Henry Van Dyke first joined Salem Meeting and transferred his membership to Corvallis Meeting in 1964. After 38 years of vital leadership he transferred to Ann Arbor Meeting in 2002.
His war time experience fighting malaria in China informed his concern for international issues which he shared with our meeting. He spoke frequently in meeting for worship about the wonder of nature and the universe. A professor of biology, he didn’t have his science in one mental compartment and his spiritual life in another, but was all of one piece and shared from this ground.
Henry, and his wife Jackie, were generous with their home, hosting the meeting Christmas party, inviting meeting children to be comfortable around the house with their four daughters, and long after their family was grown. In their older years he and Jackie supported the younger families of meeting, and cared for some of the children, giving parents time off for attending a Friends Retreat in a case or two.
As a leader in a home full of very strong women, Henry thrived. He sometimes wore a shirt with a slogan reminding the rest of us that men of quality were not threatened by women who wanted equality.
The Van Dykes lived within walking distance of the meeting house, closer than any other members, so Henry and Jackie often provided access when a key was forgotten, or rescued people who got stuck there. As they left Corvallis, they continued to nurture our community by generously selling their house below the prevailing real estate value to another Quaker couple with small children.
Henry raised vegetables and fruit in their beautiful backyard and shared the bounty. One Friend still remembers the delicious cherry tomatoes she helped harvest while the Van Dykes were away on vacation. Before moving he took the new owner on a detailed tour of the garden where he knew every tree and shrub, many paired with stories that brought out the reasons he planted them.
Henry carried many responsibilities in our meeting, Quarterly Meeting, and for North Pacific Yearly Meeting, where he was clerk of Steering Committee in 1992. We recall Henry being on committees for membership, adult religious education and social action as well as being continually involved in meeting business. A meeting issue still remembered by Corvallis Friends concerned the huge spruce tree on meeting property. Henry thought ahead about the effects on the neighborhood if the tree should fall, and over several years of revisiting the concern, finally convinced the Meeting to approve it being felled.
Henry also encouraged others to become involved in the life of the meeting. One Friend credits him with the welcome and invitations that led to her participation. Another Friend is aware that Henry was a mentor from early in adolescence. In a loving way, Henry held many of us to account toward realizing our potentials.
Henry was an example to us all in the tender devotion he showed to Jackie as her dementia advanced. He was kind and gentle, and obviously still adored and admired her, telling stories of her career, volunteer work and strong determination. He continued to make it possible for her to participate in Meeting and her volunteer committees as she lost the ability to drive and keep track of sequence.
Henry said what he thought, was straight forward, acted as led, and could say unpopular things when he felt called to say them. When he moved away, he left a Henry-shaped space in Meeting which has yet to be filled. Our meeting missed Henry when he left, but understood that he needed family help as he and Jackie aged. He kept in touch through letters after moving, and visited several times with family members. We have much gratitude for his love and participation over the years in the Corvallis Meeting community, in Willamette Quarterly Meeting, and in North Pacific Yearly Meeting. Through many societal changes in the decades after World War II, Henry was one of the elders that cared for the meeting and generations of children and college students.