A Nazi submarine had torpedoed the Europe-bound ship off Newfoundland, with the loss of more than 600 of the 900 personnel on board. The event led to the formation of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains, now housed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Born in Lakewood, Mr. Hankins earned a bachelor's in history in 1955 at Drew University, where he earned a master of divinity in 1959 and a doctor of ministry in 1975, both at Drew Theological School.
Besides serving as pastor in charge or senior pastor at several United Methodist churches in South Jersey from the late 1950s until recently, he served during monthly and summer Navy Reserve duty as a chaplain at the former Naval Air Engineering Station in Lakehurst and at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May.
He had earned his officer's commission in 1968.
For his doctor of ministry degree, Mr. Hankins wrote in his notes, he helped "start a day care center for center city Camden children in a suburban church," the Trinity United Methodist in Merchantville, for which he was senior pastor.
He teamed up with a Roman Catholic congregation in Pennsauken, another United Methodist church in Merchantville and a Camden day care center.
With paid workers from the three churches, 21 teachers and staff, and an enrollment of 60 youngsters, the project succeeded, he wrote.
Over the years, Mr. Hankins served at churches in Bay Head, Fair Haven, Farmingdale, Red Bank, Spring Lake Heights, Vineland, and Whiting.
Since September 2010, son Phillip said in a phone interview, Mr. Hankins had been a part-time pastor at the United Methodist chapel in Pine Beach Borough, Ocean County.
Separate from his church ministry, his son said, Mr. Hankins was a counselor at Family and Psychological Services of Cherry Hill, working with veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Besides his son Phillip, Mr. Hankins is survived by his wife of 56 years, Nancy, son Peter, daughter Ruth Moore, two grandsons and a great-grandchild.
A memorial service was set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, at Whiting United Methodist Church, 55 Lacey Rd., Manchester, N.J. 08759, followed by a reception in its Fellowship Hall.
Donations may be sent to Heifer International at www.heifer.org.
Condolences may be offered to the family at www.carmonabolenfh.com.