Pastor Rolfe Westendorf was born May 19, 1933 to Pastor A.F. and Laura Westendorf in Bay City, MI. He was born again into eternal life, December 28 th , 2021, at the age of 88 years, the same number of keys there are on the pianos he loved to play. He was baptized on May 28, 1933. He was confirmed in his faith at St. John’s, Bay City, MI. He married Katherine Zabell in 1961 and pastored his first church in Maumee, OH. His second church, Siloah Lutheran, Milwaukee, WI, enjoyed his servant-leadership for forty years from 1967-2007. They “retired” to Dalton, WI, where he continued to preach at many area churches— including extended service at St. John’s, Montello, WI, and Grace, Dalton.
His adventures in life started as a five year old, riding his bike to the beach ten miles away (His mother had no idea and a policeman brought him home). His adventures continued, hitch-hiking through Europe, driving a VW Bug through the Alps, serving as a missionary in Grenada, West Indies, serving churches in Idaho and Washington, and answering the security alarm at Siloah in the middle of the night, often arriving before the police.
He developed a cross-cultural Vacation Bible School curriculum, and a popular Bible study course, By Grace Alone. He arranged music for choirs and hand bells, and also developed and wrote special services for multiple church choirs. He was a primary force behind the integration of the first cross cultural ministries in the late 60s, transitioning Siloah from a German-speaking congregation to a multi-cultural church and school honoring African American music and culture which lead to a larger movement for unity and love among church bodies.
Outside of preaching Salvation through Christ, his passion was Christian love and family. He was actively interested and involved in his community, serving on the Milwaukee County Family Council and authoring many letters and articles to various publications as well as publishing a book, Self Esteem, God’s Style.
He developed and lead a hand bell choir festival of elementary school children throughout the Midwest in the 80s.
He was so proud of all his children, Mark and Chris Westendorf, Miriam and Kevin Schultz, Krista Westendorf, Karis and Dan Kramer, his grandchildren, Caleb (Johannah) Schultz, Erin (Ryan) Stob, Tabitha (Noah) Schroeder, Sylvia, Ella, Hannah, and Laura Kramer, and great-grandchildren, Eirene and Zoe.
His signature dishes were waffles for family visits and “Study-Club Chili” when he gathered with fellow pastors and pastors-in-training to study God’s Word.
Throughout his life, death was discussed as part of life. Jesus died and rose again to bring us to himself. Dad always taught us that no one need fear death because Jesus went there first and made it safe for us.
Some may say, “it is easy to say you’re not afraid of the bear until you’re in the woods.” On Thursday, December 23 rd, 2021, Dad was surrounded by trees. The CT scan showed his brain had a bleed which was starting to shift his brain in ways it was not supposed to go. He knew it. As he was getting bundled up for a helicopter ride to the nearest Regional Medical Center for a possible craniotomy, a sympathetic nurse commented, “I’m so sorry this had to happen at Christmas.” Dad simply replied, “This is why we celebrate Christmas.”
He knew his death was possible, probable, and as it turned out, inevitable. But this is why we celebrate Christmas. Because that sweet baby in the manger took our sins into and through death triumphantly, truly, and ultimately. And he didn’t do it just for great and loving men like my dad, he did it for everyone. So, Dad, Merry Christmas. See you soon.
A memorial service for Rev. Rolfe Westendorf will be held on Sunday, January 9, 2022 at 2:00 PM at Grace Lutheran Church in Dalton. Visitation will be held from 1:00 PM until the hour of service. A second memorial service will take place at Siloah Lutheran Church in Milwaukee on Monday, January 10 th at 1:00 PM with visitation from 11:00 AM until the hour of service. Inurnment will follow at Graceland Cemetery in Milwaukee. In lieu of flowers, donations are preferred to The Vine Church, 9407 North Government Way, Hayden, Idaho 83835 www.thevineidaho.org or Peace In Jesus Vietnamese Lutheran Church, 1253 North Cole Road, Boise, Idaho 83704.
Crawford Funeral and Cremation Service of Montello and Oxford is honored to be serving the family. www.CrawfordFH.com