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