Disciples Divinity House

of the University of Chicago

In Memoriam: Thomas V. Stockdale (1933-2016)

June 13, 2016 —  

Thomas Virgil Stockdale, alumnus and Minister Emeritus of Union Avenue Christian Church in Saint Louis, died June 9 in St. Louis. He was 82.

An eloquent and poetic thinker as well as a beloved and insightful leader, he served the historic Union Avenue Christian Church for fifteen years as its Senior Minister. In his work and life, the arts of ministry spanned preaching, worship, social change, education, administration, community outreach, and also the arts of poetry, music, visual arts, and film.

Born to Catherine and Virgil Stockdale on July 27, 1933, in Peoria, Illinois, Tom Stockdale became class president of his high school and received his B.S. from Bradley University in Peoria in 1955. That same year he married Patricia Gibson. They would raise four children and share 61 years of marriage, a marriage that their children describe as "one of those rare friendships and loves that lasted a lifetime."

In 1956, Mr. Stockdale entered the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar, from which his older brother Jim was a recent graduate. Tom Stockdale earned his B.D. degree from the Divinity School in 1960 and was ordained. He served congregations in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, and Nebraska before becoming Senior Minister of Bethany Christian Church in the Capital Area Region, where his significant ministry included a new building and the establishment of the Stevens Ministerial Fund, which has now supported Disciples seminarians at DDH and elsewhere for decades.

In 1986, he was called to Union Avenue, where he was devoted to congregational life and worship and to community outreach initiatives including opening the doors of the church to Food Outreach, which fed men living with HIV/AIDS. He was instrumental in welcoming youth groups from all over the country to stay in the Urban Mission Inn and serve in various ministries in St. Louis. A lover of the arts, he encouraged and supported the congregation's stellar choir and for the music director to begin the Union Avenue Opera Theater. He was a founding creator of the Interfaith Sidebar (Film and Faith) of the St. Louis Film Festival. He was an avid photographer, golfer, and a lover of Labrador retrievers. He was a patron of the arts in many forms including photography, painting, sculpture, music, cinematic arts, theater and poetry.

Mr. Stockdale served more than once on the DDH Alumni Council. In 2006, he helped to assemble and edited a collection of prayers by alumni/ae, Winged Words: Prayers for Common Worship and Common Life, with Sandhya Jha, Phil Points, and Dean Kris Culp. His own keen words and observations were prized by fellow alumni/ae. For example, in his 2004 memorial of Wayne Selsor, published in the DDH Bulletin, he wrote: Selsor knew how to coax a Holy Spirit out of sacred earthy stuff, which is to say - he knew we are never fully spirit or body, until we are a joyous, playful, bright, intelligent, and redeemed unity of both. ... Selsor was a unique spokesman for the life of faith: Godly, human, and winsome. We might substitute "Tom Stockdale" for "Selsor."

In addition to his wife Pat and his brother Jim, he is survived by four children, Pam Milley (Roy Krieger), Peggy Stockdale (Michael Heck), Tim Stockdale (Liz), and Katie Horner; nine grandchildren; and his trusted Labrador, Harry Truman.