The Rev. Eugene William Kreves died on December 11, 2017 at the age of 96.
Eugene was born on May 24, 1921 in Cleveland, OH to parents Mary and Joseph Kreves. In 1942 he married his beloved wife, Corinne Strong. They both attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where Eugene graduated in 1945 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Eugene then earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Connecticut’s Hartford Theological Seminary in 1949.
Rev. Kreves was ordained as a Congregationalist minister on December 11, 1949, then received Fellowship with the American Unitarian Association on June 2, 1954 and with the Universalist Church of America on April 23, 1956. In early 1955, Eugene and Corinne were instrumental in founding the DuPage Unitarian Fellowship (now DuPage UU Church) in Naperville, IL, where Rev. Kreves was called as the congregation’s founding minister. He also simultaneously ministered to Illinois’s Aurora Unitarian Fellowship—another church that he and Corrine helped found. Eugene was renowned for his passionate preaching on behalf of liberalism and social justice, and both he and Corinne were dedicated servants of the DuPage congregation for over two decades. When Rev. Kreves retired in 1979, after 24 years of service, the church honored him as their Minister Emeritus. Post-retirement, Rev. Kreves served for two years as minister of the Third Unitarian Church of Chicago (1982 – 1983).
Outside of his ministry in DuPage, Eugene served on the Board of Directors of his local American Civil Liberties Union. He was also President of the DuPage Valley Peace Center. Rev. Kreves was also a proud additional signer of the second Humanist Manifesto (1973). And later he helped organize Arkansans for Peace, for which he served as Publicity Chair.
In his spare time, Eugene had a passion for home building and land development, especially for cooperative efforts. He was also an avid reader of non-fiction—especially about new developments in science—and was ever fascinated by music, art, and politics. In retirement Eugene authored a self-published book:The Hungry Fire: Poems Affirming the Strength of Our Humanity(2002). And he was a lifelong supporter of social causes and an advocate for civil rights, participating in numerous marches and protests; according to his daughter Joy, Eugene always “believed in listening to the underdog.”
At the dedication of the DuPage church’s new Kreves Hall in 1994, member Lois Schnizlein declared:
Gene Kreves devoted 24 years of sincere, unselfish service with dogged determination to build and keep a church in DuPage County with a free pulpit which stressed human values on subjects which were not at all popular in the decades of the 1940s and -50s. … Nearly 40 years later these topics are not so unpopular now, but because of Gene’s humanist beliefs and determination to “stand his ground” this church was firmly established as a beacon of enlightenment in DuPage County.
Eugene’s daughter Joy remembers her father for his “impish sense of humor.” He encouraged his children’s creative efforts with enthusiasm and a keen interest in what they meant to express with their art; Joy echoes Eugene’s belief that “making more ‘stuff’ is not moral, unless it is for some greater purpose.” Finally, she recalls that her father was a “nomad at heart,” exploring new frontiers both via travel (“but only if they were in warm climates!”) and via the pages of books.
He is survived by children Tim Kreves, Dawn Kreves, and Joy Kreves Yavelow; grandchildren Seth Kreves, Anthony Nagiel, Amy Nagiel, and Ivia Sky Yavelow; and great-grandchildren Leon Nagiel and Lily Nagiel. He was pre-deceased by wife Corinne.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lakota People's Law Project and to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
A private memorial service for family members will be held in the spring.
Notes of condolence can be sent to Joy Kreves Yavelow at 54 Montague Avenue, Ewing, NJ 08628.