Jan. 17, 1935 – Jan. 24, 2020
The ministry didn’t run in his family, but the Rev. Otto G. Struckmann knew as a young boy that would be his calling.
“I had a second-grade parochial schoolteacher who insisted he planted the seed in my mind,” Rev. Struckmann told The Buffalo News in 2005. “But I can remember that – if you can believe this – even before I was in grade school saying, ‘That’s what I wanted to do.’ ”
Rev. Struckmann, a retired Lutheran minister who spent more than three decades as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lockport, died Friday from cardiac complications while in Elderwood at Lockport. He was 85.
Rev. Struckmann was born and raised in St. Charles, Mo., outside St. Louis, the son of a machinist and youngest of three brothers.
At 13, he went to boarding school to begin studying for the ministry, graduating from St. Paul’s College in 1955. In 1959, he earned a master of divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
His first assignment was at St. John Lutheran Church in Angola. There he met Suzanne Post, a parish youth counselor from Elma. The couple married on Oct. 14, 1962, and together raised four children.
By the summer of 1963, the family moved to Easton, Pa., where Rev. Struckmann would serve 10 years as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, taking part in issues of the time, whether it was marching in support of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or serving as a regional representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund.
In 1973, the call came from Trinity Lutheran. As pastor, Rev. Struckmann spent 32 years caring for his congregation on Saxton Street through Sunday sermons and counseling and visiting the sick and helping the poor and performing countless baptisms, weddings and funerals.
But he also placed an emphasis on being involved in the larger community.
Rev. Struckmann served as board chairman of the Dale Association, a nonprofit human services organization in Lockport. He was one of the founders of the Lockport Area Clergy Association and started the Lockport Area Lutheran Association.
He served as chaplain for the Lockport Fire Department and when the local hospital needed a minister to comfort patients, Rev. Struckmann was usually the first to be called.
His recognitions included the Salvation Army Others Award in 1992 and the key to the city.
“I think it’s an outgrowth of the mission of the church to be concerned about the health and welfare of the constituents in its community. I think that’s important,” he told The News in 2005.
“The church is still in the primary business of instilling faith in its members and reaching out with its message of hope in God,” he said. “Sometimes I believe that gets worked out in different ways, and whether that's protesting war as it has at some times, or taking on race relations, as it has at times.”
The Lutheran minister with a baritone voice was also a bit of a prankster, who had a quick wit and dry delivery.
On more than a few occasions, a young woman newly betrothed would stop by his office and ask him to officiate her wedding.
“Pastor, will you marry me?” she would inquire.
He would either reply, “OK, but let’s not tell Suzanne” or “No thanks. I’m happily married.”
Rev. Struckmann retired from Trinity Lutheran in 2005. He retained the title pastor emeritus and remained active in ministry, which included filling in at Mount Olive Lutheran Church near his home.
Rev. Struckmann was also a master gardener who took pride in his roses. He was an avid reader who loved a good mystery novel. And he was a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, who died Friday wearing the cross around his neck and a Cardinals jersey on his back.
Besides his wife of 57 years, Suzanne, Rev. Struckmann is survived by a daughter, Rachel; three sons, John-David, Mark-Luther and Paul-Joseph; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
A viewing will be held at noon on Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 67 Saxton St., followed by a service of Celebration of the Resurrection at 2 p.m.