Rosemary Hensley-Weir M.Div., 1987
June 25, 2009
Local pastor and community activist Rosemary Hensley-Weir passed into her Savior’s arms on Thursday, June 25, 2009 at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, surrounded by family and friends. Rosemary had battled metastatic breast cancer for several years, but her recent health decline came unexpectedly fast. A memorial service was held Sunday, July 5, 2009, at First Baptist Church, 260 Mill Street, Poughkeepsie.
Rosemary would want first to be remembered as Mom to her two sons, James, 15, and Michael, 14. She was also spiritual mom to friends, family and a global village. Blessed with seemingly boundless vitality and energy, she crammed into each day enough love and adventure to exhaust those who journeyed with her.
Rosemary served during the last 17 years in many roles in the Hudson Valley area - interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Poughkeepsie and at the United Church of Christ in Stanfordville, Chaplain at Vassar College, Adjunct Professor at Marist College, Pastoral Counselor at Foundation of Religion and Mental Health, board member of the Vassar Warner Home in Poughkeepsie and member of American Association of University Women. Since 1997, “Chaplain Rosemary” has been the half time Protestant Departmental Chaplain at the Beacon Correctional Facility (BCF) for Women in Fishkill. Since 2006, she simultaneously served as the half time chaplain at the Fishkill Correctional Facility for Men.
In the corrections system, Chaplain Rosemary had a particular heart for family issues, supporting inmates’ relationships on the outside. She began the “Mom and Me” program at BCF, bringing children to visit their mothers. She started the Christian Women’s Library at the facility. She brought to the system the Kairos Prison Ministry program, which brings church groups to the facility twice a year to hold spiritual retreats for inmates. She also facilitated the Hour Children organizations’ efforts to provide women monthly phone calls to their children, and a group home to stay with their children upon discharge.
Rosemary grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, graduating from Westport High School. She attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, graduating in 1970. After college, Rosemary traveled extensively, working in London and Munich before signing on as a Flight Attendant with Pan American Airways. She flew out of New York and for a time Hawaii, with regular routes to Europe, South America and Asia. In her off time, her spirit of adventure took her on African safaris, trips with her mother to Israel and other locations, and a yearlong round-the-world jaunt with a friend. She studied at a Costa Rican seminary and made friends around the globe. When living in the DC area, she was part of the Church of the Savior community and Sojourners.
Rosemary received her Masters of Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University in Baltimore and her Master of Divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1987. She was ordained into the American Baptist Church in 1992 while serving at the Second Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island. Rosemary and her husband, a United Church of Christ pastor, came to Poughkeepsie in 1992.
Rosemary is survived by her sons, Michael Kessler Hensley Weir and James Hensley Weir, by her mother Jessie Maxine Hensley, 89, of The Pines in Poughkeepsie, by her former husband Todd Weir, and by cousins and friends throughout the country and around the world.
Interment of ashes will be at a later date. Donations in her memory may be made in her name to the Kairos Prison Ministry, 230 Wilcox Street, Wilson, NY 14172; Hour Children, 3611A Twelfth Street, Long Island City, NY 11106; or any of the numerous charities she supported.
(Submitted by Carol Mitchell, Sherborn, MA.)