OBITUARY FOR JOHN DEMING WOLF, SR. LONG TIME FRIEND OF CAMP EBERHART
John Wolf finished his incredible journey on January 9 at age 100. Born on Sept 29, 1918 in Kansas City while his father, working for the YMCA, was training soldiers for WWI. John grew up in Great Falls Montana and Pocatello Idaho, where his father was a YMCA Director. John graduated from Pocatello HS at the age of 16. After a brief stint at Idaho State, he attended George Williams College, Ill. He later graduated from Oberlin College, OH. He received a divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, in New York City studying under theologians Paul Tillich, Harry Emerson Fosdick and his advisor Reinhold Niebuhr, a great influence on his lifetime ethics.
In 1941, he married Carolyn Kelsey in NY City as WWII emerged. With Niebuhr’s consul, he left pacificism and enlisted in the US Navy as a LT–Chaplain, to serve the troops. John was the youngest Chaplin in the navy. His combat medals include Salerno, Italy and the Pacific Campaign when he was awarded a Bronze Star at Iwo Jima. He rarely mentioned the impact of the war for many years until his retirement, when he started lecturing on the Pacific Campaign and the impact of war on veterans, publishing his real-time war diary “Amen till Tomorrow.”
Following the War, he joined the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC). His appointments included churches in Vevey, Evansville, Martinsville, South Bend, Hammond, Ft. Wayne and finally Valparaiso. In addition, John was the South Bend UMC District Superintendent for 6 years. He was appointed to multiple UMC General Conferences, always a voice for civil rights, women’s rights and social justice issues. He received an honorary Doctorate from DePauw University, where he also served as Trustee.
In retirement, he was chair of the Indiana Coalition Against Legalized Gambling where his “Quixotian” battle against big money was fearless. IN 2003, John received the “Sagamore of the Wabash” from Governor Kernan, for his efforts of social justice and his crusade against organized gambling.
Like his father and father-in-law before him, John, was a tireless proponent of the YMCA. In South Bend, He served on the Y board and YMCA Camp Eberhart, where he became a close friend to the legendary George Cooper.
In Valparaiso, John was a passionate member of Valparaiso Rotary, an early organizer of Hilltop Neighborhood House and a season ticket holder of Valpo basketball. He served as Board President of the YMCA, prior to and including the period of building the new Y. John wrote 900 columns, entitled (like his book) “Amen Until Tomorrow” for the Post-Tribune and The Times, on topics of politics, local concerns and historical features.
In Fort Wayne, as Senior Pastor, he oversaw the construction of First Wayne United Methodist Church. For many years, he hosted “Work and Music”, a Sunday morning radio show on WOWO.
At home, he was an enthusiastic house painter and “yard man” and taught his boys the Idaho skills of hunting and fishing, sport and love of the great outdoors. He loved to fish, though lousy at it. John loved sports, played football in HS and basketball at GW and Oberlin and he forever beat his own boys with a two-handed jump shot.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph and Bessie Wolf, his loving wife of 71 years, Carolyn Kelsey Wolf and all his oldest friends and shipmates. He is survived by his sons, John Jr (Vicki) in South Bend, Carter (Kim Gattle) in Indianapolis and Earl (Deborah) in Williamston, MI. along with numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.