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Earnest Serr

Earnest Serr

Serr

Aug. 6, 1931 – March 7, 2024

On March 7, during yet another of several recent hospital visits for a variety of age-related conditions, Earnest Larue, 92, finally received his long-awaited call from God to join his beloved late wife Beverly in heaven.

There will be a memorial celebration of both Ernie and Beverly ’s lives at 11 a.m., on their anniversary, June 10, 2024 (they celebrated their 65th and last one together in 2021), at Clarion Lutheran Church, between Mendota and La Moille, Illinois.

After the celebration, their remains will be interred in the Clarion cemetery immediately behind the church, where they purchased a plot and marker years ago, adjacent to those unused portions of the cemetery that were the scene also of many hundreds of hours of Ernie pitching baseballs to his young son.

Ernie was born Aug 6, 1931, on a farm in Botkins, Ohio, to Otto and Sophia (Metz). He was a bit of a miracle baby (or at least a surprise), as his parents were 50 and 48 at the time of his birth. Ernie was the youngest of their eight children.

Raised in a strict but loving God-fearing home, ruled over by his mother, Ernie attended grade school and high school in Botkins and then finished high school in Wapakoneta, Ohio, where his parents moved after leaving the farm.

He picked up German as it was frequently spoken in his home, and he continued speaking German to anyone who would listen throughout his life and even in his final elder care facility.

He also reminded nearly everyone he knew that he went to Wapakoneta High School with Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who became the first man on the moon.

Ernie started college at Bowling Green State University (he often told of hitchhiking to and from school), but finished at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where he played varsity baseball.

He decided to go into the ministry, so he stayed at Capital after graduation to enter the Trinity Lutheran Seminary there. That decision not only set him on his career path but resulted in him meeting the love of his life, Beverly Wenzel, an Illinois farm girl who chose to attend Capital University to become a schoolteacher. In pursuit of his seminary degree, Ernie did his internship at Grace Lutheran Church in downtown San Antonio, Texas. He married Beverly in Peru, Illinois, on June 10, 1956. After Ernie completed his final year at seminary, they moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Ernie attended the Naval Chaplaincy School. He had a profound respect for the Navy as a result of two of his older brothers serving in the Navy during World War II.

His dream of being a Navy chaplain was deferred, and he was put on reserve duty status, as his superiors decided he was perhaps a bit too outspoken to be an ideal fit for military life. Indeed, nobody who has ever gotten to know Ernie would regard him as a sure bet to unflinchingly follow orders and keep his opinions about those orders to himself.

Instead of military chaplaincy, God put Ernie on the path to parish ministry and he was ordained on July 28, 1957. The opportunity to be close to Beverly’s family in Illinois led to Ernie’s first ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Cullom, Illinois, a small farming community about an hour south of Chicago.

During his five years serving in Cullom, Ernie and Beverly made many lifetime friends, and welcomed a son, Brian, their only child, born on Dec. 16, 1958.

Ernie’s next church was a two-point parish in the small town of Schapville, Illinois (a sign on the gravel road leading into the community proudly proclaimed it the home of “49 people, 52 dogs”). He served there nearly three years and once again he and Beverly formed lifetime friendships over late-night coffee and card games.

Ernie’s third parish, where he would serve from 1965-1981, was Zion Lutheran Church of Clarion Township, a rural church between two small agriculturally oriented towns in north central Illinois: Mendota, the self-proclaimed “Sweet Corn Capital of the World” where Brian attended school from first grade through high school; and La Moille, where Beverly taught kindergarten for over 25 years.

Again, life-long friendships were formed both within Clarion Lutheran and the nearby communities.

In 1981, Ernie left the parish ministry and became the chaplain and administrator of Mendota Lutheran Home, a highly regarded nursing home, where he served for 14 years prior to his 1995 retirement.

Even in retirement he continued to serve the church, first as an interim pastor for St. Matthew Lutheran in Princeton, Illinois, and later for many years as a fill-in pastor for several Texas Hill Country churches, as well as St. Paul Lutheran in Crawford.

He also officiated the Nov. 13, 1993, wedding of his son to Kathy Ann George, the ceremony held in Baylor’s Armstrong-Browning Library. Ernie and Bev moved to the rural Boerne, Texas, community in 1999, shortly after becoming grandparents to their first Texas granddaughter, Grace, who was later joined by their other two granddaughters, Olivia and Sophia.

Their home was a welcoming place for Brian’s family for 20 years until moving to Waco in 2019, where they lived together at The Delaney senior living facility until Beverly’s death on Nov. 17, 2021.

