Friends, even in the knowledge of joy to life everlasting, it is with a heavy heart that I announce to you the death of the Rev. Dr. Arnold Kroemphardt at the age of 86.
Dr. Kroemphardt was previously the president of our church body’s Eastern District, which comprised the western half of New York state and most of Pennsylvania. He was also my first district president as I entered the ministry as a pastor in upper New York state along the Canadian border.
I quickly learned that he had a genuine pastoral heart and also a real love for his church. Right before I received my first assignment (to New York), the gentleman at seminary who announced where each of us graduates were going late in the Summer of 1988 sought me out and told me that I was to call my district president as soon as the service was over.
Now naturally, I could not have known, at the time, which district president he was referring to. In fact, this man of totally Midwestern roots was shocked when I heard I was headed for two communities I had never heard of, in some state called “New York”.
But Dr. Kroemphardt quickly quelled my fears – and said more than once, “God will always be there for you.” But if there are days that you don’t find comfort in that, just call me, and I’ll be there for you.”
Indeed those years were not easy. The nearest LC-MS congregation to where these towns were was 153 miles away. I got to as many meetings as I could, but having to drive over 300 miles in a day (and before they raised speed limits) and having to drive through the teeth of the Lake Ontario snow belt to get to any of my brothers and their churches was a burden. Still, with the help of the Lord, and some occasional calls to a friend in Buffalo named “Kroemphardt”, I got through my years there.
I had no knowledge, when I moved down here, that Arnie had not only moved here years ago, but was a member of our sister church (my closest neighbor) in Trinity. But it was good to see him again. But right as we really started to get to know each other again, he is gone.
But of course, he isn’t. During times like these, I always remember the words: “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God – He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” [I Corinthians 15:55-57, NIV ’83]
That victory now belongs to Arnie, and for that, I am grateful. One day, for me and for all who knew him, there will be a joyful reunion in Heaven. Until then, I will be grateful the Lord placed someone in my life who was as pastoral as he was during such a critical time. May the Lord bless the family of the Rev. Dr. Arnold Kroemphardt, including his wife, Caroline, their three children, their grandchildren, great-grand-children, and many whom Arnie both led and served.