Crocker’s significance in your lives, thank you also. Your responses fill me again with gratitude for life with a host of gifted characters in service. We honor this life fully given and the mysterious way life is and is not.
The man Joe Crocker was indeed a gift! He managed to be at home and of service anywhere on the planet. I was most struck by his presence. It included quiet self-assurance, as well as affirming encouragement to others. Joe was kind. I loved Joe’s warm smile and those playful twinkles in his eyes. And boy, did he ever have a fine voice. The deep tones projected well in large groups and turned to honey as he sang.
The Early family showed up in several assignment postings with hard-working folk who couldn’t sing–nary a one of us could carry a tune if it came in a sack. On my way to breakfast and the first singing of the day, dread paralyzed me and my stomach flip-flopped until I developed a helpful mantra: “Imagine Joe and Marilyn Crocker singing.“
Marilyn and family, please express this community’s gratitude to those at Watson Fields who cared for Joe lovingly and to those who were present at his rolling on via a stately hearse to the singing of “Amazing Grace”. What a way to go for anyone, especially for an Ambassador in the Long March of Love.Grace and peace,
~~ Leah Early
Dear Marilyn and family, Sending love, thanks and deep condolences. In gratitude,
~~ Dick and Gail West
What a journey it was just reading through the “cloud of witnesses” who responded to your message Marilyn. Memories of our lives touching all run together, going back to RS1 and PLC days and from Joe’s visit to Los Angeles when he was on the Panchayat to help us through a rough time, and your graciousness on one of my FOOD FOR ALL trips to Boston. Linda and I join in sending love and healing to you and your family and in gratitude for being allowed to be a part of the grand experiment
~~ Milan and Linda Hamilton
Dear Marilyn, I will never forget Joe or you at all The HDPs. I have thought of you many times over the years, especially when I was unable to write and was not so good on dictation either. We both avidly read your Christmas letters. I will not forget working with Joe on the contradictions for Maliwada-his patience and persistence, until we finally realized that the ones we had done prior to the latest were much better – we laughed. I will not forget his kindness and his approachable leadership. I will think of him always as a great man. I send my love and sympathies to you and to Ben and Jon and their families
~~ Elisabeth Banks
Marilyn and family, This is a sacred moment as we stand present with you and your family in the passing of Joe. He was one of our early heroes in the leadership of our Order:Ecumenical community and the work of renewal of the Local Church. We are grateful for our work with you folks in Area New York and with later Joseph Mathews and Bishop Jim events. What a team you two have been! I can almost hear him joining a choir and singing “for I have touched the hem of his garment and his love has made me whole.” Peace be with you all,
~~ Lynda and John Cock
You and Joe were both folk we respected and appreciated – ‘the memory lingers on.’
~~ Bill and Carol Schlesinger
Dear Marilyn, What a journey you and Joe have been on. We are with you in spirit as you mourn his passing and celebrate the incredible journey his life was. Before we became part of the Order, we remember several calls from Joe, inviting us to take an assignment here or there–to be part of the adventure of the Order. We didn’t do that at the time, but his “call” was part of the continuing tug that eventually moved us in that direction, and, of course, life was never the same after that. We give thanks for Joe’s passion and compassion and lift up prayers for you and your family. May the Presence of the Mystery and the legacy of Joe’s life be a source of embracing love, peace, comfort, and hope. Grace and peace, blessings and love ~
~~ Carleton and Ellie Stock
Dear Marilyn, Sending you our prayers for you and family as you face the next life journey without Joe’s physical presence. I’m confident that his warm memories will comfort you. I’m blessed to have the honor of meeting you. Grace and Peace
~~ Elsa and Addie Batica
I join all the others in the celebration of the life of Joe Crocker.
~~ Martha Laird (Talbott)
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.
~~ Catherine Anderson
Dear Marilyn, Ben, Jon and families, The extended Balm family sends you all our heartfelt condolences on the passing of Joe. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you during this difficult time. I have very fond memories of the Crockers in Maliwada, including the trickle of a creek/canal that came to be called Crockers Creek. In sympathy,
~~ Kevin Balm
Joe was a great presence wherever the work took him. This earth is diminished as he leaves us. Love to you Marilyn.
~~ Zoe Barley
What to say? Blessings, blessed. May you find comfort with one another and most profoundly from the Universe. I have to smile and wonder what words Joe might provide on such an occasion. 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,
~~ Sarah Buss
Dear Marilyn, Benjamin and Jonathan, Deep gratitude for the life and work of Joe Crocker. May each of you continue to be blessed. Love and prayers for your continued well being,
~~ Cyprian and Mary D’Souza
Dear Crocker Family, Joe was our Area Prior when Linda and I were the Philadelphia House Priors. It was a massive move to do Town Meetings and Joe was great at getting the most from the troops when all were needed on the front lines. He made my life so much easier. A great life lived.
