The Rev. William H. Cohea Jr.
The Rev. William H. Cohea Jr. of Bangor, Pa., died peacefully at his home, Casa Colum, on Monday, June 18, 2018. He was 91. A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Bill was the son of Lillian Amanda and William H. Cohea Sr., and brother of Lucille A. Mikesell.
Bill was a Presbyterian minister and human-rights activist who, in later years, founded Columcille Megalith Park, the 17-acre Celtic-inspired outdoor sanctuary that rests in the shadow of Blue Mountain outside Bangor, Pa.
He served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a pharmacist's mate, completing his tour at Great Lakes Naval Hospital after the conflict. Bill attended Coe College, Northwestern University and Princeton Seminary on the GI Bill, earning a Master of Divinity. He was ordained in 1954 by the Rev. Keith Irwin of Olivet Presbyterian Church and the Rev. Dr. Samuel Moor Shoemaker of New York City at Olivet Church in Cedar Rapids. The first church he was called to pastor was Daniels Park Presbyterian Church.
Later, he was called to Pittsburgh, Pa., where he became the first director of the Pittsburgh Experiment, a Christian non-denominational ministry providing spiritual resources to business, professional and working people.
Accompanying him on this journey was his wife, Mary Wimberley, whom he married in 1954. They would eventually have four children together.
In 1960, Bill Cohea moved to Illinois, where he became pastor of Winnetka Presbyterian in a northern suburb of Chicago. As in Pittsburgh, Bill prioritized social ministry and founded the Chicago Business Industrial Project. The goal was to enlist corporate executives in understanding and responding to the needs of inner-city neighborhoods.
When this project ended in 1972, Bill became pastor of Lakeview Presbyterian Church near Wrigley Field in Chicago, where he founded Lakeview Academy, an alternative high school for disadvantaged students. When it closed in 2015, Lakeview Academy was the longest-running school of its kind in the city.
Bill relocated to New York City in 1974 to work as United Nations and White House correspondent for IDOC International and Inter Press Service, serving both entities as a voice for the concerns of Third World countries.
In 1975, Bill purchased a house and 20 acres from the Kirkridge Retreat Center in northeast Pennsylvania and relocated there. In 1977, while visiting the island of Iona off the southwestern coast of Scotland, Bill had a vision in kindred spirit with the ancient energies of this place, which had been a beacon of culture, faith and hope for millennia. That experience was Bill's inspiration for the unfolding of Columcille Megalith Park near the Delaware Water Gap. The unique spirit and inspiration of Columcille has been recognized by the National Museum of Art at the Smithsonian Institution, which includes it in its catalog of cultural heritage sites.
In 1997, the park's 17 acres were placed under easement with the Heritage Conservancy and, in 2000, Bill and Columcille co-founder, Fred Lindkvist, deeded the park to the Company of Columcille, Inc.
Bill is survived by his beloved sister, Lucille Mikesell; three children, William Cohea III, David Cohea and Molly Tims; grandchildren, Kathy Tims, Mary Beth Tims and Sarah Tims; and his niece, Lillie Mikesell.
He was predeceased by his partner, Fred Lindkvist; son, Timm Cohea; and nephew, John David Mikesell.
Bill's ashes will be placed, as he designated, in a private family ceremony. The greater Columcille community will be invited to celebrate Bill's life in October 2018, on a date to be posted for all.
Memorial contributions in Bill's name may be made to Columcille, Inc., 2155 Fox Gap Rd., Bangor, PA 18013.