Obituary: Henry H. Hayden

Great-grandfather, Civil Rights advocate, pastor, university chaplain

Reverend Henry Hayden, of Claremont’s Pilgrim Place, died after a brief illness on February 17, 2018, at the age of 99. 

He led a distinguished life both as a parish minister and university chaplain, his family shared. Ordained as a Protestant minister with the Congregational Church (now the United Church of Christ), Rev. Hayden served God and his fellow man with dedication and distinction for over 70 years. He was active throughout his life, filling it with art, music, family, ministry, friendships, and a passion for social justice and inclusion.

Rev. Hayden was born October 9, 1918, in West Hartford, Connecticut, to William Hoyt Hayden and Bernice Leah Hayden (King). He attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, graduating cum laude in 1939, and receiving the college’s Van Zile Prize for original poetry. In 1944 he received his bachelor of divinity degree from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. In 1966 he earned his doctor of divinity from the same institution.

While on staff at Plymouth Church in Syracuse, New York, Rev. Hayden met his beloved wife, Betty Jane. They were married August 20, 1942. Following Rev. Hayden’s graduation from PSR in 1944, the couple moved to Guerneville, California, where he became pastor at the Community Congregational Church. While serving this parish he was instrumental in persuading the state conference to buy and develop a large tract of land as Camp Cazadero, now a noteworthy church camp of the UCC.

Rev. Hayden served as pastor at College Community Congregational Church in Fresno, California, from 1956 to 1970, and then the Community United Church of Christ in San Carlos, California, until 1984. Prior to his parish ministry in Fresno, Rev. Hayden also served as the Protestant chaplain at the University of New Mexico and the University of New Hampshire. 

Rev. Hayden focused his faith and ministry on areas of social justice, believing that Christ’s message was as much political as it was spiritual, his family related. He openly spoke from the pulpit against the government’s policy of relocating Japanese-Americans to internment camps during WWII; he met with and spoke to Dr. Martin Luther King when he came to California to lend support to Proposition 4, which was one of the first “fair housing” acts to pass the California legislature; he walked a portion of the route from Delano to Sacramento with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers on behalf of migrant workers’ rights; and, in 1972 he worked to support the ordination of the first openly gay individual in a “mainstream” American denomination.  

Rev. Hayden retired in 1984. In his retirement sermon that year, he noted the struggle to advance racial equality, inclusion and social justice “has continued for all the years of my ministry, and I have tried never to speak without calling attention to these, and often it has been unpopular among some and even dangerous among others.” After retiring, Rev. Hayden served interim ministries in Kapaau, Hawaii; Arlington, Massachusetts; and Los Altos, California. In later years he gave monthly sermons at Pilgrim Place and returned often to Community UCC in Fresno to reiterate his message. The Social Hall at Community UCC was dedicated in his name on one of those visits.  

Rev. Hayden remained active until just a few days before his death; corresponding regularly with a wide circle of friends and colleagues, creating and cheerfully sharing thousands of water color paintings, and keeping in constant loving contact with his children and extended family. 

Rev. Hayden was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Betty Jane. 

He is survived by his children, David (Robin) of Duncan, South Carolina, Deirdre (Larry) of Beaverton, Oregon, and Jeremy (Nicky) of North Royalton, Ohio; seven grandchildren, Lisa Carey, Emily (Benson), Jeff and Andrew Clausen, Blaire (Bartish), Max and Dylan Hayden; eight great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews, all who loved him dearly. Moreover, he is survived by the positive messages of faith he instilled in the minds of all who knew him. 

An interfaith memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 10 at Decker Hall, Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont.  

Donations in memory of Rev. Hayden may be made to Pilgrim Place at, or by check mailed to Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont, CA 91711.


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