Pastor, counselor, passionate advocate for Civil Rights, LGBTQ, women’s causes
Ralph Click died peacefully on September 22, 2018 in his home at Woods Health Services in La Verne. He was 89.
The eldest of three children to Agnes (Deal) and Ernest Click, he was born into a Brethren family in Wenatchee, Washington. Agnes and Ernest owned and worked an apple orchard in Wenatchee. Ralph’s aunts and uncles traveled from their home in Rock Lake, North Dakota, to work with him on the family orchard.
His family would later travel to Southern California to attend La Verne College (now the University of La Verne) one of only two Brethren colleges west of the Mississippi. When it was his turn, Mr. Click also attended La Verne. His major interests were music, literature and drama. He sang bass in the Khormann Quartet, journeying with that group throughout the western United States during the summer of 1950.
At La Verne College, he also met his future wife and lifelong partner, Ellen Kalafatis Click. Ralph and Ellen married in 1951. Together they moved to Chicago where he earned his master’s of divinity degree at Bethany Seminary.
Mr. Click was deeply influenced by the Civil Rights movement. He served as the pastor of central California’s Bakersfield Church of the Brethren from 1956 to 1965. While there, he frequently referenced the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his sermons and spoke out on social justice issues.
In 1964, he became the Kern County chairman for the campaign against Proposition 14, which was an effort to amend the Rumford Fair Housing Act and give homeowners the right to discriminate when selling their property. Despite his efforts and those of many others, Proposition 14 passed, though both the California and the United States Supreme Court would later strike down the proposition as unconstitutional. As a result of Mr. Click’s activism, his family received a bomb threat and he lost his pastorate in Bakersfield in 1965.
Throughout his life he continued to speak out on social justice issues. An early and vocal supporter of women’s and LGBTQ rights, his sermon, “The Mother God,” at the La Verne Church of the Brethren was challenging for some congregants in the 1980s. Today the congregation uses inclusive language and has proudly welcomed LGBTQ members for many years.
As a pastor, Mr. Click found meaning and comfort as a counselor for his parishioners. After Bakersfield, the Click family moved to Topeka, Kansas, so that he could complete a year of clinical pastoral education with the Menninger Foundation Clinic. After the painful departure from the Bakersfield Church of the Brethren, his year at Menninger served as confirmation for his career change.
The family finally moved to Claremont, allowing Mr. Click to earn his PhD in pastoral counseling at the Claremont School of Theology. His thesis, “Grief and Change,” was written at the forefront of the death and dying movement in the 1970s. His wife, Ellen, was a constant and faithful source of love, stability and support during these challenging years.
After CST, Mr. Click supported patients and families in radiation oncology at Pomona Valley Hospital, counseled at La Verne College and began the Euclid Counseling Center in Upland (now the Samaritan Center). At the Euclid Counseling Center, he founded a Widows Helping Widows group that grew into a large and vibrant organization and a transformative experience for participants. After working in private group practice, he began a private counseling practice, which he continued until his retirement in 1993.
After retirement the couple served as doting grandparents, lovingly supporting their children’s growing families, taking pride in welcoming their grandchildren to their Claremont home for holidays, birthdays and other celebrations. Together they moved to La Verne’s Hillcrest retirement community in 2002.
The Clicks had a rich social life that was deeply connected to La Verne Church of the Brethren and the Claremont community. They participated together in a marriage group, made up mostly of members of the church, which met continuously for more than 40 years. They shared a cabin in Crestline with members of this group, where they spent many happy weekends with friends and family. Mr. Click was active in a local men’s support group for more than 20 years, sharing ownership of a sailboat out of Dana Point. Trailer and RV camping was also a favorite pastime for the Clicks. They spent many summers camping in Big Bear with friends and family. Mr. Click also sang in the Church of the Brethren choir and served on the board at Hillcrest.
His beloved wife of 59 years, Ellen, preceded him in death in 2010, as did his sister, Virginia.
He is survived by his children Jan, Rodney and Jeff, and six grandchildren: Ryan Bolden, John and Amy Click, Sean DeVries, and Sophia and Rose Click.
A memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, January 4 at La Verne Church of the Brethren, 2425 E St., La Verne.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial gifts be made to the University of La Verne’s Ralph E. Click and Ellen Laura Click Family Trust Scholarship Fund here.