Deceased members – Remembrances and Obituaries

We have lost a number of members of the Class of 1961, and we have lost contact with others.  Please post information you have about deceased or missing members.  For the deceased, please include the date of their death, residence at that time, obituary text, where and in what role they served, your memories of them, and, if possible, how to contact their surviving family members.

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Two of our class era were lost early in 1963 and 1964 in the social turbulence of the 1960s, and others died more recently.

(1) Bruce W. Klunder (12 July 1937-7 April 1964) was a martyr in the campaign to desegregate the Cleveland public schools. Born in Greeley, CO where he was educated, Klunder earned his bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University (1958).  There met his future wife, Joanne Lehman, who he married in 22 Dec. 1956, and had two children, Janice and Douglas.

Bruce Klunder (1937-64)

Klunder enrolled in YDS in 1956 and, after graduating with the B.D. in 1961, moved to Cleveland to become executive director of the Student Christian Union of the YMCA. He was ordained to the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in 1962. In April, 1962 Bruce was a founding member of the Cleveland area Congress for Racial Equality (CORE).  He believed his calling demanded social activism,  and soon he became a leader in the local civil rights movement, frequently picketing and demonstrating for fair housing and against segregated public facilities and discrimination in hiring.

When the Cleveland City School District decided to build new schools which would have reinforced the pattern of segregated neighborhood enrollment, Klunder took the lead in attempting to stop construction. On 7 April 1964, he and four other protesters gathered at the construction site for Stephen E. Howe Elementary School on Lakeview Road. He lay down behind a bulldozer while four other pickets blocked its forward path. The operator, seeking to avoid the protesters in front of him, unknowingly backed over Klunder, instantly killing him. His death was ruled an accident.  The next day 150 people marched in silent memorial in front of the Board of Education Building downtown. Funeral services were held at the Church of the Covenant with Eugene Carson Blake, head of the United Presbyterian Church delivering the eulogy, and 1,500 attending. (Adapted from


(2) Louis “Lou” Cordell Marsh died on January 7, 1963 in East Harlem where he was employed by New York City as a youth worker.  He died after being beaten by members of a youth gang he was working with.  Lou had enrolled at YDS in 1956 but then took time off for an extended campus ministry internship at Antioch College.  In 1958, while at YDS, he traveled to the USSR (with Dave Wiley) as members of the first USA-USSR Eisenhower-Khruschev student exchange which was organized by the YMCA.  Had he stayed at YDS, he could have graduated with the Class of ’61, but he took the position in New York instead.  (See following article from The Christian Century on Lou Marsh by Dean Peerman, YDS ’59.)

The Christian Century – Editorial Correspondence:  “Death Down a Dark Street” By Dean Peerman, (YDS BD ’59) Senior Contributing Editor, February 6, 1963

New York. • LOUIS CORDELL MARSH was a serious, unassuming young Negro with a deep desire to serve his Lord and to do what he could to heal the hurts of humankind. And he knew that such a task cannot be essayed without risk, without allowing oneself to be vulnerable. A product of a Philadelphia ghetto, Lou had suffered many of the humiliations, the deprivations, the psychic injuries which members of his minority group seldom are strangers to. Then, on the night of January 7, 1963, in one of the concrete canyons of New York city where he was employed as a youth worker, Lou suffered injuries of a brutally physical nature—fatal injuries inflicted by four youths whose own experience as social and racial outcasts had been more crippling than his.

At Philadelphia’s Temple University, Where he majored in sociology, Lou, a Baptist, had served as president of both the University Religious Council and the University Christian Association, and after graduating in 1956 he enrolled at Yale Divinity School to study for the ministry. Like most of us entering Y.D.S. that year—or for that matter, like most seminarians in any year—Lou had his problems. Despite his conviction of purpose he was uncertain how best to implement that purpose in terms of vocational particularity. Earlier he had hoped to become a physician, but found that pursuit barred to him because he was an epileptic. Some of us among his classmates knew him to be troubled by the problem of self-identity and self-acceptance.

In 1958 Lou went to Antioch College in Ohio for an intern year in a campus pastorate—a deeply unsettling episode which apparently made it impossible for him to complete his third year of B.D, work at Yale. Lou’s pilgrimage then took him to New York city, where he tried his hand at various types of social work. Finally, last May, he took a job with the New York youth board.

