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OBITUARY: Rev. Andrew George Rosenberger, 94

The Reverend Andrew George Rosenberger of Groton, and Concord, NH passed away Friday, May 31, 2013. He was 94. Rev. Rosenberger was married to Willamena "Billie" (Parks) Rosenberger, who died in 2010. He leaves four children: Wilhelmina Gustavson of Exeter, NH; Eric Rosenberger of Concord, NH; Karl Rosenberger of Groton; and Leif Rosenberger of Tampa, FL; 10 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He was the brother of the late Henry Rosenberger. Rev. Rosenberger was a descendent of Henry Rosenberger, who together with John Henry Funk, started the Pennsylvania Dutch settlement near Philadelphia, PA.

Rev. Rosenberger was born August 21, 1918 in Oak Park, Illinois, and grew up in Needham. As a boy, Rev. Rosenberger attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boys Scouts of America. He attended Needham High School and Culver Military Academy where he was a member of The Black Horse Troop, an elite group of accomplished horsemen. Rev. Rosenberger graduated from Harvard College in the class of 1941, where he was a pole vaulter on the varsity track team. Shortly after his college graduation, Rev. Rosenberger married Willamena Parks of Medford, who was First Class Marshall and President of her class at Radcliffe College. They were married at Christ Church, Cambridge. The newly-weds lived in Cambridge for three years until Rev. Rosenberger graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1944.

June 25, 1944, Rev. Rosenberger was ordained a Unitarian minister and started his ministry at First Parish Church in Northborough. On the evening of December 21, 1945, with the temperature well below zero, a huge ball of fire could be seen at the historic 1808 church, and by dawn the church had burned to the ground. Rev. Rosenberger announced that a new church would be built, and instantly became the church's chief fundraiser, cheerleader, and project manager. The cornerstone for the new church was dedicated on June 27, 1948, and when the new church was completed, it was featured in Life magazine. In 1950, having just recovered from rheumatic fever, Rev. Rosenberger and his family moved to Wellesley, where he lived for the next 33 years. During this period, Rev. Rosenberger regained his health and served as interim minister in many Unitarian parishes throughout Massachusetts including Duxbury, Groton, South Natick, Taunton, and Worcester. He also worked with his brother Henry at Nature Food Centres, a national health food retail and mail-order business, and founded Woodfield Farms, a natural snack food business. In 1965 Rev. Rosenberger became minister of the First Parish Church in Groton, where he served until he retired in 1979.

Rev. Rosenberger was active in a variety of civic causes throughout his life. In 1949 Rev. Rosenberger began serving on the Board of Trustees of the Protestant Guild for the Blind, which was founded in 1946 by the Massachusetts Council of Churches to serve children at Perkins School for the Blind and other visually handicapped and blind men and women confined to their own homes and in nursing homes. Rev. Rosenberger served as Board Chair for more than 50 years, greatly expanding the Guild's reach and its range of services. While a resident of Wellesley, he was a town meeting member and president of the Wellesley School Board. In Groton Rev. Rosenberger was a founding member of the Unitarian Christian Fellowship, and President of the Groton Council of Churches. He also was an avid boater, a Commodore in the Coast Guard Power Squadron, and loved taking cruises on Vicky, his sport fisherman from the family's summer home in Duxbury.

In addition to his calling as a minister and his civic duties, Rev. Rosenberger was an early advocate of healthy living. He published Eat Your Way to Better Health, a road map to healthy living, organic foods and a balanced lifestyle in 1961. Today this book is considered to be 20 years' ahead of its time. Rev. Rosenberger subsequently lectured throughout the country on health and nutrition.

Rev. Rosenberger's early interest in health and agriculture led him to purchase Hillbrook Orchards, an 80-acre apple orchard in Groton in 1983. Together with his wife, Rev. Rosenberger fulfilled a long-held desire to work the land, growing apples and peaches, pumpkins and strawberries. Rev. Rosenberger became a true steward of the land and was an ardent conservationist. Hillbrook Orchards became a popular pick-your-own destination for apple lovers from throughout Massachusetts for many years, and Rev. Rosenberger would conduct sun-rise worship services among the apple blossoms from the top of the Orchard's highest hill.

His greatest love was for his wife of 59 years and his four children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. While he emphasized the academic development of his children, he was a great sportsman and encouraged his children to participate in all types of athletics. He particularly liked playing tennis in Wellesley and Duxbury, and he and his wife would travel anywhere to watch their sons play football, soccer, hockey and lacrosse in school and in college. He and his wife Billie would host their traditional Thanksgiving dinners and asked their children to invite their friends. When one arrived for Thanksgiving, one never knew how many people would be present, but the number was always somewhere between 30-40. The number really didn't matter as Billie always had plenty of food and lots of chairs. The Rosenberger home was a welcoming place where there was always a hot meal and a warm bed for family and friends.

Rev. Rosenberger noted the many blessings of his life in 1996: " If I were to make a short list of my gratitude to others at this time, it would include: my mother and father whose faith, hope, love and benevolent spirit inspired me to enter the ministry; Harvard College and Harvard Divinity School which helped me to prepare for that sacred calling; my marriage to Willamena Parks whom I had courted for three years at Radcliffe before our wedding at Christ Church in Cambridge a week after graduation; and the intimate contacts with men and women, and children in the churches I served in nearly every condition and circumstance, sharing their births and deaths, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, successes and disappointments, as I tried in some small measure to help make their lives a little better and more meaningful...The longer I live, the more important it seems to me for all of us to be engaged in some form of human service. To find real satisfaction and true peace of mind, we have to recognize at least a few of the endless opportunities to fulfill our obligation to life by tangibly reaching out to the physically and mentally challenged - the often forgotten people who need our help so badly, more than ever, because of the systematic reduction in public funding for their care and support. When Billie and I look at our 55 years of happily married life together with our four children and their spouses, our 10 grandchildren, and our great grandchild, all of whom have filled our lives with abiding joy, we enter our golden years together with heartfelt thanks for all our blessings and with great expectations for the days ahead."

A memorial service will be held at First Parish Church, Powderhouse Road, Groton, Saturday, June 8 at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First Parish Church, Groton. Please see

Groton Herald

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 610, Groton, Massachusetts 01450

145 Main Street, Groton, Massachusetts 014510
[Prescott Community Center]

Telephone: 978-448-6061

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