Memorial Tribute to the Rev. Herbe Stocker

September 28, 1930 – December 9, 2014

Herbe Stocker: a true ‘doulos’ (as he used to call himself)…a ‘servant’ of God. I first met Herbe when I moved to the Lehigh Valley over 30 years ago. I was to be installed as an assistant pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Allentown and needed a commission of teaching and ruling elders for a Sunday morning installation. Being new to the area, I said… ‘Who can I ask?’…all the pastors are involved in their churches on Sunday morning. Someone suggested Herbe Stocker because he was serving at Moravian College. I remember him being so gracious and willing to help. Fast forward 4 years: I became re-acquainted with Herbe when I moved over to serve First Presbyterian Bethlehem. Herbe and his beloved Jean worshiped there. I became pregnant and quite ill with morning sickness and asked Herbe if he would help me by making some hospital and nursing home calls until I could tolerate ‘smells’ again. Herbe graciously agreed. He walked alongside me in partnership for the next dozen years (and beyond!)

Over 30 years of friendship, you learn a great deal about someone. Herbe was a man who found a way to make lemonade out of lemons. He acknowledged life’s challenges but chose to see the positive in a situation. Discover you have life threatening asthma-shift your call from parish ministry to personnel admin in church-related colleges; Grow up without a mom-become the best dad you can be; Learn you have prostate cancer-assume you will be cured. Learn you have incurable cancer-prepare to die well-surrounded by love and loving those God has entrusted to your care.

Herbe was a true friend. He supported me in ministry…but particularly as a woman in ministry…when there weren’t too many of us! He truly dedicated himself to the ministry…but also to making me look good and to succeed in overcoming stereotypes and prejudices. He was a great balcony cheerleader. Herbe was supportive through thick and thin, in good times and bad.

Herbe was transparently honest. He taught me: If you make a mistake-own it; take responsibility. If you fail to do something, don’t cover it up-apologize and do better next time. If you are in a conversation and don’t agree with someone, but don’t want to offend, merely say, “I don’t see it that way”. Herbe gave honesty and integrity a new standard.

Herbe was committed. His yes meant yes and his no meant no. Herbe was passionately in love and deeply committed to the woman he said ‘I do’ to-for 59 years. Jean and Herbe gave witness to a mature love that could agree to disagree, that supported and lifted up one another through the good, the bad and the ugly. I remember when he retired and Jean was still teaching, he assumed the household responsibilities of cooking and cleaning with enthusiasm. They invested in their relationship and it showed. Herbe loved his family. He was so proud of each of his 4 adult children and their loved ones. He adored his grandchildren. He made certain to keep his family a top priority, especially in retirement.   Jean and Herbe’s move to Washington, to be closer to family, was a great loss to the Lehigh Valley, but a great decision for them as they were able to enjoy their family ‘to the full’. We had the great privilege of visiting them late last summer sharing memories, meals and moments of sadness as we faced the vicious nature of the cancer overtaking his body. He faced his death with such courage and honesty. Herbe graced my life…he brought unexpected joy again and again…he brought to me…the face of God.

Rev. Sue Pizor Yoder
February 24, 2015

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