Von Dreele, Rev. Canon James D.

The Rev. Canon James D. Von Dreele died in Seasons Hospice at Wilmington Hospital in Wilmington, DE on July 23, 2021 after a long illness. He was 74 years old.

Jim was born in Minneapolis, MN, the youngest of four boys. When he was young the family moved to Arden, DE where he grew up. He attended the two-room school there before going on to graduate from Brandywine High School where he was a member of the swim team.

He graduated from Drew University in 1968 where he majored in religion. During this time he was active in Civil Rights issues and traveled to the South to participate in student demonstrations. These experiences were just the beginning of a life ministering to those less fortunate. He was married to Elizabeth (Betsey) Allyn at this time.

Jim moved on to Yale Divinity School and was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 1971 after graduation. His first parish experience was at Trinity Cathedral, Newark, NJ after which he became rector of the Church of St. John the Divine, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.

The greater part of his ministry was spent at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Homestead, PA. During this time, he was active in an inter-denominational group of clergy and labor union members challenging corporate decisions affecting the lives of unemployed families in the Pittsburgh area.

When Jim returned to the Philadelphia area, he was named Executive Director of the Seamen’s Church Institute. This non-profit organization provides hospitality and help for the crew members of shipping docked in the Port of Philadelphia. In this position he was an active advocate for seafarer’s rights and was also elected president of the North American Maritime Ministry Association. He was appointed Canon at this time in appreciation for his years of ministry.

Summers saw the Von Dreele family at St. George’s Chapel in Harbeson, DE. Jim provided summer supply services while also enjoying golf, catching and picking crabs, and being a beach bum.

In retirement Jim returned to St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wilmington, the parish his family helped establish. While there, he preached, participated in Bible studies and book discussion groups. His love of church music led him to spearhead fund raising efforts for a new organ.

He is survived by Betsey Von Dreele of Lewes, DE; daughter Sarah Von Dreele of New York, NY and Harvey Cedars, NJ; son Joshua (Christie) of Franklin, TN; 4 grandchildren, Juliette, Max, Layla and Theo. He is also survived by brothers Peter (Lin) of Windsor, Colorado and Robert (Camille) of Dune Acres, Indiana and several nieces and nephews.

The funeral service for Canon Von Dreele will be held at 10:30am, Saturday, October 16 at St. David’s Episcopal Church where masks and social distancing will be required. Memorial donations may be made to: St. David’s Episcopal Church, 2320 Grubb Road, Wilmington or Seamen’s Church Institute of Philadelphia, 1113 Admiral Peary Way, Philadelphia, PA.

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