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The Reverend Kenneth E. Dearstyne, Sr. died on December 9th, 2022 at Phoebe Healthcare Center in Wernersville, PA at the age of 97.
He was born in Watervliet, NY, son of Edgar C. Dearstyne and Agnes Church Dearstyne. His early years were spent in Pittstown, NY. Shortly after high school graduation in 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent nearly two years in the Southwest Pacific Theater before being discharged in January 1946. Following the war, he graduated from Houghton College in western New York State and Drew Theological Seminary in NJ. He enlisted as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force in 1955, serving on active duty for three years. He was later recalled to active duty for a year when the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 and 62. He served a total of thirty-two years active and reserve duty, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1985.
As a minister of the United Methodist Church, he served congregations in Genesee and Troy, NY, sometimes at four-point charges, and in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, most recently in Churchtownand West Lawn, PA.
Most of his active ministry was spent at Coatesville Veterans Administration Medical Center where he served twenty-three years as Staff Chaplain and later as Chief of Chaplain Services, retiring in 1985. While at Coatesville, he was active in many community organizations. At various times, he held office as president, secretary, or treasurer of the Coatesville Area Clergy Association. He was Vice Chairman of the Chester County Mental Health, Mental Retardation Board and served as Chairman of the Commission. During his tenure at the V.A. Medical Center, he initiated the annual, “Institute of Religion and Health”, a multidisciplinary training program for clergy and health care professionals, which has continued for over 40 years. Nationally, he served on the History Task Force of the United Methodist Commission on Chaplains, and on various study groups and committees at the Veterans Administration Central Office in Washington D.C.. In the Eastern PA Conference of the United Methodist Church, he served on the Chaplain’s Commission, the Board of Church Location and Building, and on the Commission on Archives and History.
His civilian awards include many citations for special achievement and outstanding performance. His military awards include, among others: the Philippine Liberation Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with two battle stars, American Campaign Medal, the U.S Air Force Commendation Medal, and the U.S. Armed Services Meritorious Service Medal. He was a member of the 3170th Signal Service Battalion, which received a Presidential Unit Citation during World War II.
Although Ken’s accomplishments were varied and many, his family knowshisgreatest pleasure and reward came from his loving commitment to his wife, Ruth, and to their family. Always the optimist, Ken never saw a problem so great that hope could not see it through to a positive end. A creative, gifted problem solver, Ken thought long and hard when presented with something needing repair, restoring whatever it was to better than original condition. There was nothing he could not fix. Ken always took the time to talk with his children when they had concerns. He was very involved in their lives, from church, school, music, and sports activities to marrying them and baptizing their children and grandchildren.
Ken’s woodshop was a haven for him. His creations are as practical as they are beautiful, lovingly stamped “Hand Crafted by Kenneth E. Dearstyne”. Ken had a love of writing and storytelling, which was evident in his sermons. He felt passionately about preserving the precious stories of people with whom he walked life’s journey. Many folks from Calvary UMC and Phoebe Berks looked forward to reading his inspiring stories in their newsletters. He later wrote a book of 100 of these stories entitled, “Memories: From a Chaplain’s Notebook”.
In retirement, Chaplain Dearstyne resided at Phoebe Berks in Wernersville, PA. He was predeceased by his loving wife, Ruth Marian (Landmesser) in 2013, a daughter, Joanna Leein 2011, and his sister, Alberta in 2016. He is survived by two daughters:The Rev. Dr. R. Jane Williams, wife of William Treible of Bethlehem and Karen, wife of The Rev. Mark D. Moore, of Coatesville. Also surviving are two sons: Kenneth E. Dearstyne, Jr., husband of Janet, of Sinking Spring and Peter A. Dearstyne, husband of Donna, of Mt. Holly, NJ. Other survivors include three granddaughters: Jessica, Andrea, and Katherine; two grandsons, Dustin and Kenneth Aaron, and 3 great-grandchildren: Blake, Melody and Madalyn.
Services will be held at the chapel at Phoebe Berks in Wernersville on Saturday December 17th, with a time of family visitation at 10:00 AM, followed by a memorial service at 11:00 AM. A private interment, with military honors, will be held at Churchtown Cemetery at a later date.
The family requests that memorial gifts be donated to either: Phoebe Berks Health Care, c/o Lorna Malawi, 1 Heidelberg Dr., Wernersville, PA 19565 (designated in memory of Kenneth Dearstyne, Sr.), or Promedica Hospice, 2201 Ridgewood Rd., Suite 180, Wyomissing, PA 19610.