The Rev. Dr. Randall Bosch, who died on Jan. 17, at age 91, was a man whose life was defined by service to others, including the Reformed Church of Locust Valley, from which he retired in 1996, and the Locust Valley Fire Department, which he served as chaplain for 15 years.
Bosch offered emotional and spiritual support not only to church congregants, but also to firefighters dealing with the intense stress and horror they endured, from the crash of Avianca Flight 52 in Cove Neck in 1990 to the deaths of fellow firefighters.
Born on May 4, 1931, Bosch was raised in Holland, Michigan, a community that was deeply in touch with its Dutch roots, celebrating an annual Tulip Time Festival that continues to this day. He grew up racing sailboats on Lake Michigan, and practically lived on the water.
Caroline Bosch, Randall’s wife of nearly 40 years, ex-plained that while sailing had a special place in his heart, his first love was always his God.
“He chose to go into the ministry when he was a very young boy, like 5 or 7 years old,” Caroline said. “He had a great relationship with the pastor of his church, and was so enthralled by the work this gentleman did he just knew that was what he wanted to do when he grew up.”
Bosch and his family were members of the Reformed Church in America, formerly known as the Dutch Reformed Church. The Reformed Church in America is one of the oldest in what became the United States, having been established in early Dutch settlements in 1628.
Bosch did well in school, and was valedictorian of his senior class in high school before going on to attend Hope College in his hometown. From there his theological career began in earnest, when he studied at the New Brunswick Seminary and the Princeton Theological Seminary.
His work as a minister of the Reformed Church took him from churches in New Jersey and upstate Kingston to Chicago. In 1981 he came to Locust Valley, where he spent the last 42 years of his life.
The Fire Department and the church have a close relationship, and the church’s pastors have traditionally served as chaplains of the Department. Bosch led firefighters in prayer during funeral services for their colleagues, joined them in Memorial Day parades and was in general a source of support.
Dana Converse, former chief of the department, recalled how Bosch was with firefighters in some of their darkest hours, including after the crash of the Avianca flight.
The plane, which had come from Colombia and was bound for Kennedy Airport, ran out of fuel and went down in Cove Neck, leaving 73 people dead and 85 injured. Converse remembered how Bosch helped first responders deal with the trauma they saw.
“Reverend Bosch was nice enough to come down and meet with a group of people who had participated and were concerned by their experience,” Converse recounted. “He helped bring calm to those who needed help after that tragic event.”
Bosch also provided spiritual guidance when a member of the department died in a car accident. Whenever the firefighters needed him, Converse said, Bosch would be there, no questions asked.
Deputy Chief Brian Nolan said that although Bosch had not been the chaplain for nearly 30 years, he was still beloved by the department, and was a fixture at its major events.
“He had a very special way of connecting with people, whether it was the young firemen or the older, senior guys,” Nolan said. “He was friendly, just a real personable guy.”
Bosch is survived by his wife, Caroline Jaeger Bosch; his sister, Marthena Bosch; four children from his fist marriage to the late Carol Jacobs Bosch, Philip (Mary), Katie Baeverstad (Mark), Paul (Pamela), and Stephen; six grandchildren; a great-grandson and sisters-in-law Sue Bosch, Marge Bosch and Kathy Bosch.