ST. LOUIS — A north St. Louis community is mourning the loss of a pastor who passed away Thursday.
John Schmidtke, a pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the Hyde Park neighborhood, was a fixture in the community. He served the church as pastor for more than 33 years.
Pastor Gerard Bolling is in disbelief over the news about his fellow pastor.
“We’re not just a church where people came on Sunday mornings and then they worshiped and then they went home,” said Bolling. “Every single day, every single hour, it felt like Bethlehem was doing something, and he was the catalyst behind so much of that.”
Schmidtke’s family says he passed away unexpectedly Thursday while working in the church office.
Bolling said Schmidtke was instrumental in the church’s efforts to create affordable housing in the area. There are many parts of this legacy that were also felt in underserved communities.
“Things you never saw like bringing of groceries to a family who have none and putting clothes on people’s backs and first jobs, and jobs training, and everything else in between,” said Bolling. “He was everything.”
The church’s outreach work included competitive basketball leagues, after-school camps, and a dance ministry.
“There was a lot of outreach ministry for youth who really had nothing to do but just go outside and probably get into trouble,” said Tequila Pruitt, Schmidtke’s daughter. “I just pray that everybody continues to remember him and also help to remember his legacy. We don’t want to stop.”
Schmidtke’s son, Daniel Schmidtke said his dad taught him how to be a leader, a trait he hopes to teach his own son.
“The church will now continue on its own,” he said. “He’s given us all the tools we need to sustain.”
Arrangements for Pastor John Schmidtke have now been set. The family is requesting donations to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in lieu of flowers.
Visitation services will be held Thursday, May 19, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church (2153 Salisbury St., St Louis, MO 63107) from 5-8 p.m. Funeral services will be Friday, May 20, at Faith Lutheran Church Oakville (6101 Telegraph Rd. St. Louis, MO 63129) at 1 p.m.