During his time in Texas, Ernie became a big fan of Baylor University sports. Brian and his wife Kathy are long-time employees of Baylor Law School. Ernie attended dozens of Baylor football and basketball games over the years.

Ernie and Brian drove to Indianapolis to watch the 2005 Women’s Final Four, where Baylor won its first basketball national championship. During Ernie’s last days in the hospital, his doctors reported that he would not let anyone take off his Baylor Bears cap.

Ernie loved the Lord, loved his family, loved his friends, and he made them easily. He could meet someone in a foreign airport and, within 15 minutes, have exchanged mutual invitations to visit; “if you are ever in ...”

He loved sports and travel. He handed down his love of sports and travel to his son, who in turn sought to hand it down to Ernie’s granddaughters.

Ernie and Bev traveled to their 50th state when they accompanied Brian’s family to Hawaii; and they made repeated trips to Europe, especially to Germany, Austria, and Slovakia, visiting relatives or good friends in all those places.

Ernie and Beverly also traveled with Brian’s family on multiple trips to the Pacific Northwest, Disney World, and the Texas coast.

Ernie had a quick sense of humor and he liked to tease, never out of hostility but always out of a true and loving interest in others. He teased friends and relatives, young and old, from small children to centenarians.

He used humor and friendliness in pursuit of establishing those close and trusting relationships necessary to becoming an effective minister, teacher, counselor, coach and family role model.

As his health declined — and as news spread of his passing — there were many who noted the influence he had in their lives, those he ministered to in his congregations, those he worked with in nursing home administration, those he taught in catechism classes, those he counseled at critical points in their lives, those he coached in youth baseball leagues and those he loved and supported within his extended family.

Ernie often commented about long obituaries in a way that suggested he was not a fan of them. Sorry, dad; you should have stuck around a while longer and written it yourself. His issue with them was their tendency to treat God’s blessings as personal accomplishments, thereby putting the focus too much on the person and not enough on the Lord.

Ultimately, according to “Ernie-think,” all earthly things and accomplishments will pass away and count for little; and in the end, either there is Christ or there is nothing.

Ernie was preceded in death by his wife, Beverly, whom he has desperately missed and longed to join in heaven since her passing; by his sisters, Leona (Gilbert) Schumann, Margaret, who died as a teenager, and Hulda, who died as a child; and his brothers, Herman (Katherine), Edison (Rosemary), Willis (Ruth), and Carl (Phyllis).

Though Ernie lived most of his adult life in Illinois and Texas, he always made time for his siblings’ families in Ohio, attending dozens of reunions, and numerous weddings of his many nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews, occasionally officiating or otherwise participating in their wedding ceremonies.

He played a similar role with his Illinois nieces and nephews from Beverly’s side of the family, smaller in number but closer in proximity, resulting in hundreds of family events and holidays together, during which he became a major part of their lives.

He was also preceded in death by his parents, Otto and Sophia (Metz); and by Beverly’s parents, Harold, and Laura (Schlesinger) Wenzel, all of whom he loved and respected.

Ernie is survived by his son, Brian ; and his daughter-in-law, Kathy (George) ; and by his beloved granddaughters, Grace, Olivia and Sophia.

Ernie and Beverly’s move to Texas meant they were able to play a significant and influential role in their granddaughters’ lives. On their visits to their grandparents’ home, Ernie loved to put them in a wagon, attach the wagon to his small lawn tractor, and pull them around his yard and through the neighborhood.

He joyously watched his granddaughters’ various sporting events on visits to their home. He never forgot watching one of his granddaughters hit six three-point shots in a single game, and once loudly remarked from the bleachers that “she’s the best player out there” as he watched another of his granddaughters play as a second grader on the fourth grade volleyball team. He served as a mentor to Grace as she completed her catechism classes, took Olivia along hundreds of times when he went to town running errands and traveled to Guangzhou, China, to welcome Sophia to the family and help with the return home.

Memorials in honor of Ernie may be made to Lutheran World Relief or to Shepherd’s Way, a Wichita, Kansas-based ministry dedicated to launching adults with disabilities into independent, community-engaged, and purpose-driven lives.

The family would like to express thanks and appreciation to all those caregivers, especially those at The Delaney, The Blake, and Providence and Hillcrest hospitals, who provided assistance to Ernie in the last 2.5 years of his life.

The family invites you to leave a message or memory on Ernie’s “Tribute Wall” at: www.WHBfamily.com.