John M. Wilbur Jr.


John Milnor Wilbur Jr. of Vineyard Haven died on September 25, at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was 85.

The Rev. Dr. John M. Wilbur Jr. was the former pastor of the First Baptist Churches in Beverly, Massachusetts and East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Other professional endeavors included a professorship at Harvard Divinity School and pumping gas/delivering mail for Packer Fuel.

John was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He spent many years in New England and cruising the Intracoastal Waterway with his wife, Jane. They most recently have lived in Vineyard Haven.

Dr. Wilbur commented many times that he had lived a magical life. He spent his early years in the Mid-Atlantic States, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. On one of those early trips to Charleston, South Carolina he met Jane Miller Anderson whom he later married. They migrated north to New England, where John entered Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre. While in school he served as the assistant pastor for the First Baptist Church of Newton Centre, and they had their first two children.

After completing seminary, John received a call to the First Baptist Church in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, where they lived for five years and made many lifelong friendships. The next step in John and Jane’s journey was to Beverly, where John took the helm of the First Baptist Church in Beverly, the Church with the Harborlight.

John’s creative accomplishments throughout New England centered around service to youth, providing housing for the elderly, mentoring young ministers, and personal counseling. Through these endeavors and his unusual gifts of preaching, John Milnor Wilbur touched many, many lives.

His wife, Jane Anderson Wilbur, four grown children, and six grandchildren, survive John. A celebratory memorial service will be held on Martha’s Vineyard in June, 2012.

John loved his large and exuberant family. His five children have lived all over the world, and his six grandchildren brought great joy to him, even in the last few months of his life. John’s children include Cynthia Wilbur Thomas and her husband, John Mitchell Thomas, of Grand Junction, Colorado; John Milnor Wilbur 3rd and his wife, Beth Saint-Amour, of Vineyard Haven; Heyward Brent Wilbur; Dean Gordon Wilbur and his wife, Cricket Corwin Wilbur, of Ipswich; and Ann Wilbur King and her husband, Stephen Darst King, of Saratoga, California. Heyward Brent predeceased John.

His six grandchildren are: Kelly Jane Wilbur of Boston; Nicholas Brent Wilbur of West Tisbury; Samuel Gordon Wilbur of Boulder, Colorado; and Stephen Darst King Jr., Caroline Bissell King, and Emily Marion King of Saratoga, California.

In their retirement years, John and Jane’s charmed life continued as John pursued a dream and bought a beautiful Grand Banks trawler, Dixie W VI, and off they went. They cruised the East Coast and the Intracoastal Waterway for more than 10 years, making and sharing many beautiful memories and friendships. Most recently, John and Jane lived at Downaway, their house on the shores of Lagoon Pond in Vineyard Haven, which John spearheaded the purchase of many years ago. John was able to return to Downaway in the last few weeks of his life.

Memorial contributions may be made to one of the following organizations: Christian Youth Conference of Ocean Park, Maine, C/O Bob Jope, CYC Dean, 16 Lindsey Street, New Bedford, MA 02740; Grace Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 1197, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568; or First Baptist Church, 221 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA 01915.