'Pastor B' is still kicking long after retirement, and still caring for his flock

  • Article by: CHRIS HUBBUCH , LaCrosse Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2013 - 12:05 AM

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Lorraine Ganey pulls up a chair in the dining room of her State Street home. Across the table, the Rev. Duane Baardseth lays out a single communion wafer on a silver dollar-sized tray and sets out a thimble of wine.

The table is set for two: coffee cups and saucers, a plate of chocolate chip cookies. A coffee maker burbles in the kitchen. This is no regular church service.

"Let's do the communion service, Lorraine," Baardseth says. "And then we'll have coffee."

Later they hold hands and recite the Lord's Prayer before Baardseth gives her communion. Then it's Ganey's turn.

Though macular degeneration has claimed much of her sight, the 97-year-old can still make it to the kitchen to fetch the pastor coffee.

Baardseth reminds her that he'll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination over the weekend.

"Fifty years — isn't that wonderful," Ganey says. "And you're still kicking."

Though he retired a dozen years ago — after several decades at La Crescent's Prince of Peace — Pastor B, as he's commonly known, has not stopped kicking, the LaCrosse Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/119im5n).

As visitation pastor for English Lutheran Church, Baardseth makes house calls — usually about three a day — for sick and elderly parishioners who can't make it to church.

His office is his red GMC Sierra pickup.

"We have 170 members over 70 years of age," said Pastor Mark Solyst. "They are the best cared-for people in the church because of his devotion."

People like Grace Hanson, a member of the church since 1946 who now lives at Eagle Crest, an assisted-living facility in Onalaska, where Baardseth brings communion and companionship.

"He's just a good friend," Hanson said. "He's touched our lives."

Baardseth doesn't just visit shut-ins.

"We're fine, but he comes for coffee and doughnuts," said parishioner Lou Wuensch. "Every now and then he'll just say I'm free, so we can get together for coffee."

Baardseth carries the same black communion kit he received on his ordination in 1963.

The latch is broken, the corners frayed, and a couple of the communion cups had to be replaced after it slipped off the roof of his car as he drove across the Interstate 90 bridge in the early 1970s. (Another motorist retrieved it from the middle of the highway and returned it to him several days later.)

Prayers come from his red Book of Occasional Services, even though the church has since adopted a new version.

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