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Veteran St. John Lutheran pastor led by example

December 27, 2018

The Rev. Douglas Dwight Rathgeber of Beaumont’s St. John Lutheran Church was remembered this week as the kind of clergyman who “was always here.”

“When the doors were open, he was here either preaching or changing a light bulb or whatever,” congregation president Fred Heiner said. “He was here.”

But there was one pastoral chore that he particularly enjoyed, his daughter said. It was a joyous and, to him, exemplary duty.

“He loved to baptize babies,” Wendy Rathgeber said. “He felt it was faith in action, an awakening of the Holy Spirit in one’s heart.”

Rathgeber died Dec. 20 after a three-year battle with Liposarcoma, a rare cancer that attacks fatty tissue. He was 74 and had retired from the ministry in 2016 after 43 years at St. John. Services are set for 10 a.m. Saturday, which would have been his 52nd wedding anniversary.

“He was such a good example of how a Christian should lead their life,” said his wife, Karen Rathgeber. “He always went above and beyond the call of duty.”

The couple had two children and two grandchildren.

Rathgeber was born in Wichita Falls in 1944. He finished college in Indiana and seminary in Missouri, then began preaching in Alabama.

He and Karen Rathgeber moved to Beaumont in 1973 to join St. John.

Heiner described Rathgeber as someone who “brought people to Christ.” Wendy Rathgeber said the congregation always looked out for them as well.

“We weren’t his only family,” she recalled. “There were times when we couldn’t travel because of his work for the holidays so people from church would invite us over for the holidays. He saw them in their best parts of life and helped them through their sorrows.”

Rathgeber was also a member of the Beaumont Police Department’s Citizens Advisory Board.

During his battle with cancer, the minister never doubted his faith, Wendy Rathgeber said.

“I remember he was always like, ‘God’s got this,’” she said. “‘Even if it doesn’t go the way we want it, he’s got it.’”

erica.apodaca@beaumontenterprise.com

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