Jennifer Slade died unexpectedly in Norfolk, Virginia on Thursday, July 17, 2014
The daughter of Robert W. and Kennetha A. Slade of Poughkeepsie, NY, she was born on July 11, 1959. After showing early promise as an actress and singer, Jennifer appeared in productions of South Pacific, Brigadoon, and others at Clarkstown (NY) High School, from which she graduated in 1977, going on to pursue acting at NYU and as a student of Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio. She took a BA in Theater Arts in 1981 while living, as she delighted to point out, in the same hotel-turned-dorm as Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. During her subsequent acting career she brought countless actors and other friends to her tiny apartment on Christopher Street for her celebrated day-long Thanksgiving dinners, which became a touchstone for her fondest memories of New York.
A birthright Unitarian Universalist subsequently called to the ministry, Jennifer attended Harvard Divinity School, taking her M.Div. in 1990. Having interned at the Winchester [Massachusetts] Unitarian Society, where she was ordained in 1991, she completed her Clinical Pastoral Training at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, afterward accepting a call to serve the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Greenville, SC (lovingly called GUUF). She grew Greenville’s congregation and shepherded them to a new, larger facility where they remain to this day. After spending her 2000 sabbatical as a Merrill Fellow at Harvard and moving with her family to Durham, NC, Jennifer served the Red Hill Universalist Church in Clinton, NC and the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham, and worked within the Durham County Library system. She was known for her excellence in both pastoral care and preaching.
Jennifer took on the difficult work of Interim Ministry beginning in 2011 with the Congregational Unitarian Church in Woodstock, IL (now Tree of Life UU Church in McHenry, IL). Here she also guided the church to a larger facility commensurate with its growth, particularly in Religious Education.
In 2013, Jennifer began a developmental ministry at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk, VA, where she hoped to move the congregation to higher ground, literally and figuratively, as rising tides regularly flooded the church.
Wherever she served, her ministry touched countless lives and she strived to bring out those good qualities of her congregants they didn’t even know they had. She was generous, gregarious, brilliant, beyond well-read, and had an incredible memory for the events in the lives of her loved ones.
Her service on numerous boards and committees included The Urban League of the Upstate (SC), the UU World of Children, and organizations on addiction in NC and SC, including the Sampson County (NC) Meth Taskforce, among many others.
Jennifer, who suffered from depression, died of an apparent overdose of prescription drugs. She is survived by her husband, John Santoianni; son, Samuel J. Santoianni; daughter, Emma M. Santoianni.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Jennifer’s name to The UU World of Children, 1135 State Park Rd., Greenville, SC 29609, or go to http://uuwoc.com/ to donate online.