Newell Deane Starr (1923 – 1996)

Offered by Rev. Arthur Severance
UURMaPA Conferences, February and October, 2019

Writes John Buehrens:  Deane Starr was raised in Michigan in the Church of the Nazarene.  He subsequently became a Methodist and then a Universalist.  He served churches in Medford, Sherborn, Acton, and Harvard, MA.  Soon after merger, he became a District Executive in the Chicago area.  During the latter part of the UUA Presidency of Dana Greeley, Starr was the Vice President for Field Services.  He was one of the nine candidates to succeed Greeley in 1969 and came in second to Robert Nelson West.

He then became Minister of the Unitarian Church in Summit, NJ, succeeding Jacob Trapp.  In about 1974 or 75, Deane separated from his wife Wilma, with whom he had six children, and came out as a gay man.  Since, according to Jim Hobart, “at that time coming out was the equivalent of deciding to leave the ministry,” Deane left the ministry for a time, but then returned as District Executive for Vermont/New Hampshire.  His daughter Susan Starr, now also deceased, graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry and was also in fellowship, primarily as a community minister.

Rev. Newell Deane Starr died of AIDS on Saturday, November 16, 1996.  He was 73 years of age.  His service was held at Arlington Street Church, officiated by Gene Navias.

Nancy Crumbine wrote:  Deane was District Executive of New Hampshire/Vermont when I approached the possibility of UU ministry.  He is singlehandedly responsible for my pursuing it, and was an immense support to me and to our congregation until he died.  He was a great, great soul.  Brilliant, generous and kind.  A great wit.

Writes Steve EdingtonI knew Deane Starr from when I began my ministry with the UU Church of Nashua, NH, in 1988 — a ministry that lasted for 24 years.  Deane was the District Executive for what was then the New Hampshire/Vermont District.  He became a friend and mentor during the early days of  my Nashua ministry.  I always appreciated his kindness and counsel.  He courageously came out as a gay man (while in a heterosexual marriage) when that was still not an entirely safe thing to do — even in UU circles.

Jim Hobart wrote:  (When) I came to my first ministry in Upton, MA, I saw Deane regularly at district meetings and district ministers’ meetings.  As a young and inexperienced minister, I found Deane a source of wisdom regarding ministry, a dynamic preacher, and a “leader” whether or not he had the official title.  He was also a genuinely authentic and caring person.

Nancy Doughty wrote:  Deane Starr — so many recollections of him!  First, as husband and father to a large family that I met at Ferry Beach where we were on staff together.  I regularly saw him at ministers’ meetings, then in about 1982-3 we were both Ministerial Settlement Reps.  There was a gathering of all the reps for a workshop on the sensitive issue of bringing ministerial lists to congregations that might include gays.  During the workshop (where only 2 of us were women among all the men), one of Deane’s male colleagues outed him.  I know I was shocked… at least Deane reported back to me my face revealed that.  But after the workshop ended I gave him a big hug.  I know for some time he did not have a settlement, but worked for Kelly Association doing clerical work, even being assigned to some UU organization on one occasion, whereupon he was asked, “What are you doing here?”

After losing his son Paul to AIDS, Deane was bereft.  A year after Paul’s death, Deane took a short boat cruise off the west coast of Naples, FL.  Here is how he described the experience:  “The entire sky, from horizon to horizon, was aglow with colors — reds, purples, pinks and golds.  Then the colors faded and the deep indescribable deep, deep indigo of late twilight filled the sky.  Then the boat turned around, and on the eastern horizon was a full and glorious moon.  With tears streaming down my face, I realized that although my son’s being had been scattered, he remained a part of this awesome beauty.  We can never contain the beauty in which we live and move and have our being.  But whether we live or whether we die, we are contained within this beauty.”

Deane Starr

  1. Always be kind to one another, even if you think meanness is justified.
  2. Always attribute the best possible motives to one another, even when you do not understand one another’s words and actions.
  3. Promise to one another only what you really intend and are capable of delivering.
  4. Laugh and cry together, sharing both your joys and heartaches.
  5. Be very quick to praise one another, and very slow to criticize.
  6. Defend one another, but avoid being defensive.
  7. Accept one another’s gifts with gratitude; accept one another’s deficiencies with grace.
  8. Do not tell one another how to feel.  Remember that feelings are facts, and treat them accordingly.
  9. Greet each new day with expectation and each hour of rest with thanksgiving.
  10. Let your eyes light up when you come into one another’s presence.


Arthur Severance

Rev. Art Severance retired in 2019 after almost 30 years in ministry and moved back to San Antonio, where he served as minister at First UU Church from 1991-2006, helping it grow from 250 to over 400 members and building a 500 seat sanctuary. Originally from NH, he has been married to his wonderful wife Cathie for close to 46 years, has 3 married daughters and 5 grandchildren. He has served UU Congregations in PA, NJ, CA, CO, TX, NY, and OH either as interim, part or full-time or developmental minister. He has served on the old Southwest UU District Board, was one of the district’s Ministerial Settlement Representatives, and currently serves on the board of UURMAPA (UU Retired Ministers & Partners Association). He is also a folksinger & songwriter and has a CD available titled “Listen to the Whirlwind,” as well as a small book Sermons, Songs & Scribblings available. He enjoys photography, antiques, HGTV, World Religions, Psychology, reading mysteries, New England, and music.