Bob Strommen, hero of the ONA movement, dies at age 80

Bob Strommen, hero of the ONA movement, dies at age 80

Bob Strommen 1

The Rev. Bob Strommen

The Rev. Bob Strommen, a strong supporter of the movement for LGBT liberation in the United Church of Christ and beyond, passed from this life on Friday, June 19. We join with his wife, Joyce, and their family in grief for Bob’s passing and gratitude for his life. Here’s the obituary from

Robert T. Strommen was born on September 17, 1934, in Turtle Creek, PA. He died on June 19, 2015, surrounded by family. While home from Princeton University in 1955, he met his future wife, Joyce, at a church corn roast, and they were married after a three year engagement on June 14, 1958. They had four children and were married for 57 happy years at the time of his death. Upon graduating from college, Robert entered the seminary and became a minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC). Robert touched many lives during his 80 years. His passions were social justice and his family. He had his first parish church in Larimer, PA, but was quickly drawn to the emerging civil rights and social justice movements of the 1960’s, culminating in several trips to Mississippi to register black citizens to vote. He left the parish for a position as the Minister of Metropolitan Mission of the UCC in Philadelphia in 1967. For the next eight years he brought a progressive Christian spirit to a variety of political and economic justice causes as part of the church’s ministry. He was well known for one incident where he was shown on the nightly news chasing after a mounted policeman who had just knocked down a teenager and refused to give his badge number.

In 1976, he and his family moved again, to Westfield, NJ, so Robert could work for the Board of Homeland Ministries of the UCC. He was the secretary of health and welfare, and he spent those years advocating for the poor and for fair labor practices across the country. In 1988, he was appointed as the Association Minister for the Western Reserve Association of the UCC’s Ohio Conference and re-located to Lakewood, OH. For the next 12 years until he retired, he oversaw the running of the association, and with other leaders started new churches for new communities of faith and founded the first LGBT church in the conference’s history.

After his retirement in the year 2000, he continued to be active in social justice causes, with a particular passion for fairness in labor practices and equality for LGBT people everywhere. He served as co-chair of the Cleveland branch of Jobs with Justice, fighting for a living wage for workers, and he and his wife, Joyce, were a constant fixture at any protest, hearing, or event where equality for gays and lesbians and transgendered individuals was being promoted or fought for.

Throughout his life his family was always just as important as seeing justice done for everyone. He and his wife were a devoted couple for the entirety of their marriage. He was also a loving and supportive father and grandfather, with a great sense of humor. He was an omnivorous reader and was proud to be called an intellectual. His gentle and wise manner earned him many friends and admirers over the years. He will be greatly missed by many, but most particularly by his wife, children, and grandchildren. He is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years Joyce, his four children Erik, Beth, Gayle, and Ingrid, and three grandchildren.

Donations in Robert’s memory can be made in his name to one of the causes he cherished and fought for in his life: The United Church of Christ Open and Affirming Coalition, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and/or Planned Parenthood.