John D. Alfriend
MIDLOTHIAN, VA – The Rev. John Daingerfield Alfriend, an Episcopal priest and community advocate who presided over numerous parishes in Virginia and West Virginia for over 53 years, died at his home on May 22, 2018.
He was 91. Born in Weston, and raised in Charles Town, he was the son of John Shadrach Alfriend, Jr. and Eliza Harrison Alfriend.
Following his high school graduation in 1945, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After the war, he enrolled in Hampden Sydney College, where he was an active member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950. He accepted a management position with Colonial Stores, Inc., then one of the nation’s largest grocery chains, which took him to its national headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.
Mr. Alfriend entered Virginia Theological Seminary in 1956. As a student, he was offered the position of lay minister at St. James and Christ Churches in Boydton, Virginia and St. Timothy’s in Clarksville, Virginia. He graduated from VTS with a Master in Divinity degree in 1959, accepting the position of rector at St. James. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1960. In 1963, Mr. Alfriend was one of only 25 Episcopal clergymen in the U.S. invited to attend a prestigious summer session at St. Augustine’s in Canterbury, Kent, England (the central college of the Anglican Communion).
In 1964, he was called to fill the position of rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown, Virginia. Among other objectives, Mr. Alfriend made it a priority to embrace the young people of the parish and community.
He was a proud principal of the church’s non-denominational kindergarten, organized the first Grace Church Boys’ Choir (inspired by his time in England) and revitalized the parish youth group. Mr. Alfriend was honored to join clergy colleagues on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia in the planning, fundraising and installation of a spiritual sanctuary and summer camp in Surry County, Virginia, now a thriving retreat, Chanco on the James. Another focus of Mr. Alfriend’s ministry was his compassion for the elderly. During a Sabbatical, he received a grant to complete coursework at Fordham University in NYC, earning an Executive Education Certificate in Advanced Studies on Aging and Gerontology. He later sat on the Board of Directors of the National Council on Aging.
In 1984, he accepted the position of rector at The Church of the Epiphany in Norfolk. His concern for homebound parishioners led him to seek assistance from church and municipal leaders to form an outreach program known as the Norfolk Interfaith Coalition for the Elderly.
Mr. Alfriend returned to Charles Town in 1988; responding to an invitation to serve as interim priest at his childhood parish, Zion Episcopal Church, a position once held by his grandfather. Always a champion of human rights, he continued to reside on numerous faith-based and civic boards to foster aid for the socially disadvantaged or ease interracial tensions among residents in Jefferson County. In 1990, He was instrumental in the creation of FOCUS, a social services group formed to combat drug abuse in the community. He was elected Board President in 1995. In 2003, Mr. Alfriend applied for and was awarded a $750,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic; an endeavor conceived to address the lack of healthcare available for the poor and underserved in five West Virginia counties. In 1998, Mr. Alfriend accepted the request of the Bishop to become Priest-In-Charge of the newly formed Nelson Cluster of Churches, often traveling up to 50 miles each Sunday to hold services for small parishes scattered throughout the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.
Following the dissolution of the Cluster, he was called to St. Paul’s Church in Sharpsburg, Maryland, where he was rector for eight years until his retirement in 2010.
Never one to stay away from the work he loved, he joined the staff at Trinity Church in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, assisting with various pastoral duties. In 2015, Mr. Alfriend and his wife relocated to Richmond, Virginia.
He preached his last sermon at the age of 89 as a guest minister at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Mr. Alfriend was a man of unwavering faith, and his door was always open.
The eternal optimist, he will be remembered for his quick wit, bright spirit and sage counsel.
In addition to his beloved wife of 44 years, Nancy deNeufville Alfriend, survivors include six children and their spouses: Emily Alfriend Wilson (Mark); Robert Amory Clark; Margaret Alfriend Rudesheim (Fred); Nanette Clark Johnson (Kevin); Lucy Alfriend Thacker (Lynn); and Sarah Alfriend Kmetz (Walter); 11 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and two sisters, Genevieve “Jenny” Alfriend Bryan (James), of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, and Gertrude “Lyn” Alfriend Kimbrough, of Denver, Colorado; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Special gratitude is extended to adopted family members Sharon Stepp, Trina Haas and Debbie Flynn, who have provided dedicated and compassionate in-home care for Mr. and Mrs. Alfriend. A celebration of Holy Eucharist was scheduled to be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown at 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 31, followed by a graveside service and a reception in the church parish hall.
Expressions of condolences are welcomed as contributions to the National Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Foundation.
Amory Funeral Home, of Yorktown, Virginia. is handling all funeral arrangements.