The Reverend John Hancock Willing Rhein, Jr.

The Rev. John Hancock Willing Rhein
Born on July 11, 1902 – Died on November 15, 1993

John Rhein was the son of psychiatrist and author the late Dr. John Henry Wallace Rhein and Elizabeth Kane of Philadelphia. He prepared at Episcopal Academy and entered the University of Pennsylvania class of 1926, majoring in english and geology. He joined Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and served one year as its treasurer. An avid sportsman he was a champion boxer and distinguished himself on the varsity swimming team on which he played water polo. He received several medals for his athletic accomplishments.

He was hired as a laborer by E.I. duPont Company in 1926 to work in their cellophane plant in Buffalo New York. In June of 1927 he married Margaret Packard, daughter of the distinguished nose ear and throat specialist, Dr. Francis Randolph Packard and Margaret Horstmann, all of Philadelphia PA.

The Rheins were transferred to Richmond Virginia in 1929 where John worked in duPont’s Spruance Rayon plant as a foreman. There they had two children: Margaret (married Gerard Rhoads Williams in 1954) and John Hancock Willing Rhein III (married Phyllis Joan Betz in 1953).

While in Richmond John, made many friends and was able to indulge in his favorite spare time pastimes: hunting and fishing. It was in 1938 that duPont, having completed its first nylon plant in Seaford Delaware, promoted John to the position of area supervisor, and the family built a new home on the banks of the Nanticoke River. Too old for the draft or enlistment, yet anxious for some meaningful way to serve his country during World War II, John became an air raid warden. At duPont he shifted his focus from management to research and had two patents to his credit.

For John, Seaford was a perfect spot and he stayed there after his retirement from the duPont Company; built a new house in Woodland and started a second career as an Episcopal minister. As a priest he served as curate and associate rector at St. Luke’s Church in Seaford and associate rector of St. Mary’s in Bridgeville Delaware. He was a six­time Diocesan Convention delegate; head of Migrant Ministries; and as a member of the Department of Missions, was responsible for all mission property in Kent and Sussex counties.

In Delaware, John was in his element. He bought a 200-acre marsh called “ Robert’s Delight” where he and his family and friends shot ducks in season. He fished not only on the Nanticoke River but on the more adventurous Indian River with its strong riptide. He trained Labrador retrievers as a member of the Swamp Dog Club of Philadelphia and used to regularly participate in field trials. In addition to two canoes and a shad barge, John owned two sailboats: one, a Cat Boat which he kept in his summer home in Rhode Island and a Seagull which he sailed on the Indian River in Delaware.

John’s outdoor activities took him all the way from the Gulf Stream waters to the northern tip of Newfoundland. His vegetable gardens and hunting prowess kept the Rhein’s larders always filled.

Always a problem solver, a loving husband and father; a positive thinker, John’s life was full of love. When he was interviewed for a newspaper article prior to going into the ministry John said “I try to thank God for all his blessings, not just while at church but everywhere–at work hunting, etc. The more I do this, the closer I come to Him. There is so much more good than evil in this world, but far too often we spend too much time looking at the bad side. Lastly, if I can do something about the situation then I do it as soon as possible. In this way, I don’t worry as much as a lot of people. I refuse to worry about things I can’t do anything about.”

John’s last words were a question, “where am I?” That’s an easy one to answer: he was finally in the arms of his God.

John left behind his wife, two children, their six children and two great-grandchildren. He was quite a man. In John’s memory, his family is making a contribution to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church’s Memorial Fund.

Submitted by his son, John H.W. Rhein III

John Hancock Willing Rhein

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