Charles Brackbill, Jr.
The Reverend Charles Brackbill, Jr., 95, of Mountainside NJ, passed away peacefully surrounded by his
family on February 19, 2017.
Born in Philadelphia, PA and raised a Mennonite, he went on to take his degree from Princeton Seminary
and was called as pastor to Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, NJ. In his lengthy career
he served as a Presbyterian pastor to seven New Jersey churches.
He organized and became Director of Broadcasting for the Synod of NJ in 1954, and from 1961 to 1973,
he was Head of Programming in the Division of Mass Media for the national Presbyterian Church. With
humorist Stan Freberg, he created the first 30 and 60 second radio and TV spots for religious messages.
Over the years he received six top national awards for his creative work from commercial broadcasting
and advertising fraternities. He also wrote and delivered the Presbyterian testimony at the US Senate
hearings to establish the Public Broadcasting System.
In 1973, with his partner Dick Gilbert, Rev. Brackbill formed the American Values Institute, a media
consulting company, working with religious and secular clients, all the while preaching at churches in
New Jersey. Among many projects were the writing and producing of a TV documentary about the Dead
Sea Scrolls and dramatizations of the story of Jesus (both filmed in Israel), as well as humorous animated
spots about aging, racial justice, divorce and single parenting. The Institute did script consultation on the
NBC mini-series "A.D." and organized conferences for both NBC and ABC. Projects were also done for
various religious denominations.
In 2004, Rev. Brackbill came back to Elizabeth, NJ, to Old First Presbyterian Church. He recognized that
major repairs were needed for its Parish House, the site of a social service ministry, and started raising
funds for a restoration project that included the Parish House, repairs to the church itself, replacement
of the church steeple, and restorations in the State's largest existing Colonial cemetery. As the final
section of the new steeple was being installed, in their report about the restoration project, the New
York Times quoted Rev. Brackbill as saying "It's not a dead church here, celebrating itself for having
survived this long. It may be ailing, it may be hurting, but it's here for a reason, and somehow we want
this steeple to stand for that, for some kind of active caring for the people who are here now and not
just those who were here 300 years ago."
With his inimitable wit and wisdom, Rev. Brackbill touched countless lives through his ministry, providing
comfort in hard times and helping to celebrate life's happy moments.
He is survived by his wife Ann Brackbill, his daughter Lori Brackbill Kundrat (George), grandsons Justin
Kundrat and Andrew Kundrat, stepsons Jon Capasso (Teresa) and Chris Capasso (Robin), stepdaughter
Lee Prete (Phil), and step-grandchildren Alex Capasso (Kristin), and Julia Capasso.
A memorial service honoring and celebrating his life will be held at the Community Presbyterian Church,
in Mountainside, on April 22, 2017 11 am.