CHICAGO (STMW) — John Boyle found his path to God after walking into the hell of Dachau.

He was a 19-year-old sergeant serving with the U.S. Army forces that liberated the infamous German concentration camp on April 29, 1945.

“God forgive us all,” he thought, surveying the unspeakable atrocities around him. “It was a call to be on the side of whatever was the antithesis of that horror,” he later wrote, “and that, for me, was the church.” Rev. Boyle, 87, who for the past 38 years heard that call as an associate pastor at the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, died at his home in Chicago on Saturday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Rev. Boyle came to Chicago in 1976 to found and direct Fourth Presbyterian’s Lorene Replogle Counseling Center, which provides therapeutic counseling both to church members and to the larger community.

Prior to that, he was director of counseling and clinical pastoral education with the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

John Howard Boyle was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and grew up in Brooklyn, where his pastor was famed “Power of Positive Thinking” author Norman Vincent Peale. World War II was on and though he had a deferment — he attended college at 16 — he felt increasingly uncomfortable not being in the war, and enlisted in the Army over his parents’ objections, eventually leading a 60 mm mortar squad in France in the 42nd Infantry’s “Rainbow” Division. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was one of four men in his platoon to survive.

After the war, he got his bachelor’s in divinity from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas, where he was ordained, then received his masters and doctorate at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

In addition to running the counseling center, he delivered well-crafted and compassionate sermons.

“John Boyle was a gentleman in every sense of the word. What I loved about him is that he did his research, yet there is always a real humanity that runs through everything he did,” said parishioner ABC 7 anchorman Ron Magers. “He was just really one of those classy, kind, gentle and insightful guys. It’s been wonderful knowing him.”

Rev. Boyle was an important part of the Fourth Presbyterian community.

“John was a wonderful combination of authentic scholarship with also a deep compassionate heart for people,” said John Buchanan, pastor emeritus at Fourth Presbyterian. “He was a superb therapist and touched thousands of lives.”

One of those lives he touched belonged to Jeanne Bishop, a Cook County public defender, who went to see him after her sister and her sister’s husband were murdered.

“He was so instrumental in me getting on with my life,” she said. “I never talked to anyone, but when it was all over, I still felt this grief and rage. I went to see John in his office, and he told me to put my fist in front of my eyes.”

Rev. Boyle asked her: What do you see?

“I said ‘I see a fist.’” Bishop recalled. “He said, ‘Now gradually lower it down — it’s the same size, same shape, nothing has changed, except it’s not in front of your face anymore. It’s not the only thing you can see. That’s what your grief and loss is. You’ll carry it with you, the same shape, same size, but it won’t be the only thing you can see.’ That was very comforting to me, and helped me.”

Survivors include his wife, Kathye Kerchner-Boyle, son John David Boyle, and daughter Kathy Boyle-Gast and a granddaughter, Hunter Gast.

Memorial services will be 3 p.m., Wednesday, June 12 at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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