John Dykstra Eusden, 90: Led a long and thoughtful life
BRUNSWICK — John Dykstra Eusden, 90, of Brunswick, died April 27 after a brief hospital stay. Before moving to the Thornton Oaks retirement community in 2010, Eusden was a 50-year resident of Williamstown, Mass., and a summer resident of Randolph, N.H.
He was born in 1922 in Holland, Mich., to Marie Dykstra Eusden and Ray Anderson Eusden Sr. Eusden grew up in Newton, Mass., and attended Rivers Country Day School and Harvard College.
He obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees in religion from Yale University in 1954. He later taught at Yale and Mount Holyoke College before joining the faculty and chaplainship of 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.
At Williams, Eusden served as chaplain and as the Nathan Jackson professor of christian theology and taught several courses in the Center for Environmental Studies. Of all the visiting dignitaries Eusden hosted in his capacity as chaplain, he said 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 campus, in jail during the Birmingham campaign of 1963, and walking together in the Selma-to-Montgomery march two years later.
Eusden married Joanne 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 Harvard swim team in 1943, Eusden and his relay team won 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.
Active in the civic life of his many communities, Eusden was a devoted and longtime volunteer, particularly on behalf of the China Lingnan Foundation, where he served as a trustee; the Randolph, N.H., Mountain Club, where he served as a trip leader, board member, and president; and Chewonki, where he had been a camper, counselor, waterfront director, advisory board member and honorary trustee.
Throughout his life, Eusden treasured time with extended family and friends he considered family, and joined them in travel, sporting events, holidays, and the simple joy of interacting around a dinner table.
Eusden is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joanne Reiman Eusden; his daughter Andrea Eusden and her husband Charles Armstrong, of Auburn; his son Alan Eusden and his wife Lynn Eusden, of Corning, N.Y.; his son Dykstra Eusden and his wife Lydia Eusden, of South Paris; his daughter Sarah Eusden Gallop and her husband Andrew Gallop, of Winchester, Mass.; nine grandchildren, 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, N.H.; and several nieces and nephews.
Eusden was predeceased by his brother Ray Anderson Eusden Jr., of Etna, N.H.
A memorial service will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday at First Parish Church in Brunswick. A celebration of Eusden’s life will be planned for the summer in Randolph, N.H. In lieu of flowers, donations in 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.