Howard A. Northacker (1919-1960)
Howard Northacker was born in 1891 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He attended Albright College, Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Union Seminary, and Columbia University, receiving his B.A., M.A., B.S.T., M.S.T., and Ph.D. degrees. He spent summers preaching in western Canada, and served briefly at the First Presbyterian Church in Milton.
He accepted a call to the First Presbyterian of Newtown in March 1919 at age 28. Within his first decade, over 500 people joined FPCN. His pastorate brought over 1,000 people into the church. Northacker expanded the church's organization tremendously. During his pastorate, new organizations were started, including the Camp Fire Girls, the Jolly Circle, the Men's Club, the Children's Church, the Parent's Club, and the Old Timers Club. He initiated the Christmas Candlelight Service at FPCN.
FPCN's property changed dramatically during Northacker's tenure. In the 1920s, the brown stone sanctuary and the pastor's house were moved to their current location to make way for the construction of Queens Boulevard. The Old White Church was sold and torn down after a fire destroyed the building in 1928. The current Social Hall was built in 1931. The church cemetery, across Queens Blvd. from the sanctuary, was sold in the 1950s.
Northacker actively participated in the religious and civic life around Elmhurst. He founded the Queens Federation of Churches and served as its first president. He helped found the Elmhurst Council of Churches, and was a director of the Greater New York Federation of Churches. He also chaired the coordinating council of the 112th Police Precinct, gave several speeches at the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, lobbied for a civic center in Elmhurst, and campaigned to expand Newtown High School.
Northacker retired from FPCN in 1960 at age 70. He died on September 10, 1967 in Seminole, Florida. He was survived by his second wife (the former Dorothea Holz), a son, and a daughter.
In 1952, Northacker presided over the 300th anniversary celebration at FPCN. He opened the celebration by telling the congregation that the church had refused a $1,000,000 offer for the property. He said, "Let it be our prayer and sincere desire to continue to take care of this great spiritual institution. No $1,000,000 could ever buy the tears, sacrifices and prayers made here."