August Bernthal dies; former Florida-Georgia District president

Dr. August Bernthal, a former district president, Synod vice president and pioneer in refugee resettlement, died Jan. 27 at his home in Winter Haven, Fla., of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.Bernthal

The funeral service was Feb. 2 at Grace Lutheran Church, Winter Haven, where Bernthal was pastor from 1950 to 2000.

Bernthal, 81, was president of the LCMS Florida-Georgia District from 1963 to 1974, served as the Synod’s fifth vice president from 1974 to 1977, and was a member of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) Board of Directors for more than 25 years.

While he was its pastor, Grace Lutheran’s membership grew from fewer than 20 members to more than 2,800. He also guided the congregation in co-sponsoring resettlement of more than 350 immigrants and refugees from 1975 to 2000.

“Gus Bernthal lived out his faith as a tireless advocate for uprooted people of the world by welcoming the stranger, by responding to the needs of neighbors and by inspiring and leading others to do the same,” said LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr.

At different times, Bernthal was on the boards of Valparaiso University and the Lutheran Music Program.

He was a graduate of Valparaiso (1944) and of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (1950).  During World War II, he was in the “Yankee Division,” and was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in action.

Bernthal received an honorary doctorate from Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Ill., in 1965.

Survivors include his wife, Mildred, of Winter Haven; six children — Ruth Hostler, Auburndale, Fla.; Mary Whitener, Clearwater, Fla.; Cathy Bowen, Winter Haven; Martha Martinez, Winter Haven; Rev. Mark Bernthal, Haines City, Fla.; and Dr. Matthew Bernthal, Columbia, S.C.; and 18 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that memorial gifts be sent to the LIRS Good Samaritan Fund, 700 Light St., Baltimore, MD 21230.

Posted Feb. 25, 2004

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