Obituaries

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An archive of obituaries starting from late 2019 is available at this link.

(Please note: Our office relies on families, congregations, and schools to provide obituary information. If you do not see an obituary here that you believe should be shared with the district, please contact communications@ndlcms.org to notify us.)

Below are obituaries from the past 6 months.

Mrs. Betty Louise Reimnitz (née Acker), widow of the Rev. Charles Reimnitz and a lifelong Nebraska native, passed away peacefully on Sunday, July 3, 2022, at the age of 90.

She was born on July 10, 1931, in the Lutheran hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Rev. Dr. Lawrence Acker and Vera née Fennel – Adler.  Betty was baptized on August 30, 1931, at First Lutheran Church, 31st and Jackson Streets, Omaha, Nebraska.  She had one sister, Ruth, and one brother, Herbert.

She attended Central High School in Omaha and St. John’s Academy, in Winfield, Kansas, where she met her husband, Charles.  They were married on June 7, 1953, and remained married for over 65 years.  They were married by the bride’s father with the groom’s father assisting.  They lived in New Baltimore, Michigan, briefly and then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Charles was the minister at Christ Lutheran Church for almost 40 years (1958-1996).  They had four sons: John, Joel, Jess, and James.  Additionally, they had seven grandchildren:  Nicholas, Lauren, Jeremy, Sam, Joshua, Jason, and Jonas, and one great grandson, Ryden.  Betty is also survived by her niece, Judy.

Betty was active in the churches’ Altar Circle and LWML for many years.  She loved quilting and collected dolls. She was devout and devoted to her family.  She always had her sons’ best interests in mind.  She dedicated the last 30 years of her life to taking care of her youngest son, James, who was mentally ill and passed away just three months ago.

Her funeral is scheduled for Saturday, July 23 at 1:30 p.m. at Christ the Cornerstone Lutheran Church in San Diego.  In the fall there will be a graveside service in Omaha.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the following organizations would be preferred: The Lutheran Hour, National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), or Haiti Lutheran Mission Society, PO Box #22544, Lincoln, NE 68542-2544.

The Reverend James W. Ristvedt, pastor emeritus, Elkhorn, Nebraska, departed this life on Monday, June 27, 2022, at the age of 88. He was born on November 9, 1933, in Hawley, Minnesota.

After serving in the United States Air Force, Pastor Ristvedt began his seminary education at Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Illinois, in 1960. He served his vicarage in Danbury, Connecticut, at Immanuel Lutheran Church under Rev. Hans Voss and received his first call into the Holy Ministry in 1965. Expecting to be sent as a missionary to Africa, he was instead sent to a mission congregation in Picayune, Mississippi. The congregation soon outgrew the community center where they were worshiping. Rev. Ristvedt helped design and build the octagonal church which is still in use by St. Paul Lutheran Church to this day. During his time in the Southern District, he was also involved in the “His Too” campaign to develop ministry and materials for those with intellectual disabilities.

In 1973, he accepted a call to serve at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Littlefield, Texas. During his five-year tenure there, he was vacancy pastor to most of the LCMS churches in Lubbock, Texas, and several others in the upper panhandle of Texas. He received and accepted a call in 1978 to be pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wisner, Nebraska, where he remained until 1986, when he accepted a call to be Senior Pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Denison, Iowa. After several years of service in Denison, family needs led him to move to Kingsbury, Texas, where he assisted his wife in caring for his father-in-law until his passing in 1992.

Rather than return to parish ministry, Rev. Ristvedt completed his Clinical Pastoral Education training. While doing his CPE training, he served a new mission start in New Braunfels, Texas (now Christ The King Lutheran Church). In 1993, he was hired by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a full-time Prison Chaplain at the Beto–1 Unit in Palestine, Texas. He served in this capacity for eight years, before retiring in 2001. The last years of his life found him serving as an occasional supply preacher at his own home congregation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Palestine.

