The Rev. Dr. John McNeel Handley ’55

The Rev. Dr. John McNeel Handley ’55, child of God and a faithful servant of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., passed from this life March 7. Handley first felt the call to ministry when he was 16 years old, and his life was a reflection of his love for the Lord. Even during his long journey through Alzheimer’s disease, he was a courageous and tender patient. Handley was born Feb. 14, 1934, in Blacksburg, Va., to Charles Overton and Nelle Hall Handley. After a youth spent in and around Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Handley attended Davidson and then went on to receive his master of divinity from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., in 1958. He was ordained on Oct. 7, 1958, and his first call was to Jacksonville, Fla., to serve as the organizing pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church. It was then that he had the opportunity to work with Dr. Albert Kissling, the pastor of Riverside Presbyterian Church, and build relationships that would be renewed later in his life. After serving in Jacksonville, Handley returned to seminary and earned his master of theology and later his doctor of ministry. During the 1960s and 1970s he served congregations in Huntersville and Charlotte, N.C., and raised his children-a son, Chris, born in Jacksonville, and a daughter, Heather, born in Charlotte. The major portion of his career was spent serving Presbyteries in North Carolina. In 1973, he joined the Concord Presbytery, where he remained until 1988, serving as associate for ministers and interim Presbyter. In 1989, he was elected executive Presbyter of the newly-formed Salem Presbytery, where he served until he retired in February 1998. Retirement did not mark the end of Handley’s ministry. In 1998, he was called to serve as the interim executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of St. Augustine in Jacksonville, and within months he met Julie Reid, a member of Riverside Presbyterian Church, who shared his love for the church and passion for social ministry. They were married June 21, 1999. It was in the last decade of his life that Handley’s character was most truly revealed, unencumbered by the demands of career. He prayed and worshipped faithfully. He reveled in the glories of nature and God’s creatures, lavishing affection on all dogs, particularly his beloved Sandy and Sunshine. He served others with joy as a volunteer with DESC, Meals on Wheels, and Habitat for Humanity. He went on countless mission trips to disaster sites and impoverished places. He puttered in his workshop, worked in his yard, and basked in domestic bliss. Handley is survived by his wife, Julie, 3380 Knight St., Jacksonville, FL 32205-7857, and her children, Laura Reid, Robert Reid, and Richard Reid (Jenny), and grandchildren, Ellen and Charlie Reid; his son, Chris Handley (Dottie); his daughter, Heather Bunzey (Danny); seven grandchildren, Will, Stephen, and David Handley, and Zac, Tyler, Jonathan, and Brittany Bunzey; and the mother of his children, Helen Stout Hunter. He is preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Charles Overton Handley, Jr. and Robert Hall Handley.