Brooklyn Heights

Rev. F. Goldthwaite Sherrill, 87, was impassioned pastor who worked for Civil Rights, justice

July 28, 2015 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Rev. Goldy Sherrill, at right, is pictured with parishioners Marilyn Grant and Vernon Vig. Eagle file photo by Francesca Norsen Tate
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The Rev. Franklin Goldthwaite Sherrill II, rector emeritus of Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights died on Sunday. He was 87 years old and was a resident of Moultonborough, N.H.

Sherrill’s death was announced to the Brooklyn community in a special notice from the current rector, the Rev. Stephen D. Muncie, on Sunday evening.

Fondly known to this community as Goldy, Sherrill was the 12th rector of Grace Church, leading the parish from 1967-93. He was the son of Barbara Harris Sherrill and Henry Knox Sherrill. His father was an Episcopal clergyman who became presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Henry Knox Sherrill was also a Brooklyn native and Polytechnic University graduate.

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Goldy Sherrill was a graduate of Milton Academy, Yale University and the Episcopal Theological Seminary.  Like his father, he was an ordained Episcopal clergyman and served parishes in Dickinson, North Dakota and Ipswich, Massachusetts before coming to Grace Church.  After retiring, he held interim ministries in Hanover, Portsmouth, Rochester, East Concord, Meredith and Ashland, N.H.  

Sherrill, however, did not rest on his family’s legacy, but created his own ministry. Indeed, “his life’s work was one of significant personal and spirited presence influenced by faith and great pastoral concerns for so many persons both in and outside the church,” according to an announcement provided by the Sherrill family. “Ready to live into the importance of any moment, a very significant time for him was joining the fifty mile walk from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.  Soon after, he arranged for a bus load of young people from Selma and one from Roxbury to spend time in Ipswich to continue the conversation and work for integration and justice for all,” read the statement.

During his 26 years as rector of Grace Church, Sherrill gained a beloved reputation for his pastoral compassion and his outreach to the wider community. He was a director of the Brooklyn Chapter of American Red Cross Disaster Volunteers, trustee and president of the Navy Yard Boys and Girls Club in Brooklyn, trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a member of the Community Council for Medgar Evers College, and chairman of the board for the Interfaith Medical Center. He worked for fair and affordable housing and helped establish and build the Nehemiah Project in East New York.  

Sherrill and Sally Larson, a neighborhood lay leader, founded the Heights & Hill Community Council in the early 1970s, according to the agency’s executive director, Judy Willig. Serving the needs of elderly persons in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill, the agency has since expanded to include the contiguous neighborhoods Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill, and is now called Heights & Hills. Sherrill also established the annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner for Seniors at Grace Church, in conjunction with Heights & Hill. This beloved tradition gives seniors — especially those living alone — a family for the holiday.

After his retirement in 1993, Sherrill and his family moved to New Hampshire, where they continued to stay in close touch with many longtime parishioners.

He was predeceased by his older brother Henry Williams Sherrill, and is survived by his brother Edmund Knox Sherrill of Rio de Janeiro, his sister Barbara Prue Wilson of Asheville, N.H., wife Mary, daughter Ann (Peter), son Edmund (Lizette) and daughter Sarah, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service to celebrate his life and ministry will be held at St. Mark’s Church, 18 Highland St. in Ashland, N.H. on Friday, August 7 at 2 pm. A number of Grace Church parishioners will be attending.

Another memorial service, a simple Evening Prayer liturgy that Sherrill loved so much, will take place at Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights in early autumn.

Memorial donation information was still being arranged as of press time.

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