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In Memory . . . Roy A. Ockert (1921-2008)

Posted By Jessica Cambio, Thursday, May 13, 2010

With his family beside him, the Reverend Roy A. Ockert died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Salem, OR, on July 16, 2008.  He was 87.

Born on April 3, 1921 in Orofino, ID, to Anthony Lewis Ockert and Mary Jane Johnson, Rev. Ockert was the oldest of six children.  After graduation from Orofino High School, he attended the University of Idaho.  His studies were interrupted by World War II and he served in the US Army from 1942 to 1946.

Motivated by a desire to work for economic justice, Rev. Ockert studied economics and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated in1948.  Rev. Ockert first worked as a public school teacher, and then began a career as a researcher and economist for several unions, including the United Rubber Workers and AFL-CIO. While with the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC, he prepared the data used in developing the War on Poverty program. 

After a time, Rev. Ockert was no longer satisfied with the impact he could have as a union economist. To pursue his self-stated interests in "civil liberties, social progress and public well-being” he determined to become a Unitarian Universalist minister.  At the age of 43, he moved with his wife, Virginia, and their six children from Washington, DC, to Berkeley, CA, to attend Starr King School for the Ministry.  

Rev. Ockert was ordained in 1967 by the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley, CA and installed later that year as co-minister with Rev. Stephen Fritchman at the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles.  Along with Rev. Fritchman, Rev. Ockert joined in one of the most heated 20th century controversies within our religious movement – the Black Empowerment movement in the late sixties.   He was one of three white members of the Black Affairs Council in the first year of its existence.  Rev. Ockert also served the Unitarian Society of Orange County in Anaheim, CA and the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fullerton, CA.

In 1972, Rev. Ockert returned to union work as chief economist for the International Woodworkers of America.  He retired in 1985.  At the time of his death, he was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem, OR.

Rev. Ockert’s friend, Rev. Rick Davis, says about him: "Roy knew that each one of us can make a difference, that we can leave the world a better place by planting seeds of hope and kindness and watering this with love and compassion.”

He was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia Mikulik, in 1989 after 39 years of marriage. In 1999, he married Delta Duke McClung, who survives him.  Other survivors include two sons, Roy Ockert Jr. (Pat) of Jonesboro, Ark., and Karl Ockert (Carole) of Lake Oswego, Ore.; three daughters, Janet Zobrist (Norm) of West Linn, Ore., Maureen Bell (Jim) of Ithaca, N.Y., and Kristin Ockert (Greg Gillespie) of Olympia, Wash.; three step-children, Bruce McClung (Leslie) of Fremont, Calif., Patty Ryan (John) of Castro Valley, Calif., and Jamie McClung (Carol) of Salem; 21 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service for friends and family, officiated by Rev. Rick Davis, was held on Saturday, August 16 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Salem, OR.  Donations in Rev. Ockert’s name may be made to the UU Service Committee, 689 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139-3302.

Please send messages of remembrance to Delta Duke McClung, 4311 Vasend Ct NE, Salem, OR  97305-4703.

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