Death of Eric Gass, former Executive for Southern Asia
Eric Gass, former Executive for Southern Asia for the United Church Board for World Ministries and the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, working in partnership with overseas leaders and missionaries in l6 countries in South Asia.
Eric Alan Gass was born September 28, 1934 at Mission Hospital, Tilda, Chhattisgarh, India, the second of three children and the son and grandchild of missionaries to India.
His paternal grandparents, Jacob and Elizabeth Gass, were from Switzerland, arriving in India in 1893. His father, Herbert, after completing medical school in the United States and marrying Zola Dell Harris, returned to India as a missionary.
Eric graduated from Kodaikanal International School (Kodaikanal, India) in 1952. Recently he was informed he had been elected to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011 and was to go to India to speak at the Kodaikanal International School graduation in May of 2012.
Eric graduated from Elmhurst College in l956, with a major in English and History. He studied at Eden Seminary for one year and graduated from Yale Divinity School in l959. He earned a Doctor of Ministry from New York Theological Seminary in l992.
Eric began his missionary career in Raipur, India, in March of 1960. He and his fiancée Patricia Minick, whom he met in St. Louis, were married in Raipur in November of l960. They served as missionaries with the United Church of Christ until l983, livening in Raipur from l960-l969 and in Bombay from 1969-1983. He began his career in Raipur in the field of youth work and writing and publishing for newly literate adults. In 1969, Eric and Patricia moved to Bombay where they served as missionaries-at-large for India, Sri Lanka and Nepal for the United Church of Christ Board for World Ministries and the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ Division of Overseas Ministries.
In 1983, the Gasses moved to New York City when Eric was elected Executive for Southern Asia for the United Church Board for World Ministries and the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, working in partnership with overseas leaders and missionaries in l6 countries in South Asia. Eric retired in 2000 and consulted with the National Council of Churches’ Church World Service agency until he and Patricia retired to Columbus in 2002. He remained active with the Jaffna College (Sri Lanka) Board of Trustees and the American College (Madurai, India) Board of Trustees.
In Columbus, Eric was a member of Tryon Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) and sang in the choir. Eric was also active with local community and environmental issues, serving on the Board of Save Our Slopes, Appearance Commission and Polk County Transport Board. He was an avid traveler, tennis player and hiker until he was diagnosed with lymphoma in April 2010. His last overseas trip was to Asia in November 2010 and included a 50th wedding anniversary gift from their children to visit Cambodia, including the capital Phnom Penh and the ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. He also enjoyed the diverse cultural offerings and the natural beauty of the area.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia Gass of Columbus, NC; a son, Robert Gass (Judith) of Bangkok, Thailand; daughter Sandra Gass in the Democratic Republic of Congo, granddaughter Sonia Leila Gass in Bangkok and brother Michael Gass (Carol) in Davis, California. Also surviving are several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister Judith Gass Shearer (James).
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
The family extended profound gratitude to friends around the world, friends and neighbors in the community, the Tryon Congregational Church, the Gibbs Cancer Center, Duke University Division of Oncology and Hematology and Hospice of the Carolina Foothills for loving and generous support, encouragement and care over the course of this illness.
Memorials were made to United Church of Christ Wider Church Ministries, c/o of Tryon Congregational Church, Tryon, NC; Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, Columbus, NC, or to a non-profit of one’s choice.