Swan Funeral Home


Rev. Robert G. Van Gorder

January 5, 1927December 9, 2020

The Rev. Robert G. Van Gorder, age 93, a resident of Covenant Living, Cromwell, CT died at Middlesex Memorial Hospital following a recent illness. He was a retired United Church of Christ pastor. He was born in Peking, China on January 5th, 1927, the son of Dr. George W. Van Gorder and Helen Goforth Van Gorder, who were on the staff of Peking Union Medical College at the time. He graduated from Williams College in 1950 and Union Theological Seminary, New York City, in 1953, and was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II.

Ordained in 1954, the Rev. Robert “Bob” Van Gorder served the following churches: The Old South Congregational Church of Farmington, Maine, from 1954-1959, the Federated Community Church of Hampden, Massachusetts, from1959-1969, and the First Congregational Church of Westbrook, Connecticut, from 1969-1991. As an expression of their appreciation for his ministry, the members of the Westbrook Church honored him with the title, “Pastor Emeritus”.

In the communities where Rev. Van Gorder served he was active in supporting a variety of programs. They included Literacy Volunteers, Planned Parenthood, Alcoholics Anonymous, the resettlement of several refugee families, and he directed a number of health organizations such as the Westbrook Public Health Advisory Committee and the Westbrook Mental Health Day Care Center, which later became Gateway Counseling. He was also a director for the Westbrook “Safe Harbor” elderly housing project, and served as Chaplain of the Westbrook Fire Department for eight years. Bob served on the United Church of Christ State Conference Committee on Aid to Ministers.

Bob was a gifted photographer, and won numerous awards for his photographs, including two international competitions. His photos often reflected his lively sense of humor and deep interest in people, and he had a special “eye” for the artistic and the beautiful. Bob enjoyed sharing his hobby at the New Haven Camera Club and created a wide variety of slide programs with music, as well as numerous prints.

Bob is survived by his daughter Jan H. Losee of Lawrenceville, Georgia, two sons, Stephen R. Van Gorder of Lafayette, Colorado, and Jonathan G. Van Gorder of Fairfield, CT, two sisters, Betsy R. Minkler of Berkeley, CA and Barbara Coffin of Suffield, CT, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his second wife Jane Winchel Van Gorder who died in 2018, and his first wife, Joy H. Van Gorder, who died in 1989. He was predeceased by his brother Michael J. Chambers of Hamilton, Montana in 2017.

Committal will take place on Saturday, May 22nd, 2021 at Cypress Cemetery in Westbrook at 10:00 AM, followed by a Memorial Service at First Congregational Church of Westbrook at 11:00 AM. The family requests that any memorial donations be sent to Covenant Living Benevolent Care Fund and the Westbrook Congregational Church.


26 June

Committal Service

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Cypress Cemetery

Rt 153
Essex Rd
Westbrook, CT


Rev. Robert G. Van Gorder

have a memory or condolence to add?

Germaine Deveau

January 3, 2021

I cared for Bob and Jane while working for the Franscian eldercare. I have many fond memories of them both. My condolences to the families, on the passing of both of these loving, caring people. I will always remember them.

Rich Bergmann

December 28, 2020

Rev. Bob certainly did have an exceptional sense of humor and a remarkably even temper -- both of which served him well having me grow up in and around his house. Trouble just seemed to follow me wherever I went (Eddie Haskell anyone?), yet he always welcomed me with exceptional warmth with that patented wry smile of his. I regret having lost touch with the family, but I do cherish my memories of him through my HS years in Westbrook -- along with my framed print of "Gift from the Sea." Fair winds, Rev. Bob and rest in peace. A life well lived indeed.

Rick Swan

December 24, 2020

As a young boy I got to know Rev Bob who was a close friend of our family for many many years. Bob was my great grandfathers ( Sal Ciaburro ) partner in crime when it came to photography and being a best friend . The two older very gentle men together would seek out that perfect spot, to get that one in a million shot to take the blue ribbons at the New Haven Camera Club. In their world it was their Oscars in a sense. It was always comical to watch them search together for that special spot only to find them both showing up at “the spot” at all different hours trying to out do the other for a different angle, to win the ribbons. Bob was always there for anyone that needed a shoulder to lean on, or an ear to vent. For years Bob stopped by the farm to check in on my great grandparents. Truth be told I think Bob stopped by mainly for the home made lemonade or the fresh apple pies. If you asked Bob He would later in life admit he wanted to see if he could learn what his competition was up to for the next entry at the club. In the end, it never really mattered who won, or who was in second place. It was more about two good old friends enjoying their love for photography, solving all the worlds problems enjoying the friendship they had for so many years. When my Grandfather passed Bob gave me the blue ribbon winning picture titled “Magic Morning” he took of North Cove here in old saybrook. See, I had taken Bob and my Pop to my favorite spot. They both fell in love with North Cove, and both won the blue ribbons at my spot for years to come. You could not help, but laugh when those two were together as they were priceless. You will never be forgotten my friend. Your picture is next to my front door to remind me that there is good in this world because of people like you, and my Pop. Rest in peace my friend. You will alway be sharing first place in my book.

Beverly Towns

December 18, 2020

Bob and his wife were members of South Congregational Church in Middletown while living at Covenant Village that is how I knew them Beverly Towns


nancy carlson

December 13, 2020

Walter and I were blessed to enjoy many years of his leadership at the Westbrook Congregational Church - we spent a lot of time enjoying tea at our kitchen table. Bob led Confirmation classes for 2 of our sons and served them their first communion. He was a wonderful example of Christian service, kindness, and love. Because of the Covid virus we will not try to attend his service at the church, but will be with you all in spirit.