Published in the Boston Globe on 10/21/2008
FONDA, Rev. Donald A., Jr. 70, exuberant & compassionate American Baptist minister. His smile was as wide as his open arms, radiating his love of life. Whether it was family, friends, parishioners or strangers, Donald A. Fonda (Jr.) enjoyed the people in his life. After encountering Don’s lively interest in a person’s story, one remembered his joy and compassion. Don Fonda’s exuberance flowed into the varied interests he shared with his wife, Jeanne Dancey Fonda: going to concerts and the theatre, traveling, gardening, doing family research and being a grandparent. It was while staying in Venice, Italy, beginning a vacation which would include family, that Don died in his sleep on October 11, 2008.
Donald Fonda was born on 17 August 1938 in Washington, DC. He was the only child of Dr. Donald Albert Fonda, Sr. & Mary Gladys Speaker. He graduated from Ridgewood High School in Ridgewood, N.J., from Alderson-Broaddus College, Philippi, W.Va. (BA 1962), and from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, NY (B.D./M.Div, 1966).
In 1966 Don was ordained an American Baptist minister in the Gaines-Carlton larger Parish, Albion, N.Y. Don was passionate in his ministry; ecumenical and interfaith activities were especially important to him. He served churches in four states which were: Warrenville Baptist Church, Ashford, CT; First Baptist Church of Youngstown, OH; First Baptist Church of Northampton, MA; the Federated Church of Bolton, MA (Baptist, Unitarian, and Quaker roots); First Baptist Church of Beverly, MA; and Church of the Master in Providence, RI.
During his 35 years in ministry, Don took an active leadership role in The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts (TABCOM). With them he served twice as interim area minister and in his retirement he continued with TABCOM, working with two Baptist, Portuguese-speaking seminaries. In 2006 he became WatchCare Coordinator, preparing Baptists for ordination.
Don and Jeanne moved to Haverhill in 2001 to retire & enjoy their two married adult children and four grandchildren: their daughter, Debbie, husband Ed Kruzel, and granddaughters Niki and Kesli in Pelham, New Hampshire; and their son, Douw, wife, Sanne De Graaf, and grandchildren Aiske and Minne in the Netherlands.
A memorial service will be held for the Rev. Donald Fonda at the First Baptist Church of Beverly, MA on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 2 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations made be made to the “Don Fonda Fund” established for immigrant clergy support by The Conference of Baptist Ministers at 15 Spring Valley Road, Worcester, MA 01609.The Rev. Donald A. Fonda Jr., a Baptist minister in churches throughout the region over three decades, died of cardiac arrest Oct. 11 in his sleep at a hotel in Venice. He was 70.
Globe Correspondent, by Gabrielle T. Dunn, October 25, 2008
Rev. Fonda was born in Washington, D.C., and moved to Ridgewood, N.J., as a child. He graduated from Ridgewood High School in 1956. In 1962, he graduated from Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, W.Va., with a degree in history.
In 1966, he received his master of divinity degree from the former Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, N.Y. That same year, Rev. Fonda was ordained as an American Baptist minister in the Gaines-Carlton Larger Parish of Albion, N.Y.
Rev. Fonda went on to serve churches in four states over 35 years, including Warrenville Baptist Church in Ashford, Conn., from 1966 to 1969; First Baptist Church of Youngstown, Ohio, from 1969 to 1971; First Baptist Church of Northampton, from 1971 to 1986; the Federated Church of Bolton, from 1986 to 1995; First Baptist Church of Beverly, in 1995 and 1996; and the Church of the Master in Providence, from 1997 to 2000.
Rev. Fonda was also active in the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts. With that organization, he served twice as interim area minister, from 1996 to 1997 and from 2000 to 2001, providing support and resources for local churches, including multi-ethnic congregations. After retiring in October 2001, he continued with the group as a project coordinator, working with two Portuguese-language Baptist seminaries in Lowell and Marlborough until 2006. He then became watchcare mentoring coordinator for the group, preparing Baptists for ordination.
In addition, Rev. Fonda was a volunteer with the Greater Lawrence Habitat for Humanity from 2002 to 2004 and was a board member of the Refugee Immigration Ministry in Malden, from 2005 to 2006. While working with the Malden group, Rev. Fonda offered support to refugees, immigrants, and those in need of asylum.
Rev. Fonda and his wife, Jeanne (Dancey), lived in Haverhill. The couple enjoyed going to concerts and the theater, traveling, gardening, and being grandparents. Since he was a teenager, Rev. Fonda had also been interested in genealogy research. At the time of his death, he was in Venice with his wife celebrating his 70th birthday, meeting Italian relatives, and investigating his Dutch family’s roots, which Rev. Fonda had been studying for the last eight years.
“He was full of life, love, joy, and a deep, humble concern for people,” his wife said.
In addition to his wife, Rev. Fonda leaves a daughter, Debbie of Pelham, N.H.; a son, Douw of the Netherlands; and four grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Wednesday at First Baptist Church of Beverly, where Rev. Fonda had been a member since serving as interim minister in the mid-1990s, said the Rev. Craig C. Collemer, one of the ministers at the church.
“Don was a wonderful gentleman filled with great joy,” said Rev. Collemer. “He had a marvelous sense of humor, and he was deeply committed to those who are on the margins of society.”
He said he often used Rev. Fonda as a bellwether for his sermons. “He was the most responsive parishioner I’ve had during my sermons in 37 years of preaching. He often would sit on the edge of his pew, smiling, nodding, and he would often offer an amen out loud. If he wasn’t giving those kinds of signs, I knew I was in trouble.”
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