April 18, 1935 – Oct. 26, 2014
The Rev. Wesley R. Bourdette, a pastor and anti-poverty agency administrator, died Sunday in his Cheektowaga home. He was 79.
Born and raised in Athens, Pa., near Bradford, he was a 1957 graduate of Phillips University in Enid, Okla. He was ordained in Sayre Christian Church, Sayre, Pa., by the Pennsylvania Region of the Disciples of Christ.
After attending Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Okla., for a year, he transferred to Colgate Rochester Divinity School, graduating in 1961.
Through the United Christian Missionary Society, he was assigned as a fraternal worker in Berlin, Germany, coordinating exchanges among young Germans and English vocational students.
After the Berlin Wall went up in August 1961, he smuggled medicine to the needy mother of a friend in East Berlin for a few months and was followed by the secret police, the Stasi. Returning to the United States in 1963, he led a group of nine young adults from Berlin on a tour of parts of the country.
In 1964, the Rev. Bourdette was called to the Dunkirk Christian Church, where he ministered to migrant workers and was asked to serve on Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s committee on migrants. He was one of the founders of the anti-poverty agency in Chautauqua County and became its program director.
He went on to become executive director for anti-poverty agencies in Wayne County and St. Lawrence County and served as executive director of a statewide nutrition advocacy program before returning to parish ministry.
From 1977 to 2000, he served as pastor for two Wyoming County churches – Salem United Church of Christ in Bennington and Immanuel United Church of Christ in Orangeville. A few months after he retired, he agreed to become interim pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in North Tonawanda.
In 2005, he retired as co-regional minister of the Northwestern Region of the Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church. He served two terms on the Executive Council of the New York Conference, United Church of Christ, and was its chairman for two years.
He became a co-pastor at First Baptist Church in Niagara Falls in 2008.
Survivors include his wife of 48 years, the former Margaret “Meg” Salamanchuk; two daughters, Kirsten Ross and Sarah; three grandsons and one great-grandson.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Amherst Community Church, 77 Washington Highway, Amherst.