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In Memory of . . . William Harper Houff (1928-2014)

Posted By Administration, Monday, February 17, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William "Bill” Harper Houff died on January 26th, 2014 at the age of 85.

William "Bill” Houff was born in New Hope, VA, on April 27th, 1928 to Harper P. Houff and Anna Elizabeth Willberger. He graduated from The College of William and Mary in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. In 1952, he received a Master’s of Science in Chemistry, and in 1955, a Ph.D. in Chemistry, both from Michigan State University. He then worked as a chemist in Michigan, New York, and California, respectively, from 1958 to 1964. Rev. Houff graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry, with a Bachelor in Divinity, in 1964.

Ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry in 1964, Rev. Houff served the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Redwood City, CA from 1964 to 1968, the Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Church of Shoreline, WA from 1968-1973, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, WA from 1973-1988. Rev. Houff was certified as an Accredited Interim Minister in 1992. He served as interim minister for the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg, MB from 1988-1989, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greensboro in Jamestown, NC from 1989 to 1990, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, NC from 1990-1991, the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, BC from 1991 to 1993 and the University Unitarian Church of Seattle, WA from 1997 to 1999. In 1988, he was honored with the title of Minister Emeritus by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane. Rev. Houff wrote a book entitled Infinity in Your Hand: A Guide for the Spiritually Curious; the book was published by Melior Publications in 1989 and Skinner House Books in 1990.

Rev. Houff dedicated much of his time to Unitarian Universalism, and served the denomination in various capacities. He was a regular participant in Pacific Northwest Division Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association chapter meetings from 1968 to 1988, and was a member of the Pacific Northwest Division Nominating Committee. Rev. Houff served as President of the Bay Area Ministers Association from 1964 to 1965, Chair of the Pacific Central District Personnel Committee from 1964 to 1965, Member and Chair of the Student Affairs Committee at Starr King School from 1967 to 1970, and Workshop Leader for the Unitarian Universalist Minsters Association Continuing Education, Network, Training, Enrichment and Renewal (CENTER) Committee from 1968 to 1988.

Rev. Houff was deeply committed to social justice. Along with other Unitarian Universalist ministers, he traveled to Selma, Alabama in 1965 for the Selma to Montgomery March. Several years later, he marched in San Francisco to protest the Vietnam War and the use of Napalm on the people of Vietnam. In 1984, at the Spokane Unitarian Universalist Church, Rev. Houff delivered a sermon titled, "Silent Holocaust,” in which he described the life-threatening negligence of the nuclear industry. The sermon served as a catalyst for the formation of the Handford Education Action League (HEAL), a grassroots nuclear concern group. Rev. Houff was a founder and leader of the group.

Rev. Houff’s friends and family remember his strong connection to his rural Southern roots, despite his departure from his family’s working farm at age eighteen. Following his move to Spokane in 1972, Rev. Houff acquired a forty acre farm, which he named "The Still Point.” He constructed the main farmhouse and several other outbuildings. He was interested in photography, reading, carpentry, farming, and backpacking.

Rev. Houff is survived by sons Konrad Crist (Karen Campbell), Gregory Houff (Starla), Robert Houff, and by his stepchildren. He is also survived by his grandchildren Torin, Marina, and Trevor. Rev. Houff was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Anna Lee, and his beloved wife, Patricia "Patty” Meagher McTigue.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Inland Northwest Land Trust, 33 W. Main Ave. Spokane, WA 99201-1017.Notes of condolences may be sent in care of Greg Houff, 1002 Golden Hills Drive, Cheney, WA. 99004.

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