Rev. Richard Dean Gildseth, 88
Richard Dean Gildseth, age 88 of Wittenberg, passed away peacefully on Friday, March 15, 2019 at the Homme Home of Wittenberg. He was born on Oct. 2, 1930 to Carl E. and Tilda B. (Gulbraa) Gildseth of Oldham, SD. Richard is survived by his younger sister Elaine Strunk and preceded in death by his older brother Leland Gildseth. He was baptized into the Christian faith by the late ev. A. M. Peterson. He received Christian training in his home, Sunday School, and confirmation class, and was confirmed by the late Rev. C. O. Johnson in 1944.
He received his elementary education at “Spring Lake #5,” a one-room rural grade school near his farm home in Kingsbury County, SD. He attended Oldham High School and graduated in May, 1948. He enrolled at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S D, as a pre-seminary student, with a major in English. Upon graduation in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he enrolled at Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, MN. In the course of his training, he spent one year of internship at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE. He graduated from Luther Seminary in May, 1956, and was ordained into the holy ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church by Dr. L. M. Stavig, president of Augustana College, on July l, 1956. Throughout his training for the ministry, Pastor Gildseth participated in music, singing in Augustana’s A Capella Choir and in Luther Seminary’s Men’s Chorus.
Following his ordination, Pastor Gildseth accepted a Letter of Call to the Sugar Creek/Williams Bay parish at Elkhorn/Williams Bay, WI. While there, he met and married his wife, Dorothy “Dee” Seaver, of Capron, IL, on August 22, 1958. A year later, they were blessed with their first child, Kimberly (Mrs. Mike Gilbertson), now of Wittenberg, WI. Mike and Kim have three children: Carrie, (Mrs. Dan Nueske), also of Wittenberg; Eric, whose wife is Jessica, of AZ, and Callie, (Mrs. Jared Johnson) an elementary school teacher in Hatley. Dan and Carrie Nueske have three children: Miranda (Tony Morrell), they are expecting their first child in April, Jocelyn who recently graduated from high school, and Brayden, who attends 6th grade in Wittenberg. Eric and Jessica have two daughters, Mila, who is 5 years old and Lola who is three. Callie and Jarod have 1 son, Beckett who is 1 ½ years old.
In May of 1960, Pastor Gildseth accepted a Letter of Call to Wautoma Holden Lutheran Church, Wautoma, WI, which was in process of separating from a three church parish and becoming a single congregation, which would choose the name, “Hope Lutheran Church”. The Gildseth’s lived in Wautoma for more than seven years, and while they were there, son John was born in 1961 and another son, Thomas (Sam Gildseth), was born in 1964. During their stay in Wautoma, lightning struck their church and completely destroyed their place of worship. After extensive planning and rebuilding, a new church was built and dedicated in 1967.
At this point in his ministry, Pastor Gildseth was being called upon to make counseling and mental health judgments in his congregation and community that were well beyond his training. So he decided to go back to graduate school in Social Work at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he pursued the social casework curriculum and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1970.
While attending graduate school in Milwaukee, he served as pastor of Lincoln Park Lutheran Church at Green Bay and Hampton Aves., on the north side of the city. These were particularly interesting years. Milwaukee was coming out of the ‘60s, with the turmoil, social unrest, and changing neighborhoods that characterized many of our larger cities. The people of Lincoln Park were particularly supportive of their young pastor, his wife and family, which made leaving difficult. But having prepared himself specifically for social ministry, in July of 1971, Pastor Gildseth accepted another Call, this time to social ministry in the Lutheran Church.
His new position was Co-ordinator of Congregational Social Ministries in Los Angeles, CA. His job was to cultivate social ministries in the 500 Lutheran congregations of Lutheran Social Services of S. California. But although the idea was right, the timing was not. Many of the 500 churches were struggling with declining membership, and even with survival, so there was little energy left for social ministry! After a year on the coast, the Gildseths returned to Wisconsin with memories of what earthquakes were really like (the Sylmar earthquake of 1971), of how whole mountains could be on fire, and a new, first-hand understanding of what the word “smog” really meant! But there was a real blessing that came along with all these hardships: Daughter Kristina (Jacki Lingel) was born in Northridge, CA, shortly after the earthquake in 1971. Kris and Jacki have 2 children, Caleb: a student at the UW-LaCrosse, and Killian: who will be attending at Augsburg University in the fall.
The Gildseth family returned to the Milwaukee area in the summer of that year. They made their home in Brookfield and had a wonderful relationship with Calvary Lutheran Church, where they were members and where Pastor Gildseth served a short time as interim pastor.
Pastor Gildseth also worked on private contracts in the field of counseling with the Milwaukee Dept. of Social Services, the Kiwanis Children’s Center of the Curative Workshop, and Lutheran Social Services. It was through LSS that he was offered the position of Director of Homme Home for Boys in Wittenberg, in October of 1973.
The rest is more recent history. Pastor Gildseth served at Homme Home for Boys while it added girls and families to its caseload, and became LSS’s “Homme Youth and Family Programs”. During these years, LSS reorganized and Pastor Gildseth received larger responsibility as Director of the 12 county North Central Area of LSS. In his more than 30 years with LSS, Pastor Gildseth also spent 16 years as the pastor of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Bowler, where he and his family were truly blessed with lifetime friends! After a two year interim ministry as associate pastor of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Rothschild, where many lasting friendships were also formed in a much shorter time, Pastor Gildseth, then 70, accepted his final full time position as Chaplain of Homme Home for the Aging, where he served 5 years and then retired after 50 years of ministry.
Pastor Gildseth’s final years were spent in retirement, living at his daughter, Kim, and her husband, Mike Gilbertson’s, home in Wittenberg, and then at Homme’s Rainbow Apartments, visiting his wife, Dee, at Homme Home for the Aging each day. Much of his remaining time was spent at Trail Wood, 42 acres of woods on the Comet Creek, where he had built a rustic log cabin ten miles south of town and in planting and tending a small orchard for his family there.
None of us travel alone on this journey we call “life”. We are all in it together to the end. As John Donne so beautifully expressed it during a serious illness in his life back in 1623:
“No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
Thousands of people had a part in Pastor Gildseth’s 50 years of ministry in the Church and in his larger life. All have been “a piece of the continent, a part of the main”! And so when the bell tolls for him, it tolls for us all! Thank you, his vast circle of family and friends! Thank you, God!
The funeral service will be held at 11AM on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at the Homme Home of Wittenberg Chapel. Rev. Amy Perron will officiate. Burial will be in Forest Home Cemetery, Wittenberg. Visitation will be on Wednesday from 4PM to 7PM at the Schmidt & Schulta Funeral Home, Wittenberg, and again on Thursday from 10AM until the time of service at the chapel.