More than 70 teen-age gangs roam the streets of the crowded, crumbling, stench-ridden slums of New York city. Youngsters join the gangs in order to walk tall, to gain status—”rep,” as they call it. And “rep” comes mainly by being tough, by winning out in “rumbles” or “bopping” sessions—street fights in which knives, lead pipes, tire chains and other lethal weapons are frequently used. Some of these boys are still in their early teens when they start taking “pot”  (marijuana) or even “smack” or “pop” (heroin) as an escape from life’s grim dirty deal. The New York youth board, an official social service agency, employs various methods in attempting to cope with juvenile delinquency, but its general approach is to send into the slums well trained workers who on an immediate, personal level seek to resolve gang tensions and to undertake the painfully slow process of rehabilitating the boys. The board’s approach tends to be at odds with that of the New York police department, which pursues a largely punitive strategy. On occasion violent gang conflicts erupt which only the police can handle; nonetheless, brutality breeds brutality, and it must be said that the police department’s policy of sending only hardened officers to patrol Harlem and El Barrio (the District, or Spanish Harlem) helps perpetuate the lamentable pattern.

When Lou Marsh began work for the youth board in May he was assigned to the Young Untouchables, a Negro-Puerto Rican gang on 112th street between First and Second avenues. Lou soon developed a strong attachment to the gang members, identifying with them and their troubles, their longing to belong, their resentments against an indifferent and discriminatory society. His involvement with the gang was such that he found it difficult to break away for a respite even when his mind and body sorely craved one. As Robert Rothenberg, Lou’s youth board supervisor, told a Village Voice reporter, Lou had a drive for service. “He wanted intense experience in service. . . . Intensity, danger, were inherent in Lou’s job. In Spanish Harlem he dealt in turmoil. He was with people who expressed themselves in a limited, a basic way—in a physical, often a violent way. He had known there would be conflict and tension when he went in and tried to change all this, to substitute talk for violence.”

Lou was beginning to find himself in his work with the Untouchables, and was planning to finish his studies at Yale and to be ordained to the ministry. And he had had a large measure of success with his boys; he had won their confidence and respect, he was “getting through” to them. Yet that very success brought him to his death.

On the night of January 7 Lou had been able to talk the Young Untouchables out of “going down” on the Playboys, a neighboring gang which on the previous day had played the “game” of knock-knock on Untouchable “turf” and threatened the mother of one of the Untouchables. Both gangs were highly agitated, and there was no time to call the police. Lou and the youth worker for the Playboys had had to “cool” the incipient rumble on their own. Having persuaded his boys to desist, Lou phoned the board that the situation had quieted down, then headed for his room in Greenwich Village.

But four graduates of the Untouchables, older boys who were jealous of Lou’s influence with the gang and resentful of his success in preventing a fight, chose to avenge their hurt pride and waylaid him on 113th street. Two held his arms while the other two rained furious fists on him till he was senseless. The boys probably did not intend to kill Lou—but a hard blow to the left temple was sufficient. A passerby found him; he was rushed by ambulance to Metropolitan hospital, where X-rays showed a number of serious brain clots. On the operating table Lou was relieved of the clots by tapping, but he had undergone a great amount of brain hemorrhaging. He died two days later without having regained consciousness. The four assailants were picked up the night of the attack and arraigned on a charge of felonious assault; when Lou died the charge was changed to homicide.

During the holidays, when Lou had visited his home in Philadelphia, his mother had urged him to give up his hazardous work for the youth board. “I’ll be all right,” Lou replied. “I can take care of myself. Besides, somebody has to do the job.” Lou did his job—and lost his life as a consequence, at the age of 29.

It would be inappropriate and presumptuous— particularly at this point, so near to the event—to read large meanings into Lou’s premature and violent death. Lou, I am sure, would not want to be called a martyr. In our time martyrdom is so rare that the very word seems to have a pretentious and melodramatic ring to it. But there is no gainsaying that Lou died as a Christian doing his duty. He was, as his father described him to a Philadelphia newsman, “a strong boy with a lot of guts.” Terrible though his death was in one way, in another way it was a good death, and good may come of it—though such an assertion would very likely sound curious, even callous, to Lou’s family and loved ones, feeling keenly their personal loss. Lou was well liked by the people of East Harlem; they have been stunned by his death, and as Robert Rothenberg remarked, “They’re asking themselves, ‘Why do we do the things we do?'”

On Sunday January 13 (1963) at Judson Memorial Church in the Village several hundred people— among them the Untouchables and the mother of one of Lou’s killers—mourned Lou’s passing. Declared Pastor Howard Moody in his eulogy: “Lou’s death is a testimony to our failure as human beings and as a city of people to build a place where men can dwell in peace together. Some people would say tke crummy street on which he died wasn’t worth his life—so full of promise and hope—but that street has been made holy by a man’s blood who in courage stood there for what he believed was right. We can take heart and be silent before that fact.”

