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97 Year Old Pastor Still Walking Through the Doors the Lord Opens to Him

April 18th, 2011
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KALAMAZOO — Age hasn’t slowed the Rev. Louis Grother. [Source for story here]

Time, in fact, only seems to inspire the Kalamazoo resident to reach out more to the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill and the downtrodden.

“There will always be a need for someone to support the people who many in society have given up on. … I consider it my duty to take the time to listen, to offer prayers and to be a part of the lives of people who don’t have anybody else,” said Grother, who will celebrate his 97th birthday this year.

In recognition of his benevolent manner, dedication to the destitute and commitment to treating all people equal, Grother has earned the lifetime achievement honor in this year’s STAR Awards.

When Pamela Post read the criterion for the Irving S. Gilmore Lifetime Achievement Award, she knew instantly that Grother was more than deserving.

In nominating Grother for the honor, one of several categories in the Sharing Time and Resources Awards, Post said Grother’s greatest gift is “his dedication to the very people that society looks down on or ignores. To these, he touches their weary souls with his love and nurturing.”

Now retired from the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, Post remembers Grother visiting hospital patients and taking the time to talk with them. Grother still conducts a weekly chapel service at the hospital, followed by a post-chapel social event where Grother shares conversation and Scripture with the patients.

“Tuesdays are very special days for me,” Grother said. “I look forward to visiting my friends at the hospital.

“It’s probably fair to say that I get more out of spending time with them than they do with me. … I get a lot of unsolicited care and kindness in return for what I do, and that’s what brings me joy.”

Doing what is right

Although Grother is reluctant to talk about his goodwill gestures, Post is happy to provide examples of kindness and respect she witnessed between Grother and patients at the psychiatric hospital.

“He takes care to greet patients individually, with a handshake and a smile. He listens intently and gives them positive encouragement and hope,” Post wrote. “It’s really a privilege to be a part of it.”

The son of a minister and his wife, Grother was born in Paducah, Ky. He was ordained and installed as assistant pastor at First St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago in 1938. During his 11 years in Chicago, he was a frequent visitor to the sick and dying at Cook County Hospital.

In 1949, Grother accepted the post of reverend at Zion Lutheran Church in Kalamazoo. It was in Kalamazoo, Grother said, that he found his niche in life. In addition to his duties at Zion, Grother served for 20 years as chaplain to the Kalamazoo police and fire departments. He also served as chaplain at Kalamazoo College and initiated a religious education program for Lutheran students at Western Michigan University.

 

Grother has made his mark in many ways around Kalamazoo, but he is especially proud of his 62-year affiliation with the psychiatric hospital.

“The patients and workers there have been very kind to me and they always make me feel welcome,” Grother said. “I love those people very much. Those patients are very dear to me.”

Grother said he learned kindness from his parents. In addition to his father being a minister, his mother came from a family that included its share of church leaders. Grother acknowledged the Lord has been good to him.

A widower for eight years, Grother has two adopted children and six grandchildren. His children, Bill and Mary, spent their careers as teachers. His son, who is retired, worked with at-risk teens, while his daughter teaches at a reservation in New Mexico.

He beams when talking about his children.

“I can’t take credit for the good choices they made in life, but I’m awfully proud of them,” he said.

Grother said he’s humbled to win the Irving S. Gilmore Lifetime Achievement Award. As a man of the cloth, he said he’s been taught to not perform good deeds for glory or recognition.

“It was very kind of the people who had a part in this honor to think of me,” he said. “But I’d just as soon prefer to go along in life without the hurrahs and fanfare around me. I just did what was right, by going through the doors the Lord opened for me and never turned my back.”

 

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Categories: Christian Life
  1. Rev. David Sidwell
    April 18th, 2011 at 22:07 | #1

    His favorite story (which like any 90-something he will tell you many times) is about the day he was on a tour of a unit in the hospital. (The “consumers” come to the chapel from their units– so one usually does not enter the main building.) He hadn’t been in a unit proper for several years. As he greeted the consumers who typically come to chapel one lady stopped him and looked at him with furrowed brows and great interest. Finally she blurted out, “Aren’t you dead yet!”

    Occasionally I stand next to him and consumers will come forward and ask me if I’m the pastor. I always reply, “Yes, I am a pastor– but he is THE pastor.”

    There were no calls available the year he graduated from St. Louis. He was sent to Chicago and when he got to First St. Paul the pastor told him that he didn’t want him but that he was stuck with him. Going to Cook County hospital gave him something to do. He probably got a year’s experience of ministry every month. When Zion called him he returned the call twice. They called him the third time and he accepted. I have a video transfer from 8mm film of him at the ground breaking of the church I serve (from 1955.) I wasn’t born yet.

    Finally, there is a Rose Garden planted for him at KPH. I walked him there last year. (He needs assistance walking over the grass to get to it.) When the people you have served for 60 years plant and dedicate a garden in your name then you have become “successful” . The rest of us are wannabes.

  2. Adam
    April 19th, 2011 at 16:11 | #2

    What a Saint! Great story, great man.

  3. Rev. David Sidwell
    April 20th, 2011 at 13:23 | #3

    “and initiated a religious education program for Lutheran students at Western Michigan University.”

    This became the Campus Ministry for Paul Maier. Leadership is not doing every yourself but (humbly) influencing others to accomplish work beyond your abilities.

  4. Jami
    April 21st, 2011 at 12:08 | #4

    A truly inspiring story. Thank you for sharing this.

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