The Rev. Charles Burtis Crooks, Jr., 88, of Uncasville, CT, formerly of New Britain, CT, died Thursday, September 23 at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London, CT. Born on March 2, 1933, in Camden, NJ, he was son of the late Charles Burtis Crooks, Sr., and Catherine Louise Pharazyn Crooks, and was predeceased by his sister and brother-in-law, Elaine and Frank Staley. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Patricia Maynard Crooks.
Burt spent his childhood in Oaklyn, NJ, where he was baptized as a young adult at the Oaklyn Baptist Church, and graduated from Collingswood High School in 1951. He attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Kalamazoo College (MI), and earned his Master of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (NY). After being ordained at the First Baptist Church of Rochester in 1958, he served briefly as an Associate Pastor in Massachusetts and worked for the National Council of Churches in New York City before being called in 1961 to serve as Pastor of the Voluntown Baptist Church here in Connecticut. Burt and Patti were married in 1962 and started their family in Voluntown before being called to the First Baptist Church in New Britain in1969. Burt served as Pastor for the next 24 years, during which time the congregation merged with South Congregational Church, remaining dually aligned with the American Baptist Churches USA and the United Church of Christ UCC. His prophetic vision and shared leadership inspired a thriving downtown ministry of worship, preaching, music, drama, inclusivity, outreach and social justice. He retired as Co-Pastor in 1993 at which time he was named Pastor Emeritus.
During his years of active ministry, Burt held many offices and positions within the local association and state region of American Baptist Churches, including Clerk, Vice President, President and Chair of the Personnel Committee. His commitment included work at the national level of denominational ministry as he served two terms on the General Board ABCUSA and the Board of International Ministries. Throughout his career he was devoted to ecumenical ministry and interfaith partnership, also serving as counselor and coordinator at Camp Wightman. After his retirement, Burt would go on to serve as Interim Pastor for congregations in Bristol, Canton, Manchester, Hartford, Ledyard-Gales Ferry, and Old Mystic. He was a guest preacher for numerous churches, and later became an active member of Poquonnock Bridge Baptist Church, where he and Patti were recently named Ministers Emeriti in recognition of their loving service and faithful ministry.
Burt’s deepest joy and greatest pride belonged to family: his wife, Patti; his daughter, Rebecca Freeman and son-in-law, Michael; his daughter, the Rev. Claudine Crooks; his grandchildren, Nicole, Megan (Jeff) and Charles Freeman, Heidi and Noelle Butler. He championed their educations and vocations, and he lived to make them Sunday dinner. He was “Uncle Burt” to beloved nephews and nieces, and throughout years of facing medical issues and health challenges, he showed only grace and gratitude to all of his caregivers.
He enjoyed his home at Hillcrest Retirement Community in Uncasville, where he is remembered for leading the Christmas Carol Sing-Along and discovering his talent for watercolor painting. Burt loved to travel with family, attend Baptist conventions with friends, and spend summer vacations at the beach...Wildwood (NJ), Wells Beach (ME), and Lake Winnepesauke (NH). Favorite trips included cruises to Alaska and the Panama Canal, traveling cross country to attend the Biennial, many family visits to Disney World and Puerto Rico, and countless journeys to see relatives near and far.
There will be a full celebration of Burt’s life and ministry at a later time; his ashes will be interred in the Memorial Garden at South Church in New Britain. Gifts in his memory may be sent to the Poquonnock Bridge Baptist Church, 1241 Poquonnock Road, Groton, CT 06340