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Leland L. Grams 1919 – 1997

Once a young pastor, discouraged by the burdens of the ministry, asked an older, more experienced fellow-pastor if he ever felt like quitting. Leland Grams replied, “No, except for every day!” There was a twinkle in his eye as he said it, but he also remarked with all seriousness, “What else is there?”

To preach the gospel of his Lord and Savior was the one thing Leland Grams most wanted to do with his life. The work of the ministry was not something he either took up lightly or laid aside easily. Because his father died when Leland was a young teen he was very much aware of the sacrifices his mother made so that he could attend prep school, college, and seminary.

But the sacrifice that moved him most was the one his Savior made. So when the Lord made it plain some forty-one years after his ordination that it was time for Leland to step down from the parish ministry, he did not step down from the pulpit. He continued to serve as a Mission Festival speaker and vacancy pastor, nine times, throughout the CLC.

The second of a family of seven siblings, Leland Lewis Grams was born November 23, 1919 to Lewis and Anna Grams at Mackford Prairie, near Markesan, Wisconsin. Received into the Kingdom of God through Holy Baptism, Leland spent his childhood years on the farm in Green Lake County. He received his elementary education in the Lone Cedar country schoolhouse and was instructed in his baptismal faith by the Rev. George Kobs at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Markesan. Leland was confirmed in 1934 and headed off to Watertown for seven years at Northwestern Prep school and College. Upon college graduation he entered Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary at Thensville to prepare for the public ministry.

In a busy June 1944 Leland graduated from the seminary, married Myrtle Mathweg of Markesan, and with his new bride traveled across the country to begin his pastoral labors at Trinity Lutheran Church in Omak, Wash. He served there on a temporary basis and then went on to Faith Lutheran Church of Tacoma (’45-48) and St. James Lutheran Church in Spokane. In the spring of 1953 Pastor Grams accepted the divine call that brought him and his family to South Dakota, where he served First Lutheran of Faulkton and Zion of Ipswich until his retirement from the fulltime ministry in 1985.

In the late 50’s, in faithfulness to the Word of his Lord, Leland Grams left the fellowship in which he had grown up and served so long and became, along with the congegations he pastored, a charter member of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Since the Lord blessed the union of Leland and Myrtle with nine children, this move made for some financial hardship. But there were no complaints, as the pastor supplemented his income with woodworking, agricultural endeavors, and an antique business.

While Leland served the CLC as Conference Visitor and as a member of the Board of Missions he is most remembered in the West Central Conference for the down-to-earth advice and encouragement he would give younger pastors at conferences and study clubs.

We thank our gracious God for the strength of faith and purpose and especially for the Gospel Word by which He enabled our brother to be His tool for blessing for so many years.

The Lord graciously and suddenly called Leland to His side on December 15, 1997 at the age of 78. A memorial service was held at Zion Lutheran Church in Ipswich on December 19, where Pastor David Fuerstenau brought comfort and encouragement from 2 Timothy 4:6-8. A committal service will be held at Mackford Prairie in June.

Among those finding strength in remembering the divine promises of which Pastor Grams so often spoke are his wife, Myrtle; his children, Kathleen and Pastor Walter Schaller, Michael, Steven and Kathy, Eileen and Pastor Paul Tiefel, Evangeline Olson, Joel and Cheryl, Nancy, Debra, John and Liza–along with 35 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Myrtle has asked that the Lutheran Spokesman express her thanks to the overwhelming number of people who have remembered her with words of encouragement at this time.

–Walter Schaller