Joe Morris Sandven
August 1, 1929 - October 13, 2020
Rev. Joe Morris Sandven died peacefully Tuesday, October 13, 2020, at home in the loving embrace of his wife and family after a prolonged chronic pulmonary illness. He was born August 1, 1929 in Linn Grove, Iowa, the second of four children of Semon and Freda (Morris) Sandven. As public school teachers the family lived in Pella, Iowa and Springfield, Missouri where Joe graduated from Springfield High School in 1947 and completed one year at Drury College before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. After four years in the Navy, he returned to Drury for his B.A. and then went to Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Grove, Missouri, for his Bachelor of Divinity.He married Alice Lee Edmonia "Eddie" Pronko in 1951 and they had five children while they lived in Brentwood, Missouri. Joe was the son-in-law of the pastor at the Brentwood Congregational Church and became the Student Youth Leader. Upon graduation from Eden he as ordained May 15, 1955 and became the Associate Pastor. When his father-in-law died unexpectedly, he was asked to assume the Senior Pastor position for this 1,000-member congregation. He served in that position from 1957 through 1963. He had a desire to move from Missouri and answered the call of the United Church of Christ (Congregational) and chose a mission church in Hayward, California. He moved his family for California, never to return to the Midwest. From his days of basic training at the San Diego Naval Training Center he knew that one day he would live in California. He served the Hayward Congregational church for five years increasing its membership significantly until it was self-sustaining. Joe then answered a call to the Mission Hills Congregational Church in San Diego, where he served for ten years during which time the Mission Hills Preschool was established, the Green Manor building on Ibis Street for senior citizens was erected and the merger of the First Congregational Church with Mission Hills Congregational Church was completed. While at MHCC he taught at Francis Parker School to finance his pursuit of the Doctor of Ministry Degree awarded by the Claremont School of Theology in 1977. In 1978 Joe assumed the position of Senior Pastor of the Auburn Congregational Church in Auburn, California, through 1989. He then took an Associate position with Chula Vista Community Church for two years followed by interim pastoral positions with the Chinese Community Church and Pioneer-Oceanview UCC. Joe was a pastor of his people. He was described as an effective preacher and " . . . his theology as something quite alive, exhilarating and thought provoking." He was keenly aware of racial issues during his time in Missouri and that was a factor in his decision to move to California. In 1965, while in Hayward, he joined the local rabbi and they traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby congressional members on the injustices of race and they then traveled to Alabama where they joined the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. march from Selma to Montgomery. He was active and inspirational. As a youth leader he led youth camps in Missouri and in California, he coordinated and led camping trips for youth and adults in the Sierras. He was ecumenical and made friends with local clergy and had pulpit exchanges with a rabbi in Hayward and the priest at St. Vincent Catholic Church in San Diego. He introduced his children to the National Parks in the west with month-long camping trips for his summer vacation. He rarely took a sabbatical. His wife, Eddie, died in 2001 and after his retirement from active ministry he met a church member at MHCC, Judith (Sawyer) Wardwell, and they were married Oct 1, 2005, in the church where she grew up in Castine, Maine. Joe and Judith would make annual summer trips to the family farm in Maine where Joe became an associate member of the Trinitarian Congregational Church and for seven years a participant of the ecumenical services held on Memorial Day on the Town Common. They enjoyed the experience of travel early in their marriage to Alaska, Costa Rica and Japan on Cruise West voyages and to Germany and Turkey as part of UCLA travel. Rev. Sandven was predeceased by an infant son, his wife, Eddie, his sister, Frances, and his brothers Semon and Frederick. He is survived by his wife, Judith, his children Ruth Sandven (Neal Schneider), Taylor (Kenneth) Powers, Joseph (Helen) Sandven and Margaret (David) Luce and four grandchildren: Ian (Sean Curran) Schneider, Caitlin (Daniel) Woodruff, Corie Schneider and Haley Luce. He is also survived by three stepsons: Brian (Sonya), Arthur (Lorna) and Scott (Lynn) Wardwell and six grandchildren: Taylor, Samuel, Kirra, Spencer, Tristan and Juliana Wardwell. There are no services planned at this time. If you wish to honor Rev. Sandven, a donation to the Mission Hills UCC Memorial Fund would be appreciated.
Published in San Diego Union-Tribune on Oct. 18, 2020.