Death of Vern Rossman, former missionary to Japan

Death of Vern Rossman, former missionary to Japan

Vern Joseph Rossman, long-time missionary services worker and activist for peace, justice and equality, has died at his home in Columbia, Missouri. He was 79. Vern was born February 3, 1927 and raised in a minister’s family in Oklahoma. He studied at Phillips University in Enid, OK and attended seminary at Yale Divinity School, where he became an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1951.

Vern Joseph Rossman, long-time missionary services worker and activist for peace, justice and equality, has died at his home in Columbia, Missouri. He was 79. Vern was born February 3, 1927 and raised in a minister’s family in Oklahoma. He studied at Phillips University in Enid, OK and attended seminary at Yale Divinity School, where he became an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1951.

Vern was born February 3, 1927 and raised in a minister’s family in Oklahoma. He studied at Phillips University in Enid, OK and attended seminary at Yale Divinity School, where he became an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1951.

Vern’s missionary calling led him to Japan in 1951, where he worked for the Audio-Visual and Mass Communications Commission of the Japan National Council of Churches during the 1950s and ’60s. He met and married his wife, the former Doris (Dee) Stevens in Tokyo, where three of his four children were born. While on furlough in 1956-58, he obtained a Master’s degree in Sacred Theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Returning from the mission field in 1963, Vern raised his family in Indiana and New Jersey. He worked for the Division of Overseas Ministries in Indianapolis, and as executive director of Intermedia in New York, where he administered church radio, television and print resources in four continents under the aegis of the World Council of Churches. He later worked as executive director for the non-profit Accountants in the Public Interest. Following his retirement, Vern resided in Boston, Enid and Columbia.

Throughout his career, Vern was a dedicated and talented activist and organizer. His time in Japan confronted him with the horrible legacy of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and he committed himself to a lifetime of peace and anti-nuclear activism. Vern joined the Civil Rights Movement, participating in Church-sponsored voter registration and poll-watching activities in the South. He protested the Vietnam War and was active in local Democratic Party organizations in Indiana and New Jersey. He also organized a successful program which provided one-on-one counseling and mentoring to prison inmates during and after incarceration.

In the 1980s, Vern strenuously protested the Reagan-era nuclear missile buildup in Europe. He joined the Plowshares movement, participating in a civil disobedience action in which he, in the name of his grandchildren, joined others in damaging a B-52 nuclear bomber hangared in an upstate New York air force base, for which he spent 18 months in federal prison.

His latter years were spent reading and writing about philosophy, theology and politics. He tirelessly wrote essays, observations and letters to the editor protesting the injustices of the day, and he continued to minister individually to the sick, needy and lonely around him.

Vern is survived by his former wife Dee, and four children, Wendolynn and Paul of California, and Ken and Bruce of New Jersey; by four grandchildren; and by his brother and sister-in-law, Parker and Jean Rossman of Columbia.

Vern’s life and career will be remembered on Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 4:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2615 Shepard Blvd, Columbia, MO 65201. Telephone (573) 442.5764. Contributions in Vern’s memory may be made to Disciples Justice Action Network at P.O. Box 35887, Tulsa, OK 74153 (http://www.djan.net/¬†online contributions at http://www.djan.net/paypal.htm)

 Culture Shock in the New Old Japan (1952-1963) by Vern Rossman