The Reverend Cornelius deWitt Hastie, Episcopal priest of the Diocese of Massachusetts died June 15 of a massive heart attack while playing bridge at Temple Reyim in Newton. He was 85.

Neal was born the fifth of six children on Jan. 22, 1931 in Spring Lake, N.J. to Col. Frank Hastie and Cecile Amelie (deWitt) Hastie. He received a four year scholarship to attend Exeter, where he graduated magna cum laude, the youngest member of Phillips Exeter Academy Class of ‘48, after a postgraduate year. With a four-year Pepsi Cola scholarship he received his A.B. degree cum laude from Harvard College in 1952 and a M.Div from the Episcopal Theological School in 1956. As Graduate Secretary of Phillips Brooks House he supervised extensive student volunteer activities and kept the house an oasis of hospitality, social services and religious meetings to fulfill Bishop Brooks’ vision. It was here Neal began to understand and act on his calling to a ministry of empowerment to the under-served, the poor, the imprisoned, the disabled, the aging — God’s people in the world.

As a seminarian he served at Roxbury’s St. Johns Church. After ordination its sister church St. James called him as Rector. Many years later Father Hastie was recalled to the combined congregation of St. John St. James Church. He served over 20 years as Protestant chaplain at the Suffolk County House of Correction, and part-time in Charlestown. Through the interim years he listened and responded to the needs of concerned parents in his Roxbury neighborhood who wanted before and afterschool programs for their growing children. He was the founding director of the St. James Educational Center, with many programs morphing into a Headstart Center serving thousands of children and families over three decades. His former wife, Elizabeth Lacy, a talented social worker, and Pauline Phelps, a dedicated teacher of parent teachers, were each instrumental to the early development of these classroom programs.

“Father Hastie” to Roxbury and Dorchester families; “Mr. Hastie” in his ecumenical Charlestown ministry; “Curmudgeon” to those facing his “gruff love”; “Colleague” and “Friend” when standing forthright for women, civil rights/gender equality issues; and, “Grandpa Neal, Dad, and Neal” from his family. He was an icon of indefatigable energy supplemented by a spirit-filled compassion for empowering people.

In 1981 he married Linda Chase Marvin and together they had 35 years of shared family values, faith, travels, ministry and humor. When they parted for a significant time the exhortation “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” was exchanged. Within those profound words were the days and nights of their extraordinary life together.

Rev. Hastie returned to Exeter with his family in 1996 to receive the John Phillips Award, the highest recognition the Academy bestows. He was selected by ABCD to be the sole Boston representative at the 1990 White House 25th anniversary of Headstart. His professional satisfaction came, however, when he heard from those now successfully grown, educated and working in the world: the youth his ministry touched “back in the day”.

A storyteller by nature, he either regaled or bored his many listeners. Stories of the golden age of teenage cross country hitchhiking, Seth’s Pond, salmon fishing on the ARB12 boat in the Northwest, rock climbing, wrestling, overseeing teenage dances for 300 youth, gang interventions, inmate concerns, carpentry with John, travels with George, anti-war vigils, the Selma March ...

When Neal was preparing to retire from 39 years directing the St. James Educational Center, his son John left a satisfying position on Martha’s Vineyard to work unstintingly at the center to assist in his father’s transition. Father Hastie, however, was not a retiring type. He began a volunteer nursing home ministry bringing weekly communion to residents and staff among four major institutions within walking distance of his Jamaica Plain home. He was fierce in challenging his retired colleagues to do likewise in their communities. The aged, the sick, the infirm became his retirement congregation. During these later years he and Linda enjoyed many travels together, as well as literature and bridge. He had an insatiable appetite for learning.

Neal will be missed by his beloved sons John and George (formerly Beth), his daughter in law Bettina, grandson Caliban, and brother Clement Hastie of Westchester, N.Y. as well as a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.

Condolences and memories of Neal can be shared at or These remembrances will be gathered in a book to present to his (now) 11-year-old year grandson when he matures and wants to know more about Grandpa Neal.

A memorial service was held Thursday, June 30 at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul’s in Boston. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to the B-SAFE Summer Youth Programs, c/o St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 419 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA 02118 or to the general fund of St. John St. James Episcopal Church, 149 Roxbury Street, Roxbury, MA 02119.