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Rudolph Ressmeyer, LI Lutheran pastor and high school founder, dies

The Rev. Rudolph P.F. Ressmeyer, 93, was key

The Rev. Rudolph P.F. Ressmeyer, 93, was key to the growth of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Seaford after he became its pastor in 1954. Credit: Ressmeyer family

The Rev. Rudolph P.F. Ressmeyer presided over a period of enormous growth at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Seaford after he became its pastor in 1954.

Church membership tripled, and 900 children attended Sunday school during Ressmeyer’s 12 years there, his family said. During that time he helped found Long Island Lutheran High School in Brookville, and he later served as its executive director.

Ressmeyer, who died Oct. 6 at his home in Oviedo, Florida, was a pastor with strong principles — which served him well during a conflict that split the Lutheran church in the 1970s, said his daughter Judy Ressmeyer Hinsch of Plainview.

“He was pretty much a rebel,” she said. “He stood for a cause.”

Ressmeyer’s family said he died from natural causes. He was 93.

The son and grandson of Lutheran pastors, Ressmeyer was raised in Baltimore and graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1947. He founded a church in Spokane, Washington, and served as assistant at his father’s church in Baltimore before coming to Long Island.

Ressmeyer married Virginia Werberig in 1949 and they had five children. His wife died in 2008, and their daughter Faith died in 2015. Ressmeyer married Lenore Wittrock in 2010.

He was one of several Lutheran bishops who were removed from their posts by the church’s Missouri Synod in 1976 for approving the ordination of seminarians who did not adhere to the synod’s teachings. The synod rejected the seminarians because they didn’t follow a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible.

Ressmeyer and other pastors formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He served as bishop of its East Coast synod for 11 years until he retired in 1988.

His daughter remembered family trips to East Marion when Ressmeyer took his children to Catholic Masses to teach them about different faith practices.

“His philosophy was one of justice, fairness,” she said. “It was more about worshipping and Jesus being the center than the difference between the various denominations.”

In addition to his wife and daughter, Ressmeyer is survived by another daughter, Marcia Sink of Manchester, New Hampshire; two sons, Paul of Marshall, North Carolina, and Timothy of Chicago; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Ressmeyer was cremated. Memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Hahn Center of Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School in Brookville, and 11 a.m. Nov. 25 at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx.

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