Ken Schave—let’s be like him


What do you appreciate in a person? Someone who is friendly and kind and hardworking? Someone who stands up for what he believes? Someone on whom you can rely? Someone who pitches in, who would give you the shirt off his back and, after that, the shoes and socks off his feet? Someone who doesn’t simply say “do this and do that,” but does what he says?

If this is the kind of person you appreciate, then you would have loved Ken Schave, whose earthly pilgrimage came to an end on January 6.

I was Ken’s pastor in Port Hope, but I first met him in Guttenberg. When I had accepted St. John’s call to be their pastor, to move my family’s belongings four men drove the ten hours from where they lived in the farthest east of Michigan, next to Lake Huron, to where I lived in the farthest east of Iowa, next to the Mississippi River. Ken, who was sixty-seven at the time, was one of St. John’s wise men who had come from the east.

Once in Port Hope, my first encounter with Ken involved putting on more miles. His mother was in a nursing home in Bad Axe, a half-hour away. Ken let me know that a stroke had robbed her of her speech. So, he offered, if I would like he would accompany me for my first visit both to show me where to go and to make easier my first visit with his mother. I was pleased for him to introduce me to his mother and to learn the way to the nursing home and hospital that avoided having to go through downtown.

These first two occasions with Ken showed me everything I would see in him the entire thirteen years I was in Port Hope. He was friendly and kind and hardworking, and everything else you appreciate in a person. There was never a time when I was not pleased to see Ken.

While I grew to know Ken well, for the details of his life I direct you to his thorough obituary:

Ken and his beloved Janet were married sixty years. Talk about a perfectly matched set of folks. While this piece is about Ken, I can’t entirely ignore speaking of Janet. It’s funny; where Ken almost completely reminded me of my dad—in every way, they conducted themselves the same—I thought of Janet as a sister—an older sister, which I was always quick to point out to her, longing to rile her. This is how Janet and I interacted, one of us picking on the other, and then the other jabbing back, the way siblings do it.

For many of my thirteen years in Port Hope, Ken served on the board of elders. (In the Lutheran church, the elders serve as the pastor’s right-hand men, concerned with the faith and worship aspects of the congregation.) And, when Ken was on the board, he always was elected chair of the board.

Thinking of Ken leading our meetings, the word “calm” jumps to the front of my mind. He never acted quickly or harshly. Every word was measured with thoughtfulness and kindness. Even if a situation were contentious, opposing opinions could only come from the rest of the board in the same manner as Ken exhibited. He was a true role model.

Around 2010, Ken suffered a serious injury. As memory serves, he had been mowing the Port Hope public school’s lawn when he had mower trouble. Working on the problem, he suffered the injury, a severely broken hip. (I await Janet’s reading this and delighting in correcting how many errors in memory I just suffered!) [I heard from Janet.  The year was 2013.  I was surprised that it was the year before I retired.] After surgery, Ken would have a long recuperation in the long term wing of the Harbor Beach hospital.

As is a pastor’s duty and joy, I visited Ken many times. All of our visits were filled with catching up on where he was in recovering, then friendly conversation, and finally a devotion and, typically, the Lord’s Supper.

Recuperating did not go as quickly or smoothly as anyone would want. Finally, Ken was frustrated. Once again, he would remind me of my own father. When my dad broke his hip, I was able to visit him the next day, before he had surgery. I asked him how his pain was. Calmly, he gently said, “It’s damn bad.” Now, Ken’s complaint would sound the same.

Ken Schave actually griped. I never thought I’d hear it, not from him. He was done with being lame. He was over the hospital’s food. Physical therapy had gone from the pain in his hip to a pain in the neck.

Even as he whined, he did so in his mild-mannered way. I listened without speaking. I felt for him. And I didn’t have to wait long for what I should have known would immediately follow his pity party.

He repented of his grumbling. He began to number his blessings—his faithful Janet, and the wonderful hospital staff, and this and that and everything which filled his life with goodness.

Once again, Ken displayed to me the spirit of the Lord Jesus, who lived in him by the gift of faith, which Ken possessed and practiced all his years. While I have not seen Ken since I retired in 2014, I am confident that he was strong in Christ right through to his last day—and that Janet was, and remains so—with the sure and certain hope that he was, and always will be, a child of the heavenly Father.

If I were still Ken’s pastor and officiating his funeral, at this point in the sermon I would direct Janet, and her family and friends, to our ultimate hope in Christ. Because I led 150 funerals in Port Hope, it often came out like this, where I wanted them to look farther than their joy that the loved one’s soul was with the Lord, but to the best which was yet to come.

First Corinthians fifteen tells us four ways our bodies go into the earth because of death, and four ways in which death will be conquered in the resurrection given to us by Jesus Christ.

First, the body that is sown into the earth is perishable—that is, we live in bodies that can and do die, and we can’t stop it. The body that Jesus will raise from the dead will be imperishable—the same as His—never to be touched by death again.

Second, the body that is sown into the earth is laid to rest in dishonor—that is, it is a shame that our bodies should be captured in a casket or cremated and contained in an urn. The body that Jesus will raise from the dead will be raised in glory; the resurrected body will never again be held captive.

Third, the body that is sown into the earth is sown in weakness. These present bodies succumb to disease, to old age, to accidents, to every manner of harm which silence them. The body that Jesus will raise from the dead will be raised in power—no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain will ever visit our resurrected bodies.

Finally, the body that is sown into the earth is a natural body. We are shackled to the laws of this corrupted world, in this sinful nature. The body that Jesus will raise from the dead will be raised a spiritual body and, of this, I can barely speak, because you and I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like to transcend the only world that we know.

All of this, dear friends, Jesus Christ has prepared for Ken, and for you. So, for now, Ken’s soul delights in heaven, at the foot of the Lord Jesus’ throne, praising the Lord for his salvation. So, for now, you delight in the house of Jesus, at His altar-throne, from which He is proclaimed in the Gospel, in which you are baptized into His gifts, and from where you are fed upon His living body and blood.

This church was as much the center of Ken’s life as was the home he made with Janet. From the Schave house and from the house of God, Ken went into the world and shined the light of Christ. We deeply appreciated him for it, and we praise the Lord for His eternal goodness toward Ken.

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