Thompson Vail Palmer Jr.

PalmerThompson Vail Palmer Jr., 93, on February 5, 2021, at his home in Albany, Ore. Vail was born on June 9, 1927, in West Chester, Pa., the oldest of three children of Thompson Vail Palmer Sr. and Esther Lamborn Palmer. The Palmers were members of Concord (Pa.) Meeting.

Vail graduated from George School in Newtown, Pa. He earned a bachelor’s in philosophy and mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pa. Vail married Ruth Candida Heine in the UK in 1952.

Vail was prosecuted twice for refusing to cooperate with the Selective Service System (military draft), and was active with the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors.

After serving as pastor at Gonic Meeting in Rochester, N.H., Vail returned to graduate study at the University of Chicago Divinity School. While writing his doctoral dissertation, Vail worked for American Friends Service Committee. He received his doctorate in 1965, after which he taught religion and philosophy at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, Ky., and Rio Grande College in Rio Grande, Ohio. He moved to Oregon in 1980. Vail and Candida divorced in 1980.

In 1999, Vail married Izzy Covalt, cofounder of Izzy’s Pizza restaurants, at Reedwood Friends Church in Portland, Ore.

Vail was a recorded minister in New England Yearly Meeting and Western Yearly Meeting (Friends United Meeting); Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Friends General Conference); Northwest Yearly Meeting (Evangelical Friends International); Freedom Friends Church in Salem, Ore.; and most recently Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting. He was a longtime member of the Quaker Theological Discussion Group and an editor of Quaker Religious Thought. At Reedwood Friends Church, he taught adult religion classes. He published two books on Friends and the Bible, Face to Face: Early Quaker Encounters with the Bible and A Long Road: How Quakers Made Sense of God and the Bible, and was working on a third. One of the proud moments in Vail’s life was his participation in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Vail is survived by his wife, Izzy Covalt; two children from his first marriage, Logan Palmer (Terry Belcher) and Crystal Palmer; one grandchild; Izzy’s six children and more than 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and a brother, Clarkson Palmer.

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