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Eusden served as chaplain and the Nathan Jackson Professor of Christian Theology and taught several courses in the Center for Environmental Studies at Williams College. He cherished his interactions with students, whether in the classroom, the Thompson Memorial Chapel, his Zen gardens, or on bicycles or skis. During his time as chaplain, Rev. Eusden and his wife Joanne Eusden invited every Williams College freshman to their home for dessert and fellowship.
Of all the visiting dignitaries that Rev. Eusden hosted in his capacity as Chaplain, he said that Martin Luther King Jr., had the greatest impact on his life. Eusden and King collaborated during the Civil Rights movement, spending time together at Eusden’s home, working with students on the Williams College campus, in jail during the Birmingham campaign in 1963, and walking together in the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965.
Born in Holland Michigan in 1922 of Friesian and English background, Eusden had a long time interest in Puritan writers, such as William Ames, who were exiled from England and took refuge in Friesland before crossing to the new world. An author himself, Eusden wrote dozens of scholarly articles and five books in the fields of history and comparative religion, leaving one book on healing and health unfinished. Eusden’s academic interests at Williams College gave him the opportunity to travel with his family on research sabbaticals in the Netherlands, England, France, Japan, Washington, DC, and China. He had a particular interest in Zen Buddhism, writing extensively on the topic and practicing its teachings at temples in China and Japan and around his homemade Zen gardens in Williamstown, Mass. Eusden was the founder of the Williams-in-Hong Kong program.
Raised in Newton, Mass., by his parents, Marie Dykstra Eusden and Ray Anderson Eusden, Sr., who served as the pastor of the Eliot Church from 1926 to 1959, Rev. Eusden attended Rivers Country Day School and Harvard College. After graduating in 1944, he went on to obtain his master’s and doctoral degrees in religion from Yale University in 1954. He later taught at Yale University and Mount Holyoke College before joining the faculty and Chaplainship at Williams College in 1960 where he taught until 1992. From 1991 to 2000, Eusden served as the minister of the First Congregational Church in Bennington, Vt.
Like his father Ray Eusden, who was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, Eusden also served as a naval aviator in the Marine Corps from 1944 to 1945 at the end of World War II.
Eusden married Joanne Reiman, daughter of Clarence Kenworthy Reiman and Harriett Rutherford Allen Reiman on June 14, 1950 at the Eliot Church of Newton, Mass.
A lifelong athlete, Eusden was an avid and successful competitor. At Harvard and Yale, he was a champion swimmer, basketball and handball player. While captain of the swim team in 1943, Eusden and his relay team garnered the championship title in the 880-yard freestyle event in the Amateur Athletic Union national swimming meet in New London, Conn. The world record win qualified the team to participate in the 1944 Olympics, which were never held because of World War II. The unique circumstances of the war afforded Eusden the unusual opportunity to earn varsity letters in swimming at Harvard, Yale, and Colgate Universities while he served in Navy college training programs.
Eusden also delighted in the camaraderie of recreational sports. His interest in Far East culture cultivated an active practice of Aikido and T’ai-chi. Later, he took up cycling and participated in events such as the Pan Mass Challenge and the Trek Across Maine with family and friends. Eusden, who continued to ride his bicycle into his ninety first year, enjoyed hill climbs and competed in the Mt. Washington bike race 16 times, in addition to participating in races up Mt. Greylock in Williamstown, Mass., and Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, NY. He also raced in dozens of cross-country ski marathons — including the Vasaloppet in Sweden — often winning his age group. His love of mountains and hiking led him to build a family home in Randolph, NH, at the base of the northern Presidential Range in the White Mountains, where he spent summers for forty-five years.
As an ordained United Church of Christ minister, Rev. Eusden was called to interim ministerial positions at the First Congregational Churches of Williamstown and North Adams, Mass., in addition to his decade of service in Bennington, Vt. And every summer, he led a Sunday service at his beloved summer community church of Randolph, NH.
Rev. Eusden had a great love for music. His mother, a concert pianist, taught him to appreciate classical music, and he later developed a particular fondness for jazz, big band and swing. Eusden played the recorder, clarinet, piano, washtub base, and ocarina.
Active in the civic life of his many communities, Rev. Eusden was a devoted and longtime volunteer, particularly on behalf of the China Lingnan Foundation where he served as a trustee, the Randolph NH Mountain Club where he served as a trip leader, board member, and president, and Chewonki of Wiscasset, Me., where he had been a camper, counselor, waterfront director, advisory board member, and honorary trustee.
Harvard College alumni activities were vitally important to Rev. Eusden. Nominated by his Harvard peers as class marshall in 1944, Eusden had served for 69 years in the role, regularly attending reunions and staying in close contact with his classmates who had become lifelong friends.
Throughout his life, Eusden treasured his activities with extended family, and friends who were considered family, including travel, sporting events, holidays, and the simple joy of interacting around the dinner table. Rev. Eusden is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joanne Reiman Eusden; his four children, Andrea Eusden and her husband Charles Armstrong of Auburn, Me., Alan Eusden and his wife Lynn Eusden of Corning, NY, Dykstra Eusden and his wife Lydia Eusden of South Paris, Me., and Sarah Eusden Gallop and her husband Andrew Gallop of Winchester, Mass.; nine grandchildren, including Samuel Armstrong, Benjamin Armstrong, William Eusden, Caitlin Eusden, Greg Eusden, Spencer Eusden, Riley Eusden, Nicholas Gallop, and Julia Gallop; his brother ,David Eusden of Bloomfield, Conn., his sister-in-law Priscilla Eusden of Etna, NH, and several nieces and nephews. Eusden was predeceased by his brother, Ray Anderson Eusden, Jr., of Etna, NH.
A memorial service will take place at First Parish Church in Brunswick, Me., on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 1 p.m., with arrangements through the Brackett Funeral Home of Brunswick, Me. Online remembrances can be posted at http://www.brackettfuneralhome.com/. A celebration of John Eusden’s life will be planned for the summer in Randolph, NH. In lieu of flowers, donations in Reverend Eusden’s memory may be made to the Randolph Mountain Club, P.O. Box 279, Gorham, NH 03581 or The Chewonki Foundation, 485 Chewonki Neck Road, Wiscasset, ME 04578.
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