The funeral service for Rev. Ristvedt will be held on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. at Zion Lutheran Church in Omaha. Visitation one hour before funeral. Lunch in Lakeview room following service. Committal will be at 2:00 p.m. at Omaha National Cemetery.

Condolences may be sent to Mrs. Betty Ristvedt, 20800 West Maple Road #114, Elkhorn, Nebraska 68022.

The Reverend Richard L. Gudgel, pastor emeritus, Geneva, Nebraska, departed this life on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at the age of 78. He was born in Ainsworth, Nebraska, on May 23, 1943, to Andrew and Marie (Jochem) Gudgel. He was made a child of God through Holy Baptism on September 5, 1943, at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Ainsworth, Nebraska. On August 17, 1964, Richard married Bonita (Bonnie) Hesterberg. God blessed them with a deep love for one another and 58 years of marriage.

Richard received his B.S. in education from Concordia Teachers College (now University), Seward, Nebraska, in 1964. He later earned a Masters in Education degree from Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri, and a Master of Arts in Religion from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.

He completed the colloquy program of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, and was ordained in 1990. Pastor Gudgel served the following schools and congregations during his ministry: as teacher/principal, Immanuel, Hannibal, Missouri (1964-1968); as teacher/ principal, Immanuel, Jefferson City, Missouri (1968-1975); as teacher/principal, Christ, Juniata, Nebraska (1975-1987); as pastor, Mount Calvary, Omaha (1990-2010); as substitute pastor, St. John, Chester, and Zion, Hubbell, Nebraska (2010-2011); and as associate pastor, St. Paul, Utica (2015-2021).

Pastor Gudgel is survived by his wife, Bonnie, of Geneva; three daughters, Tawn (Kevin) Bueltmann, Bigfork, Montana, Shelley (Jerry) Dartmann, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, and Juli (Joel) Reinke, Davenport, Nebraska; one son, Michael (Karen) Gudgel, Lemont, Illinois; 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; four siblings – Ruth Ellen Strauch, Andrew Dean Gudgel, Wayne Gudgel, and Lynnette Gibson; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by a son, Philip Gudgel.

Visitation is scheduled for Thursday, May 19, 2022, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Volzke Funeral Home in Seward, Nebraska. The funeral service will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, May 20, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Utica, Nebraska. A luncheon will follow the funeral service and burial will take place afterwards (approximately 3:30 p.m.) at Concordia Cemetery (west of Christ Lutheran Church, 13175 W. 70th Street, Juniata, Nebraska).

Pastors are asked to vest with red stoles and meet in the preschool room before the service to process in together.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given to Concordia University Nebraska Church Worker Fund or Mission Central, Mapleton, Iowa, to support Deaconess Kim Bueltmann, missionary to refugees in Germany.

Condolences may be sent to Mrs. Bonnie Gudgel, 1332 J Street, Geneva, Nebraska 68361.

The Reverend John Robert “Bob” Paulson, pastor emeritus, Seward, Nebraska, departed this life on Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the age of 82. He was born on May 19, 1939, in Atascadero, California, the first of four children, to John and Margaret Paulson. He was baptized on July 2, 1939, at Trinity Lutheran Church, Paso Robles, California, and confirmed his faith on May 24, 1953, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Tracy, California. As a youth Bob was involved in Walther League and 4-H. He was a delegate to the National 4-H Club Congress and held the record sugar content for sugar beets in San Joaquin County. After graduation from Tracy Joint Union High School in 1957, he attended Concordia College in Oakland, California, as a pre-seminary student for one year. His boyhood dream of becoming an agricultural missionary to Africa (a mission position unheard of in the Synod at the time) was put on hold when he transferred to the University of California Davis in 1958, receiving his B.S. Degree in Agricultural Production in 1962. He was honored to be chosen to attend President Dwight Eisenhower’s White House Conference on Children & Youth. He also served as Student Body President at U.C. Davis, meeting President John F. Kennedy at U.C. Charter Day. It was at U.C. Davis that Bob met Kathy Ann Barr.

