The Reverend Clarence Buchanan (1946-1953)
While the Rev. Clarence Buchanan was rector of St. Paul's Church in Pleasant Valley, NY, he was asked by the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Washburn, Bishop of Newark, if he would be interested in being the parish priest In Hackettstown, NJ. Fr. Buchanan accepted the call to what was to be the last parish in his ministry. He died in office returning from a parish call in Schooley's Mountain in 1953. It was a sudden death due to a massive heart attack.
Fr. Buchanan began his ministry in St. James, Hackettstown on August 24, 1949; his ministry was one which, upon reflection, emphasized the pastoral office. No building was done during the years Fr. Buchanan was at St. James but he was pastor to the Episcopalians not only in the Hackettstown area but Mt. Arlington and Stanhope as well. This priest possessed a special love of people -- especially older people -- and his empathy for and service to those in need was a singular part of his ministry. He had an arrangement with the Burger's Diner (which is now a Chinese Restaurant) on Main Street to feed hungry people. Since this was during the days before such things as a Vicar's Discretionary Fund, Fr. Buchanan paid the bills out of his own pocket. Mrs. Buchanan informs us that there was a policeman in the center of town who would obligingly direct needy people to the Episcopal Church.
One day, a dilapidated stationwagon carrying a man, his wife and five children appeared at the church. They had no money and they were hungry. As usual, Fr. Buchanan arranged to feed them. Because they had no place to go, Fr. Buchanan called Mayor Pickel (a member of St. James' Executive Committee) for his agreement with the decision to house these people in the Parish House of the church. Mayor Pickel agreed that this could be done. The couple and their five children were fed and sheltered for a week. During that week, Fr. Buchanan asked his wife to buy all five children sneakers and 2 pairs of socks at his expense.
With Fr. and Mrs. Buchanan in the rectory were their two daughters, Patricia and Jean. Their home life was very happy and Mrs. Buchanan was an enthusiastic helpmate to her husband. She also loved people and was fully in agreement with her husband's generosity, even though it often meant denial to her and the family.
Mrs. Buchanan's recall of her husband's vestry was that St. James' was one of the finest of his whole ministry. It was well organized, enthusiastic and thought highly of its parish priest. One person who stands out in Mrs. Buchanan's memory as a stalwart supporter of and friend to her late husband was Reginald Hart.
In those days, St. James' parish was active in its ministry to the community. The Hackettstown Rescue Squad held its organizational meeting In St. James parish house and, for a time, went out from the parish house into the community on its many calls. Since then, the Rescue Squad has built its own headquarters and, in appreciation for Fr. Buchanan's assistance in getting their organization "going" in Hackettstown, they gave Fr. Buchanan a plaque which his widow still treasures with pride.
The last day of Fr. Buchanan's life was spent as he would want to have it spent -- doing his pastoral work in the parish. He and Mrs. Buchanan were visiting in Schooley's Mountain. Their hostess gave them some vegetables from her garden as they left to return home to the rectory in Hackettstown driving home, Fr. Buchanan said to his wife, "we'll have a vegetable dinner tonight with all these fresh vegetables." Mrs. Buchanan was driving the car down Schooley's Mountain road when, suddenly, her husband said to her, "I love you," and slumped down over her in what Mrs. Buchanan thought was a faint. The car landed in the ditch with Fr. Buchanan leaning over his wife. Extricating herself from the car, Mrs. Buchanan was able to flag down a truck. The Rescue Squad was called and responded immediately, but it was too late. Fr. Buchanan had died of a massive heart attack.
The night before the funeral in St. James', the casket was taken into the church and members of St. James' Vestry kept an all-night vigil, taking turns reading scripture through the night. The next morning, the number of people who arrived at the church to attend the funeral was so large that many could not get in and had to stand outside on the sidewalk on Washington Street. It was a tremendous tribute to a well-beloved priest and pastor.
In view of the paucity of pension supplied by the Church for widows of priests, Mrs. Buchanan was obliged to go to work to support herself following the untimely death of her husband. She secured a position (having left the Hackettstown area) taking care of a lady in Morristown. Then, through the good graces of Bishop Washburn, she was appointed to a position at the House of the Holy Comforter in West Orange, where she stayed for several years. Mrs. Buchanan, now legally blind, is living in a housing complex (The Village Green) in Orange, NJ. Her daughter, Patricia, is married to a Hackettstown man, Ronald Walsh. They are living In Pittsburgh where Patricia is an instructor at Allegheny College. Her daughter, Jean, now Mrs. Squires, lives In New York City.
We are indebted to Mrs. Buchanan for these few but important details of Fr. Buchanan's years as vicar In St. James.
Acknowledgments The Ven. Sydney E. Grant The Rev. Arthur Wing III