A Tribute to Chaplain Sturdy

by Phil Johnson and Ralph Sturdy

C. Cassius Sturdy

July 22, 1908 to November 19, 2000

C. Cassius (Cash) Sturdy, Covenant Pastor and Military Chaplain, was one of a great generation of Covenant pietists. A person of the Word and of prayer in the best sense, he had an open and inquiring mind.

Cassius’ family was one of the founding families of the Covenant Church in Stephenson, Michigan. His father was a farmer, logger, cheese maker, and dairyman. Cassius, like many young lads of his era, dropped out of school after the eighth grade to help supplement the family income.

He found a job as a printer in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loved the work but was allergic to ink. At age 17, he began working for the Northern Pacific Railroad. At 19 (1927), he responded to a call to pastoral ministry and enrolled at North Park Academy in Chicago. He continued his education at North Park College and Theological Seminary and worked on the elevated railway to support himself.

During the summer of 1933, he pastored the Covenant church in Northport, Michigan where he met Allegra Rogers. Their summer romance led to a 50-year marriage. Cash and Allegra had three children: Shelley, Ralph, and Roger. Allegra died in 1984. In January of 1986, Cassius married Irene Anderson, and they were faithful companions to the end.

A few vignettes give a glimpse of this fine pastor and person.

He was fond of saying: "When I was 17 working on the Railroad, I made $90 a month. Then, I went to work in Chicago on the elevated and made $75 a month. It took me eight years of high school, college, and seminary before I began making $50 a month."

In 1943, Cassius became an Army Chaplain: "Not because I believed in war, but because our men and women needed spiritual guidance. If they had to go, so did I." He returned to Civilian ministry in 1946.

After the war, men and women who had served their country in uniform were great heroes; conscientious objectors were in disfavor. Though Cassius was not a person to make waves&Mac226; he stood up at the 1947 Covenant Annual Meeting and made a resolution to thank the men and women who for the sake of their conscience had refused Military Service.

Sturdy was called back to military Chaplaincy in 1951 and remained an Air Force Chaplain until he retired in 1969. He served as Dean of Students at the University of Maine in Presque Isle during the Vietnam War. Because Cassius was the one member of the faculty who had the trust of both students and faculty, the University President frequently called on him to meet with the students. During two years of his time as Dean of Students, he served the Covenant Church in New Sweden, Maine without pay. He did this with the understanding that the church would set aside money to enable them to call a full-time pastor.

Cassius Sturdy was a deeply generous and hospitable person; generosity was his main theme and principle joy. The Sturdy home was a place of hospitality, open to service men of every ethnic or racial background well before the civil rights movement. Countless service men spent weekends and holidays in their home.

When Sturdy retired, he was Pastor of the Interdenominational Chapel at Gwamus Island, Washington. His son Ralph asked him if he was going to miss the income? "The thing I will miss," he answered "is turning the check over to my church (The Covenant Church of Mount Vernon, Washington) for payment on the Christian Education House." After health required him to move to the Brandel Center, in Northbrook, Illinois, his wife Irene said: "I don’t dare tell him what it costs. He’d say, ‘You can’t do that. This is the Lord’s money you’re spending on me.’"

Not only was Cassius a man of immense generosity with his possessions, he was theologically open and non-judgmental in his personal and pastoral life. When comments involving judgments of others arose, he would say: "That’s why I’m glad that I am not God. God is in charge and God will be fair in all His dealings with His creatures." Blessings on the memory of this fine pastoral person.