Garvin, John Charles


The Reverend Dr. John C. Garvin died March 16 at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage at the age of 80. He was born Easter Sunday, April 16, 1933, in Finleyville, PA to Horace and Mildred (Barton) Garvin. As a young man, he met Audrey Clark of Greentree, PA at a church ice cream social, introducing himself by stealing candy from her plate. They were wed at Greenstone UMC on July 19, 1952.

John was a big man with a big intellect and a big heart. After college, John graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and completed Master’s degrees in Public Health and Social Work. Originally ordained in the United Presbyterian Church, he was recognized as an elder and granted full membership in the Western PA Conference in 1962. He served at Smithfield Street church and at Bethany HOuse from 1962-66, at Church of OUr Savious in Pittsburgh from 1966-71 and at Pittsburgh: Calvary and Evergreen UMCs from 1971-75. 

After finishing his Ph.D. in Social Work, he accepted the position of Executive Director for Alaska Children’s Services and moved to Anchorage in 1975 with his family. In the years that followed, he continued his mission work serving churches throughout Alaska. After retiring in 1989, John and Audrey enjoyed RVing around the country before settling once again in Anchorage to be near the majority of their children.

A husband, and father of eight, he married most of his children (and grandchildren), and buried two of them. He supported and encouraged, without judgment, the dreams of every member of his large family. Throughout his life, he was a consummate practical joker who slit drinking straws, started diaper fights, offered to buy cherished security blankets, ate anything set before him without regard to health or safety, and convinced his grandchildren that his dog could do basic arithmetic. He was Santa Claus at Christmas, and an equally joyous presence every other day of the year.

John was preceded in death by his parents, son David Garvin, daughter Julianne Garvin-Thompson, and son-in-law Jerry Fries.

He is survived by his wife of nearly 62 years Audrey, children Barbara Kenyon (Douglas), Sally Fries (Robert Wilson), Janice Nightingale (Joseph), Clark Garvin (Jennifer), Kenneth Garvin (Noriko), and Lynette Garvin, 20 grandchildren, and 27 great grandchildren.

In memory of John as a food lover and tireless advocate for social justice, in lieu of flowers the family suggests a donation to one of his favorite organizations: Bean’s Café, P.O. Box 100940, Anchorage, AK, 99510 or

A family gathering was scheduled for April 5, 2014 in Anchorage, with arrangements by Janssen Evergreen Memorial Chapel.