Angel for justice remembered at General Synod
An activist of the United Church of Christ, a crusader for those suffering from discrimination and injustice, a mentor to many and a woman known for her quiet way of leading talk into action was remembered at General Synod. Eleonore Russak Powell passed away on June 29 in Claremont, Calif. She was 98.
Powell was known for her humor, wisdom, love of conversation, and dedication to the rights of women, civil rights, and LGBT rights long before these issues of social justice and human rights were part of the nation’s social, religious and political landscape.
The General Synod of the UCC, which was meeting in Cleveland on the day she died, broke from business briefly to remember her life in prayer.
“Eleonore and [her husband] Oliver Powell were giants in the church for justice. They have been long, long, longtime advocates for all people. We have lost this angel,” said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, an officer of the church, in announcing Powell’s passing to the delegation before offering a prayer.
“[Powell’s daughter] Loey was able to be with her mom,” Jaramillo said. “Loey’s message is that she went peacefully, and we thank God for that peaceful transition. We know that God is accompanying Eleonore into her next journey to meet her beloved Oliver, alongside the angels and the saints.”
Born in New York City, where she attended Hunter College, Powell was active in the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, N.Y. where she met future husband Oliver Powell. They married in 1937 and lived at Union Theological Seminary where Oliver earned his M.Div. Eleonore returned to college to earn her B.S. at Rosary College in Illinois in 1964 (now Dominican University) and became a certified dietician. She worked in that field professionally, primarily as head dietician in several hospitals.
Oliver served as a minister of UCC churches in Illinois and Massachusetts and retired from the Massachusetts Conference, UCC, after which they moved to Cape Cod.
As a couple, Eleonore and Oliver Powell had a profound influence on the denomination both as individuals and together, especially in the last four decades of their support of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the life, leadership and ministry of the church. They founded the UCC’s Parents of Lesbians and Gays and counseled many parents struggling with the sexual orientation of their children, and were very active in PFLAG and the UCC Open and Affirming Coalition. Eleonore also co-founded Another Voice at Claremont UCC in Claremont, Calif., a support and educational group to encourage LGBT and straight allies in that church.
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