On July 7, 1962, he and Kathy were married at Faith Lutheran Church in Sonoma, California (Kathy’s hometown). The Lord blessed Bob and Kathy with two children, Eilene Marie and Brent Eric. Bob received his commission in the U.S. Army (after four years in the ROTC Program at U.C. Davis) and served two years of active duty at Fort Lee, Virginia, and Fort Ord, California, followed by six years of Army Reserve duty. Bob and Kathy returned to Tracy in 1964, where Bob farmed with his parents until his enrollment at Concordia Seminary in 1982 at the age of 42. It was his participation in California’s Agricultural Leadership Training Program (1978-1980), and the 35-day international trip it provided (Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana), that the Lord used to “rekindle” Bob’s desire for full-time church work. Bob entered Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1982 and served his vicarage at Calvary Lutheran Church in Rosemont, Nebraska. He graduated from Concordia Seminary in May of 1986, at the age of 46, with a Master of Divinity Degree.

He was ordained into the Holy Ministry at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Tracy, California, on June 22, 1986. He received his call into the Holy Ministry through the saints at Christ Lutheran Church in Yuma, Arizona. He also served God’s people at Our Faith Lutheran Church in Davis, California (1988-1991); St. Peter Lutheran Church in North Bend, Nebraska (1991-1995); Christ Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Nebraska (1995-2000); and Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado (2000-2004). Following his “semi-retirement” in 2004, he served briefly as visitation pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Utica, Nebraska, and on July 1, 2005, he began his service as pastor for visitation and pastoral care at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward, Nebraska.

Mourning yet rejoicing in Bob’s new life in Christ are his wife, Kathy Paulson of Seward, Nebraska; children, Eilene (Rob) Burden of Chula Vista, California, and Brent (Dee) Paulson of Lakewood, Colorado; grandchildren, Robby (Shelby) Burden, Matthew Burden, Amanda Burden; soon-to-be great grandson, Drew Ryan Burden; sisters, Elaine (Rev. Ted) Zimmerman of Napa, California, and Ruth (John) Lane of Santa Barbara, California; brother, Richard (Sandy) Paulson of Lodi, California; nieces and nephews. Bob was preceded in death by his parents, John and Margaret Paulson, and parents-in-law, LeRoy “Doc” and Marie Barr.

The memorial service will be held on Monday, April 25, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward. Visitation will be held on Sunday, April 24, 2022, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Volzke Funeral Home in Seward. There will be a private inurnment at the Seward Cemetery, Seward, Nebraska.

Memorials in care of Alaska Mission For Christ or St. John Organ Fund.

Condolences may be sent to Mrs. Kathy Paulson, 1119 Eastridge Drive, Seward, Nebraska 68434.

Eugene C. Brott, Commissioned Minister—Teacher Emeritus, departed this life on April 5, 2022, in Seward, Nebraska. He was born on November 5, 1933, in North Judson, Indiana, to Victor H.W. and Frieda L. Hankey Brott. He graduated from Concordia Teachers College (now University), River Forest, with a bachelor’s degree in 1955, received a Master’s Degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1962, and his Doctorate in education from Oklahoma State University in 1969. Throughout his career he taught at Old Trinty, St. Louis, MO (1955-1957); Lutheran High School South, St. Louis, MO (1957-1965); St. John’s College, Winfield, KS (1966-1982); and Concordia, Seward (1982-1998); retiring on January 1, 1999.

Mr. Brott is survived by his wife Norma Scheiwe Brott of Seward; one son, Thomas Brott, of Cypress, CA; two daughters, Elizabeth (Ronald) Aring of Seward and Ingrid (Mark) Minchow of Seward; Four grandchildren, Jessica (Jason) Pickel; Tyler (Mischaela) Aring, Hayden Minchow, and Dawson Minchow; five great-grandchildren, Jaston Pickel, Jaegen Pickel, Jetten Pickel, Tucker Aring, and Ada Aring; and sister, Eunice (Clifford) Dietrich. He was preceded in death by his parents and infant sister, Louise.

