Rev. Christopher R. Sherrill

Tue, 04/11/2023 - 7:45am

The Reverend Christopher Ralph Sherrill died Monday, April 10, 2023 at Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, as the result of a brain injury caused by a fall. He was 88.

Known to all as Kit, Christopher was born in Warm Springs, Georgia on Jan. 11, 1935 to Edith Emily Mildred King Sherrill and Ralph Lumpkin Sherrill. When Edith died suddenly of pneumonia in 1937. Ralph honored her request that her children, Kit and his 4-year-old brother, Charles, be sent to London to live with her family. Two years later, with war raging, the English family decided the boys would be safer with their paternal family on their farm in north Georgia. They arranged for children to travel by ship to New York City and then by train to Atlanta, before being transported to the farm. The boys remained there until Christmas of 1940 when they rejoined Ralph and his new wife, Toni Boylin Sherrill, in Chippewa Township, outside Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Toni lovingly raised the boys as her own. She and Ralph, and later Kit and Charles, stayed in touch with Edith’s family in England for the rest of their lives.

After high school, during which Kit starred in plays and led student government, a local Episcopal priest helped him get a scholarship to Princeton University. In his sophomore year, he left Princeton and went home to Beaver Falls, where he met Helen Leigh Davidson, known as Leigh, through their church youth group. He had volunteered for the draft into the Navy, and served for two years in Asia and the Pacific on an oil tanker—writing regularly to Leigh—then returned to finish his undergraduate degree at Geneva College in Beaver Falls. Kit and Leigh were married on August 13, 1960, the day after his graduation, and spent their honeymoon at Kit’s step-grandmother’s cottage on Southport Island.

Kit wanted to go to seminary, but the Episcopal Bishop required him to test his vocation by working in the business world, so Kit found a job at the Hartford Fire Insurance Company as a special agent. However, he still felt called to the priesthood, so he, Leigh, and their baby daughter moved into a dorm at Yale Divinity School in September of 1962. Thus began Kit’s formal pursuit of study, activism, and pastoral care as an Episcopal priest, which took him and his family from Pittsburgh, to Missouri, to Connecticut, to Washington, D.C., and finally to Trinity Church, Princeton. In addition to leading congregations, Kit served on the board of Medical Education for South African Blacks during apartheid, on the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Washington, and was three times a candidate for Bishop.

In June 1967, Kit preached his first Sunday service at All Saints by-the-Sea on Southport. His subsequent 50+ years of service to the summer chapel were a defining element of his life and those of Leigh and their children. After he retired in 2001, he and Leigh moved permanently to the Southport home they had lovingly planned. Retirement brought the joy of being settled among good friends, sailing along the Maine coast, exploring the beauty of the world through travel, and the opportunity for Kit to return to the theater in leading roles at the Boothbay Playhouse. He also worked with other clergy to found Boothbay’s Community Resource Council, with Steve Baseman to found the Free Clothing Closets, and served for several years as a moderator at the Southport Annual Meeting, in addition to other civic endeavors. In 2001, Kit led the first Christmas Eve service at All Saints by-the-Sea, a cherished tradition that continued until COVID forced it to be held virtually. His keen intelligence, oratorical skills, warmth, and sense of humor made him in great demand as an officiant at weddings, baptisms, and funerals until recently, when the effects of his Parkinson’s disease made him unable to do so. In other areas, however, Kit didn’t let his condition slow him down; he continued to cook and bake (including bread kneaded by hand), and make his annual batch of mincemeat, which was a welcome holiday gift for a loyal coterie of fans. His oft-repeated mantra was “keep on keeping on.”

Above all, Kit will be remembered for the simple phrase he lived by: God is Love. Staunchly ecumenical, he believed that all people are God’s people, not just the members of one church or faith. During his time in hospice care, he was heard praying out loud, repeating the phrase “reach out to others in love.” He followed this creed throughout his life, advocating tirelessly against racism, prejudice, poverty, and social injustice.

His mother, his father, his stepmother, and his brother preceded Kit in death. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Leigh; his children Susan Sherrill Axelrod and partner Jeffrey Leyden of Woolwich, Maine, Christopher Howard Sherrill and husband Michael Hutto of Bergenfield, New Jersey, and Charles Andrew Sherrill and wife Ingrid Mjelstad Sherrill of Nobleboro, Maine; grandchildren Madeline Sherrill, Peter Rosasco, Vlade Sherrill, and William Sherrill; sisters-in-law Margaret Bonesteel and Rachael Sherrill; and many adoring nieces, nephews and cousins. Kit’s family is especially grateful for the love and support they received from numerous family members and friends over the last few months, and for the exceptional care provided by the staff of Miles Memorial Hospital.

The Rt. Rev. Thomas Brown, Bishop of Maine, will officiate at a memorial service at All Saints by-the-Sea on Saturday, Aug. 12 at 11 a.m. Kit will also be remembered at the 10 a.m. service at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Boothbay Harbor on Sunday, April 23.

Arrangements are by Halls of Boothbay. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift in Kit’s name to St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, All Saints by-the-Sea, or the Community Resource Council.