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Rev. Albert Pancoast Neilson

Date of Death: February 11, 2021

Date of Birth: June 27, 1930

Biography:

Rev. Albert Pancoast Neilson

Priest, Psychotherapist and Philanthropist

Albert Pancoast Neilson, 90, died peacefully on February 11 with his family at his side in Brunswick, Maine. 

Albie was an Episcopal priest who served parishes in Ann Arbor, MI and Wilmington DE.  In addition to his work in the church, he was an activist for peace and justice; a psychotherapist; and environmentalist.  In all of his endeavors, whether celebrating the Eucharist, marching in the streets, counseling clients, or making critical financial investments in the efforts of others, he was an agent of healing and reconciliation.

Albie was born June 27, 1930 in Philadelphia, PA to Harry Rosengarten Neilson and Alberta Reath Neilson.  As a newborn, he was unable to nurse, and it was thought he might die.  A nurse was hired to care for him as best she could, and “Brow,” as she came to be called, fed him with an eye dropper till he outgrew his inability to take nourishment himself.  When his mother died unexpectedly of appendicitis in September 1938, Brow returned to the family to help raise Albie, his older brother Hank, and their infant brother Benjie.

Albie was educated at the Episcopal Academy outside Philadelphia, St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH, and Yale University, from which he graduated in 1952 with a BA in philosophy and a commission in the Navy.  Following a two-year tour of duty as a signal officer aboard the USS Wasp, he enrolled in the General Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1957.  He had a parish in Ann Arbor MI from 1957 to 1963, and after a year of further study at Pendle Hill, the Quaker retreat and study center in Wallingford, PA, he became the Assistant Rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wilmington, DE, a position he held into the 1990’s.  In the 1970’s he earned a Master of Sacred Theology degree at Union Theological Seminary and began a long period of study and training in psychotherapy at the Jung Institute. In the 1980’s he began a psychotherapy practice which he maintained till he moved from Pennsylvania to Topsham, ME in 2006 to be closer to family.

While still a junior in college, he met Julie Hopkins when they were both working at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark NJ.  They married May 2, 1954 and together they vigorously and publicly promoted civil rights and disarmament, and opposed the Vietnam War.

In 1967, Albie and five other religious leaders in Wilmington established an interfaith organization to promote the cause of peace, Delaware Pacem in Terris, which continues to operate to this day. 

In the 1980s Albie and Julie began to cultivate their artistic talent together.  Cancer cut Julie’s life short in 1997, but Albie continued to paint well into his 80s.

Albie was also an avid boater who spent his summers on Mt. Desert Island all his life. He helped revive interest in Friendship Sloops in Maine when he asked his life-long friend, Ralph Stanley of Southwest Harbor, to build him a new Friendship Sloop based on the lines of one they both knew well from their childhoods.  The glossy black hull of his Hieronymus can still be seen 60 summers later under a towering cloud of sail, turning heads wherever she sails.

In his later years, Albie became increasingly concerned with the degradation of the natural world, which he felt was an acute manifestation of spiritual neglect, and he devoted considerable effort and financial resources to supporting initiatives at St. Paul’s and Yale integrating the study and practice of religion and environmentalism.

He also supported Commonweal Cancer Help Program and funded a program to study complementary therapies in the treatment of cancer and other chronic diseases at the Yale Cancer Center in honor of his late wife Julie.

Albie was predeceased by his parents in his childhood, his brother Hank in 1994, and his wife Julie in 1997.

 He is survived by his brother Benjie and his wife Metsie of Bryn Mawr, PA; his son Will and his wife Pia of Arrowsic, ME; his son Joe and his wife Julie of Tucson, AZ; his daughter Kate and her partner, Susan Augenstein of New York City; his grandchildren Sarah Neilson of Seattle, WA; Charlotte Felix and her husband Paul of Tucson, AZ, Matt and Hanna Neilson of Seattle, WA; Thomas Neilson and his partner Becca Austin of Bowdoinham, ME; Ben Neilson of Salt Lake City, UT, and Amelia Neilson of St. Paul, MN; and great-grandchildren Joaquin and Kaila Felix of Tucson, AZ; and Ryan Neilson of Seattle, WA; plus numerous beloved friends, nieces and nephews and their children.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Commonweal Cancer Help Program (commonweal.org), Delaware Pacem in Terris (depaceminterris.org) or the Yale Forum on Religion and Environment (thomasberry.org/thomas-berry-foundation).

 

 

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