The funeral service will be held April 13, 2022, at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward. Interment will be set for a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made to the St. John Organ Fund and Concordia Foundation.

The Reverend Ernest G. Smith, pastor emeritus, Columbus, Nebraska, departed this life on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Grand Island, Nebraska, at the age of 92. He was born on June 3, 1929, in Queens, New York, to William Charles (“Charlie”) and Lillian Margaret (Craig) Smith.  The Great Depression began later that year, which influenced him and his whole generation.

Ernest went to elementary school in Brooklyn and was confirmed there in 1943 at Lutheran Church of Our Savior. He attended high school at the Lutheran Preparatory School as a boarding student in Bronxville, New York. Here he played baseball, sang in choir, and was the sports editor in the high school newspaper. In 1945, Ernest’s family moved to Ellenville, New York, for his father’s job at Ulster Knife Company.

Ernest felt a call to the ministry and entered Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1949 to begin his training as a pastor. The next year, he first met Katherine Williams at a group date, but she was not his date. He graduated in 1954 and married Katherine that September in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His first parish was Christ Lutheran in O’Neill, Nebraska, and he had duties at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Atkinson, Nebraska, as well. Their daughter, Stephanie, was born in O’Neill in 1955. While in Nebraska, he bought a Taylor Craft airplane and learned to fly.

In 1956 he was compelled to join the U.S. Army. He first served at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where their second daughter, Nancy, was born. Then, he served in the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea, where he served as a chaplain near the 38th parallel. He ended his military career serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Kentucky.

In 1959, he received a call to serve as associate pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and eventually became the senior pastor there. Their two sons, Nathan and Jonathan, were born in Baltimore. Ernest was commissioned as a missionary to Papua, New Guinea, in 1966, moving the entire family overseas for a term of five years. While there, he learned the Enga language and taught literacy to the indigenous people in the Western Highlands (pre-independence). During a second five-year term, he taught using the local language at Timothy Seminary in Birip. One of his loves was always music and he joined a trio called the Highland Trio with other missionary folks. They sang American folk songs.

In 1976, the family returned to the United States, and Ernest received a call to Peace Lutheran Church in Columbus, Nebraska, where he served full-time until 1991 and part-time until 2013. There, he sang in the church’s barbershop quartet, “The Uncalled Four.” After retiring from Peace in 1991, he traveled for Pathway Lutheran Ministries to help Lutheran churches around the U.S. plan new ministries and expansion of their mission.

After his fourth and final retirement, he and Katherine traveled the country in RVs and visited at least nine other countries. Throughout his life, he rode motorcycles, played golf and softball, and enjoyed family times and celebrations. He wrote a few songs and had music composed to set his lyrics to music. Known for his humor and his sermons, he also used his writing skills to put together some pamphlets he called “Just Thinking” with musings about life, death, and everything in between. Keeping up with technology, he even created a DVD about his life.

Pastor Smith is survived by two daughters, Stephanie (Richard) Maxson, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Nancy (Brian) Lindholm, St. Charles, Illinois; two sons, Nathan (Lisa) Smith, Overland Park, Kansas, and Jonathan (Melanie) Smith, Doniphan, Nebraska; eight grandchildren; and one sister, Mildred (Smith) Heinze, Lombard, Illinois. Ernest was preceded in death by his parents, and his wife, Katherine, in 2020. 

The funeral service will be held on Monday, April 11, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. at Peace Lutheran Church in Columbus. Pastors are asked to vest with red stoles and to meet in the fellowship hall before the service to process in together. Interment will be in the Omaha National Cemetery, Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday, April 12, at 10:00 a.m. Visitation will be held on Sunday, April 10, 2022, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Gass Haney Funeral Home in Columbus and will continue on Monday, April 11, from 9:30 a.m. until service time at the church. Military honors will be given by The American Legion Hartman Post 84 Honor Guard immediately after the church service on Monday. 

Condolences may be sent to Jonathan Smith, 331 Renee Road, Doniphan, Nebraska 68832.