Russell James Becker

Pastor, Pilgrim, educator

Russell James Becker died on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 after a short illness. He was 92.

He was born on July 1, 1923 in Rochester, New York to William Henry and Alcey Cole Becker, the seventh of 10 children. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College in Michigan in 1944, a Bachelor of Divinity from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in 1945 and a doctorate in psychology and religion from the University of Chicago and Chicago Divinity School in 1951. He was an ordained minister in both the American Baptist Church and the United Church of Christ.

Mr. Becker met Dorothy Jane Kiefth while at Kalamazoo College. They married in St. Joseph, Missouri on his birthday in 1945. He taught psychology and was dean of men at his alma mater, Kalamazoo College. He also taught at Wooster College in Wooster, Ohio and Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. During his tenure at Yale he wrote two books, Family Pastoral Care and When Marriage Ends.

Russell was also called as pastor to churches in Rochester, New York; Mount Eaton and Wilmot, Ohio; Glenview and Glencoe, Illinois; New Haven and Orange, Connecticut; and Barstow, Moreno Valley and San Dimas. For the past 27 years, he has been a resident of Claremont and a member of Pilgrim Place.  

Mr. Becker was instrumental in growing the Pilgrim Place furniture shop into a year-round operation. He was head of the Pilgrim Place furniture shop for nearly 20 years. He also chaired the Many Hands Movers at Pilgrim Place.

He is survived by two sons, Jonathan Becker of Lawrence, Kansas and Kurt Becker of Bellevue, Washington, and by five grandchildren, Mark, Drew, John, Katherine and Elizabeth. As he had nine siblings, there are 51 nieces and nephews along with a surviving brother, Clyde Becker of Glen Ellen, Illinois.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, October 24 at 3 p.m. at Decker Hall at Pilgrim Place. A special reception follows at Napier Center across the street in Pilgrim Place where family will greet friends.

Memorials may be sent to Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont, CA 91711, in support of the Health Center.

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