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Derstine, Former EMU Administrator, Dies

Posted on November 7th, 2005

Ervin R. Stutzman, dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary recognizes Norman Derstine for 50 years of church ministry in 2002. Ervin R. Stutzman, dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary recognizes Norman Derstine for 50 years of church ministry in 2002.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Norman H. Derstine, who devoted more than 50 years to church ministry, died Nov. 4 at Park Place, Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, at age 85.

At age 21, Derstine traveled by motorcycle from his home in Doylestown, Pa., to finish his last two years of high school at Eastern Mennonite School, graduating in 1943. He received a bachelor of theology degree from Eastern Mennonite College (now EMU), in 1946.

He went on to teach high school Bible and later was dean of high school boys and dean of men at EMU.

On May 27, 1944, he married Virginia M. Martin, who survives.

In 1951, Derstine became the program director, associate pastor and announcer for "The Mennonite Hour," a weekly radio broadcast produced by Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc. He served 10 years in that role.

Derstine was ordained to the ministry on Feb. 10, 1952 at Trissels Mennonite Church near Broadway, Va., and served there for four years. In 1962, he accepted the pastorate at Roanoke Mennonite Church, Eureka, Ill., and served there for seven years.

He then returned to the former Eastern Mennonite College to become the first director of church relations. During this time, he led two Holy Land tours and produced "Moments at EMC," a weekly 15-minute radio program aimed at connecting the college to the community.

Following an assignment 1976-78 as director of religious broadcasting in Botswana, Africa, Derstine returned to Harrisonburg and became director of seminary admissions and grantsman at the college.

Following his retirement from EMU in 1984, he served as interim pastor for congregations in Kalona, Iowa; Salem, Ore.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Lebanon, Ore.

Through the years, Derstine has written numerous articles for church publications and frequently wrote letters to the editor for many newspapers.

In 2002, Eastern Mennonite Seminary recognized Derstine for 50 years of church-related ministry.

In addition to his wife, Derstine is survived by a son, Jerry Derstine and his wife, Jan Garrett, of Snowmass, Colo.; a daughter, Jean Cubbage and her husband James Cubbage of Harrisonburg; a brother, a sister, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was held Nov. 7 at Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, with interment at the Lindale Mennonite Church cemetery.

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