DEAN PEERMAN. Senior Contributing Editor, The Christian Century, FEBRUARY 6, 1963, p. 167 ==========================================================

(3) Rev. Edward M. Checkland, YDS ’61, deceased 2003

Obituaries (01/23/03) – CHECKLAND, Reverend Edward M. July 6, 1915 – January 21, 2003 After a short illness Reverend Ed Checkland passed away on Tuesday, January 21, 2003. He had been minister at First Baptist Church, Edmonton (1961 – 1982); James Street Baptist Church, Hamilton, ON. (1954 – 1958) and Broadway First Baptist Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba (1946 – 1954). He was very active in the Edmonton Council of Churches and was a founding member of the City Centre Church Corporation. As well he served on the Board of Governors of Athabasca University and was on the Board of the Banff Centre. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jean; three sons, Richard of Edmonton, David (Lea Caragata) of Toronto, and Michael (Katharine) of Calgary; as well as four grandchildren: Tamara, Jeffery, Nathaniel and Olivia. There will be a Memorial Service at First Baptist Church, Edmonton on Saturday, January 25 at 1:30 p.m. – Edmonton Journal, Area Code 780.

Rev. Checkland also was a member of the founding Governing Council of Athabasca University and chairman of its Library Committee.  The University has dedicated its online learning system as The Reverend Edward Checkland Collection.  From the university description: “One of the purposes of the AU Library collection is to support research in distance education. Athabasca University has one of the finest, if not the most comprehensive collections of materials on the subject of distance education, The Reverend Edward Checkland Collection. Rev. Checkland was a source of inspiration for Athabasca University through its first ten years. He was an original member of the Athabasca University Governing Authority. He was chair of the Library Committee that recruited the first AU Librarian, Mr. Tom Edge. On June 14, 1980, at the Third Annual Convocation ceremonies, AU Governing Authority recognized the personal commitment of Rev. Checkland to the University by naming the the library’s distance education collection The Reverend Edward Checkland Collection. The Checkland Collection includes works on distance education, innovative educational technology, instructional design, and works focussing on the adult learner in the post-secondary system. The Checkland Collection has been listed in the Directory of Special Collections of Research Value.” ——————————————————————————————-

(4) Chaplain Lee W. Backman, YDS STM 1961, deceased 2004 –                     We have just discovered that Lee W. Backman, author of Chaplain operating instructions, an analytical study (Student reports), (1968) is reported in the Air Force Times, March 1, 2004, to have died on January 6, 2004 in either Iraq or Afghanistan. He had long service as chaplain with the rank of Lt. Colonel and had served in Taiwan, Canal Zone, and various air force bases in the U.S. ——————————————————————————————————-


3 thoughts on “Deceased members – Remembrances and Obituaries”

  1. Betty Gabehart said:

    The Alumni Office should have the obituary for Joyce Thaman Collins (via the alumni office at Transylvania University).

    • Elbert Marsh said:

      I am Lou Marsh’s brother, Elbert Marsh. Thank you for the details of his short life and tragic end in New York in 1963. I remember that event vividly each and every day.

      Thanks again.

      Elbert Marsh

  2. “Ballad of Lou Marsh” by Phil Ochs (1964)

    Here are the lyrics of a song composed and performed in honor of Lou Marsh
    by folk singer Phil Ochs in 1964 in his album “All the News That’s Fit to Sing” (1964) :

    Lissten to Ochs sing the song at

    On the streets of New York city when the hour was getting
    There were young men armed with knives and guns, young men armed with hate
    And Lou Marsh stepped between them and died there in his tracks
    For one man is no army when the city turns its back.

    Now the streets are empty, now the streets are dark
    So keep an eye on shadows and never pass the park
    For the city is a jungle when the law is out of sight
    And death lurks in El Barrio with the orphans of the night.

    He left behind a chamber of a church he served so long
    For he learned the prayers of distant men will never right the wrongs
    His church became an alley and his pulpit was the street
    He made his congregation from the boys he used to meet.

    There were two gangs approaching in Spanish Harlem town
    The smell of blood was in the air, the challenge was laid down
    He felt their blinding hatred, and he tried to save their lives
    And the answer that they gave him was their fists and feet and knives

    Will Lou Marsh lie forgotten in his cold and silent grave?
    Will his memory still linger on, in those he tried to save?
    All of us who knew him will now and then recall
    And shed a tear on poverty, tombstone of us all.

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