Sutherland pastor retiring after 49 years

The Rev. Leroy Riemer soon will retire from a role that he has held for nearly the past five decades. The 75-year-old is planning to step down on Sunday, Aug. 11, from his longtime position as the pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Sutherland.

SUTHERLAND—The Rev. Leroy Riemer soon will retire from a role he has held for nearly five decades.

The 75-year-old plans to step down Sunday, Aug. 11, from his longtime position as the pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Sutherland.

Riemer was installed as Bethel Lutheran’s pastor on Aug. 9, 1970, and will have served the church for 49 years in that role once he retires.

“It was a reasonably good fit,” Riemer said, laughing. “The community is a great community. They received me well. They’re a good bunch of folks.”

Bethel Lutheran is part of the Iowa District West within The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, which is headquartered in St. Louis.

“Our church system is, you are placed when you graduate from the seminary,” Riemer said. “Then after that, congregations have the right to call you to serve.”

Early in his tenure as a pastor, he received calls to serve churches elsewhere, but he declined all of them and decided to stay in Sutherland.

However, Riemer did split his time twice as a pastor between Bethel Lutheran and another church in the region.

He served Faith Lutheran Church in Orange City 1971-74 and Faith Lutheran Church in Sioux Rapids 1987-2015.

Riemer knew at an early age he was going to be a pastor. He grew up in the Mequon, WI, area, which is located near Milwaukee in the southeastern part of the Badger State.

He recalled a story in which his father, Erwin, was 13 and told his father he wanted to go to Concordia High School and Junior College in Milwaukee to become a pastor.

“His father said, ‘Erwin, I need you at home, and one of your brothers can become a pastor,’” Riemer said. “He was the oldest.”

While his father, who was a dairy farmer, never became a pastor, Riemer and his three older brothers — Milton, George and Carlton — accomplished that goal.

All four of them became pastors within The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod.

Riemer’s older sister Marcella Wagenknecht became a parochial day school teacher. His other older sister Sylvia Roembke helps raise sheep in Wisconsin.

He did not have a clear reason on why he wanted to become a pastor when he grew up.

“It was what I felt early, early on,” Riemer said. “I never got an answer to say I shouldn’t.”

His path to becoming a pastor took him through Concordia High School and Junior College — the school his father wanted to attend — followed by Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne, IN.

The final stop on Riemer’s educational trail was Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he earned a master’s degree in divinity in 1970.

He moved to Sutherland later that year and was installed at Bethel Lutheran, where he has served ever since.

Riemer said the church’s congregation had more than 200 members when he started serving there, but that has decreased to about 175.

After he retires from being a pastor, Riemer will move back to Wisconsin and live near his sister Sylvia, her family and other relatives.

The plan is for Riemer to live in Grafton, WI, which is not far from the area where he grew up.

“I’m not worried about getting bored, but I don’t have any specific hobbies,” Riemer said.

He mentioned what he would miss about serving Bethel Lutheran and living in Sutherland, an O’Brien County community of about 600 residents.

“It would be the people and all of the fellowship at Granny’s Attic and eating at The Old P.O. when it was still open and now at Mugshots and Sweeney’s Clubhouse,” Riemer said.

“I’m not sure what the Lord has in store next, but good memories and good people — I’ll miss them a lot,” he said.