Former Jackson pastor Keisker dies at 102

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

The Rev. Walter J. Keisker died Tuesday at the age of 102, having lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, the advent of television and man's journey into space.

Friends and family described the retired Lutheran minister from Jackson, Mo., as a remarkable man, full of humor and compassion and a heightened sense of civic duty.

"Here in the last month, his body was failing him, but his mind never did," said his son-in-law and former Southeast Missouri State University professor Dr. Fred Goodwin.

On Monday, he was still thinking ahead, helping to plan a Thanksgiving service at the Lutheran Home in Cape Girardeau where he had lived since 1993.

Friends and family said he was always thinking of others. He helped start the local chapter of the Lutheran Family and Children's Services of Southeast Missouri in 1973.

When he was 97, a foundation was established in his name to provide added funding for Lutheran Family and Children's Services.

50 years at church

Keisker, who was pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jackson for more than 50 years, had an encyclopedic memory. He loved words.

Keisker held Bible studies and routinely ministered to his fellow residents at the nursing home.

"He touched a lot of people's lives down here. He should have been cloned," said Janice Unger, administrator of the Lutheran Home.

He was an enthusiastic reader until his eyesight started failing. He remained a prolific letter writer, corresponding with friends across the country and writing letters to the editor of the Southeast Missourian. Keisker sent out a monthly newsletter to friends.

He was an avid Cardinal baseball fan. "He remembered the names of the old players, the positions they played and what happened in a World Series in a given year," said Goodwin. Keisker used to ride a streetcar in St. Louis to get to the ball games.

Keisker grew up in Jefferson County. He graduated from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis in 1923 and first served as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Flat River, now Park Hills, Mo., before moving to Jackson in 1938.

He served as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church for 30 years ending in 1968 and then as pastoral assistant for the next 22 years.

Community leader

Mayor Paul Sander called Keisker a family friend. The minister was both a religious leader and a civic leader in Jackson, Sander said.

"He took an interest in the community as a whole," the mayor said.

He was an active member of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce and was a fixture at the annual meeting.

He attended the chamber banquet in June. As in past years, Keisker addressed the group.

"He was allowed to interrupt the program and address the group. Nobody minded. It was one of those things that he had earned," said Sander. "The chamber banquet was kind of his banquet."

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