The Rev. Daniel Greeley Higgins, Jr. died on June 9, 2017 at the age of 90.
Dan Jr. was born in Easton, MD on February 27, 1927 to parents Anna and Dan Higgins, and grew up in nearby Claiborne, where his father (“Capt. Dan”) captained the village ferry. After high school Dan served in the army from 1944 to 1946, stationed in Japan and attaining the rank of Sergeant. Then in 1951 Dan received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Maryland, where he met Jean Scheufele—the woman who would become his wife of almost 60 years. Dan later earned two degrees in Sacred Theology from Temple University: a bachelor’s in 1954 and a master’s in 1965. Finally, in 1977 he attained a Doctor of Ministry from Meadville Lombard Theological School.
Dan, by his own account, had possessed a “religious instinct” since childhood, and preached his first sermon at his family’s Methodist church when he was just 15. Rev. Higgins became a Student Minister with the Methodists in 1951 and was fully ordained by the church’s Peninsula Annual Conference in May of 1955. He then served as a 1st Lt. in the Army Chaplain Corps in post-war Korea from 1956 to 1959, following which he ministered to two Methodist churches.
In the early ‘60s Rev. Higgins sought a new spiritual home with the Unitarian Universalist Association, and in 1965 he was called to serve as associate minister to—and was ordained a second time by—First Parish in Lexington, MA. Dan ministered to the Lexington congregation for four years, before taking up a call to the First UU Church of Lubbock, TX from 1969 to 1972. Then for two years Rev. Higgins served the UUs for Black and White Action group as its Director of Programming and its Minister for Human Unity and Social Change. Rev. Higgins then accepted a call to the First Parish in Malden, MA, where he would minister from 1975 until his official retirement in 1987, at which time the congregation honored Dan as their Minister Emeritus. Post-retirement, Dan and Jean moved back to the Chesapeake region of Maryland, and Rev. Higgins began offering sermons and performing pastoral work at two local congregations—the UU Fellowship at Easton and the UU Fellowship at Salisbury. In the early ‘90s Dan also helped a new congregation get off the ground: the UUs of the Chester River, in Chestertown, MD. His continued service was honored by his being named Minister Emeritus to both the Easton congregation and to UUCR (in 1997 and 1999, respectively).
Rev. Higgins also served in a variety of other roles on behalf the denomination. He was the Vice President in charge of membership for UU Advance, as well as a UUA Delegate to the Massachusetts Council of Churches. Dan also chaired Commission I (USA) of the International Association for Religious Freedom. Additionally, Rev. Higgins served on the Board of Directors for the UUA’s Massachusetts Bay District (now part of the New England Region), representing the district on the UUA’s Board of Trustees in 1987. Finally, Dan chaired the General Assembly Planning Committee from 1991 to 1993.
Outside of his ministry, Dan was an ever-engaged servant of his community. He remained in the Army Reserve for many years, attaining a final rank of Major. While in Lubbock, TX he served as President of Lubbock’s Ecumenical Council of Social Concerns, and in Malden, MA he presided over the city’s Council of Churches and its Clergy Association. Post-retirement, Dan was active in Maryland’s St. Michaels Fire Department, as well as in Talbot County’s NAACP and Habitat for Humanity organizations. In his spare time, he enjoyed gardening, furniture restoration/caning, and sailing.
Dan’s daughter Cynthia had these thoughts to share in remembrance of her father:
I often told our father that he was the most self-effacing person I knew. He had a profound sense of justice, and took his responsibilities to the church and the community very seriously. Dad spent hours crafting his sermons, locating just the right word or phrase. He was fond of taking inspiration from his favorite comic strip, Peanuts. Dad had a beautiful singing voice—a deep bass that resonated throughout many a sanctuary.
Pat Bjorke, Board President of UUCR, offered these words after Rev. Higgins’s passing:
Dan was an unassuming person, perhaps the most humble person I have ever known. But his presence and dignity immediately filled a room… I feel immeasurably blessed to have known Rev. Dan. Although I am sad at his passing, his was a life remarkably lived and generously shared.
He is survived by children Daniel G. Higgins III, Cynthia Westlake, Ann Spicer, and Kim Clark; grandchildren Caitlin Lankford, Skyler Westlake, and Shane and Aubree Clark; and great-grandson Myles Lankford. He was predeceased by wife Jean, sister Charlotte Weems, two brothers who died in childhood, and grandson Austen Westlake.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the St. Michaels Fire Dept., 1001 S. Talbot St, St. Michaels, MD 21663; and to the Rev. Daniel Higgins Scholarship Fund, c/o Barbara Baldwin, Meadville Lombard Theological School, 610 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605.
A memorial service is being planned for September, to take place at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton, MD.
Notes of condolence can be sent to 3444 Orange Wood Ct, Marietta, GA, 30062; and to firstname.lastname@example.org.