CHESTER J. DROOG
By sister-in-law Carol Bonthuis Bigler
Chester Droog married my oldest sister, Jackie, when I was just a toddler. After my mother died when I was just 12, Chet and Jackie took me in. My home was with them through junior high, high school, and college. With me, that made six daughters! Chet was surrounded by females!
But that did not disrupt his steadfastness in his ministry. I remember the many hours he spent at his desk at church or at home, reading and studying. And I recall the hours he faithfully spent visiting the sick and the shut-ins . I knew him as a man who practiced what he preached, in his actions and in his demeanor . I also remember occasional evenings when he would just enjoy watching a TV show (he liked Bonanza) with his family and a bowl of popcorn.
As my surrogate father, Chet was never stern with me. One weekend I brought home my Japanese college roommate, Sakiko. Afterwards, she said to me, "Your brother and sister are very.....". She searched for the right word and then said, "gentle". That described them well. In my memory, they were gentle.
In about 1958 there was an opportunity for Chet to fly to New York for a church Synod meeting. After he returned home I heard him tell Jackie that as he was flying in the plane, he realized that the plane could come down and end his life. And he said to her, "I felt that would be OK, because I have already had a good life." He was only in his thirties. He had no idea that the Lord had much more for him to do before he would be called home at the age of 94. And he was Pastor Droog until the very end.
CHESTER J. DROOG
Chet was born in the small town of Hull, Iowa on December 16, 1921 to loving Dutch immigrant parents, Jan (John) and Adriana (Ada) Droog. He was the first of three sons. He was a bright but mischievous boy, once setting fire to his father's shed so his little brothers could see a firetruck. The family resided in Rock Valley, Iowa for a time.
In the late 1920's his father owned a successful gas station and borrowed heavily to stock it with tires and radios. This was all lost when the Great Depression hit and Chet remembered his father having to break Chet's piggybank to provide food for the family. By the ages of 12 and 13 he spent summers working on a farm to earn his room andboard and thus help his family. He was proud the second summer to be actually earning pay of 10 cents a day since he had learned to help with the milking.
Chet attended Hull High School. Now he and two other boys worked at milking 30 cows twice a day, bottling the milk, and making the house to house deliveries, all before going to school each day. He enjoyed sports and found time in high school to receive four letters in baseball and two in basketball.
Chet desired to attend Northwestern Junior College in Orange City, Iowa. But his family could not afford the $50 tuition per semester, until Chet obtained a job as the driver of the college bus each morning and evening to pick up rural college students . There were no dormitories at Northwestern in those days.
In the fall of 1940 Chet entered Northwestern, enrolling in pre-med, hoping to transfer to Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine after two years.
In his second year at Northwestern, he met a beautiful freshman on the steps of Zwemer Hall by the name of Jacqueline Bonthuis. He drove to her house to ask her to go roller skating with him. Seeing that she already had a beau with her, he drove around and around the block until that fellow left, then knocked on the door. It was Jackie who received a lecture from her mother on the impropriety of seeing two boys in one day. Chet was almost expelled from the college when, in chemistry class, he burned Jackie's initials into his arm with sulfuric acid.
Chet graduated from Northwestern Junior College, but World War II put a hold on his continuing education. He enlisted in the ArmyAir Corps, and completed his training as a navigator and as a bombardier. He expected to be given a few weeks furlough time before going overseas, which he would then use to go home to marry his fiancee. Instead, while stationed in Massachusetts, he was suddenly to be deployed overseas. He called Jackie to tell her he could come home for barely two days. He hopped on a train bound for Iowa, leaving her to make the decision of whether to plan a wedding in 2 days. He stepped off the train in Iowa where his parents informed him he had his own wedding to attend the next evening.
Chet did go overseas, but did not fly with his original crew as scheduled because he had suddenly developed a terrible earache. His crew left without him and was shot down on their first mission. With a new crew Chet flew 15 combat missions before being injured and spending 13 weeks in a hospital in Italy . Chet could feel God calling him into the ministry, but he had to write home to ask Jackie first. She was startled to think of herself as a minister's wife, but agreed.
The G.I. Bill allowed Chet to attend Hope College and then three years at Western Seminary, both located in Holland, Michigan. Their first child Jan was born there while he was still a student.
In 1950, Chet was installed as the founding pastor of Hope Reformed Church in Spencer, Iowa and first felt the excitement of growing a church. Daughter Judy was born there, and Jackie's much younger sister Carol, age 12, joined the family too when their mother died.
Chet moved on to pastor Fifth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During his 11 year ministry there, the congregation grew from 200 to 360 families . His own family grew with the addition of three more daughters - Jill, Jaci and Jodi.
In January 1965 the Droog family left Michigan in a snowstorm and headed south for Bellflower, California. Pastor Droog served Bethel Reformed Church there for 8 years. The church grew, for a time having two morning services and Sunday Schools, as well as the evening church service each Sunday. Chet was instrumental in building the Bethel Manor, a senior citizen complex of 48 units, and he served as president of its Board for over 20 years.
While still at Bethel, he took on the role of Business Manager of the local Classis, a position he held for 23 years. In 1973 Chetresignedfrom Bethel Church to accept an executive position with the Synod of the Far West. This position gave him responsibility over all RCA churches in nine western states and two Canadian provinces. While he held this position from 1973 to 1988, over 45 churches were started or received into the denomination, including Hispanic, Korean, Indonesian and Anglo congregations.
Rev. Droog received his Doctorate of Philosophy degree in 1976. In 1980 he received the Church Growth Leadership Award from Church Growth America. In 2003 he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Western Theological Seminary.
After his 1988 "retirement" , Chet served as interim pastor of Bethany Reformed Church in Redlands for over a year. He also remained active in various roles for the Classis. While Jackie was the national president of Reformed Church Women, he accompanied her to tour mission work in Chiapas, Mexico.
Pastor Chet has conducted Church Growth Seminars in six states including Hawaii, three Canadian provinces, and Korea. He has written for the Church Herald and Words of Hope publications . He authored A History of the Classis of California 1920 - 1985. Upon completion of his paper for the Roosevelt Study Center in Middleburg in the Netherlands entitled Religion California Style: The Dutch Reformed Church in California, Chet was invited to the Netherlands to lecture on this topic.
Over the years Rev. Droog has served on the Boards of Northwestern College and Hope College; theBoardof Theological Education Agency; the Board of Way Out Ministries in Hawaiian Gardens, CA; the Bethel Manor Board; the Board of World Missions of the RCA; and the Board of the Salem Christian Home.
A member of New Life Community Church for over 20 years, he had filled various roles for the church during interim periods, and taught the Berean Sunday School class there each week .
In his mid-eighties he left New Life to accept the position of Pastor of Administration and Calling at El Dorado Park Church in Long Beach. He left that church to nobly attend to his final true calling, that of caring full time for his wife Jacqueline who by then was beginning to suffer from Alzheimer's disease.
When he could no longer physically care for her, she came to the Artesia Christian Home where he drove to visit her every day. Soon he moved to the Assisted Living section of the Home in order tospend more time with her. This very special marriage lasted over 71 years.
Those blessed to hear Pastor Droog preach will remember his warmhearted but direct sermons that went straight to the heart. With his loving personal touch he could claim scores of dear friends, some reaching back to his school days, on up to true friends made only recently at the Artesia Christian Home where he was a prayer partner and confidant to many. A true mentor, his wise ways will be dearly missed.