~~ Dick Alton
Dearest Marilyn, May you be surrounded with love as you experience the loss of Joe. Know that you, Ben, Jonathan and their families are being held in the hearts of so many during this time of transition. In gratitude for Joe.
~~ Marsha Hahn
Dear Marilyn and Family, Joe was the needed Prophet 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 and 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
~~ Wanda Holcombe
Dear ones on the Long March of Love, Marilyn, I hold you in prayer as you journey on….. Our family entered OE at the Philadelphia House where we were cared for by Linda and Dick Alton, our Priors and thus by you and Joe. Thank you. Love, God’s Grace and Peace,
~~ Ellen Howie
Dearest Marilyn, Ben and Jon, I (with John) celebrate the life and death of our giant spirit colleague, Joe! He was so much part of the Australian spirit movement. We value the special time we spent with you in Kuala Lumpor when Ben and Jon were on the way. Amazing Grace! In love and gratitude for your lives and contribution to our corporate journey on behalf of the global spirit movement! Grace and Peace
~~ Robyn Hutchinson
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.
~~ Mark Jewell
Another member of our meditative council passes on. I only worked with Joe once setting up the Pisinemo project in Arizona and we had an argument over some issue. I remember it well because he really listened to me and “fought” very fairly. I was grateful because I wasn’t skilled at arguing. It gave me courage.
~~ Joan Knutson
Dear Marilyn, Sending you and your family love and blessings as you celebrate Joe’s earthly life. My memory is not so trustworthy these days, but how could I forget you and Joe treating Fred and me to a lobster dinner when we visited another friend in Portland? It was a rich treat on so many levels. I celebrate with you and the family Joe’s wonderful completed life. I celebrate with you and the family Joe’s wonderful completed life.
~~ Jann McGuire
Joe and wife Marilyn, were in the first generation of the work of the Ecumenical Institute and ICA as we moved from church and neighborhood related work to work in villages around the world. 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. We stand on the shoulders of Joe’s courage. 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
We always remember Joe’s big booming voice, warm smiles and keen intellect. We feel fortunate that we were together in Maliwada and learned so much from his experience and wisdom. May the Lord give Marilyn and the family peace that passes all understanding. Love n regards.
~~ Kamala and Vinod Parekh
Dear Marilyn and family, My condolences to you, I am from South America. 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 inspiration state will stay with us forever. Abrazos
~~ Joaquina Rodriguez
When I heard of Joe’s death, I experienced a sharp pain of sadness and loss. What I experienced was but a shadow of what you and the boys (and their families) must be feeling. When I think of Joe, I think of strength, solidarity, dependability, and depth. Whenever we were together, sharing assignments, I knew there was a bond between us that guaranteed that there was solidarity of commitment to what needed to be said and done.
When Gordon Harper was in his last days, he shared with us some of his thinking. He said that he decided that his death was simply his last assignment . He said that he was going into this last assignment knowing that he was the right person in the right place to do the necessary deed. He said that he trusted the Mystery: the Mystery knew what was necessary. I know Joe was faithful to his calling to the very end. Joe’s life was one great assignment to which he was totally committed. Grace and Peace to you, the boys, and their families, and to us all,
~~ David Scott
I need to speak from my heart also, Marilyn. This message about Joe is, for me, a paradigm of the greatness of the Institute’s colleagues who have so faithfully, so absolutely stood in this staunch solidarity—in your commitment to ‘what needed to be said and done’. I cherish each of you for who you have always been and for who you are as we gather in Spirit to celebrate Joe. His life is the right symbol for all of your lives and the greatness that abides in you all. And so I add my wish to you, Marilyn, and to all: Grace and Peace.
~~ Margaret Scott
Dearest Marilyn, Sending hugs and much love as I relish in the memories shared at the New York House. Journey on dear Joe, journey on!♥️🙏🏽
~~ Joyce Sloan
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.
I was reminded of my early encounters with Joe and you in Kuala Lumpur and of the adventure we had with our many colleagues at the ITI in Singapore in 1969. Working with both of you in the KL House, and later at the HDP and training school in Maliwada and seeing your children growing up in that environment was a memorable experience. My prayers for all of you as you continue the journey without his physical presence.
~~ Dharmalingam Vinasithamby
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.
~~ Catherine and Mark Welch
Joe and Marilyn Interviewed in 2006