As the son and son-in-law of Lutheran ministers, Paul Eid thought he would become a preacher himself. But he found his true calling as a social worker, helping others, as he once put it, "express our Christian compassion."
As director of adoptions at the Children's Home Society, he helped countless Minnesota families adopt children from Korea in the 1970s. A decade later, he pioneered an AIDS outreach program for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota to battle the stigma and fear that surrounded the outbreak.
Eid, who died at 92 on Dec. 26, "was someone who lived a long, full life of service to others," said his youngest daughter, Rebekah Burton of Zion, Ill.
Even in his last year, stricken with cancer and Alzheimer's, he helped deliver Meals on Wheels to other families, she noted. "I think it was his demeanor, and his need and want to serve others in such a big way."
Eid was born in Lake Preston, S.D., in 1923 and was ordained in 1951 after graduating from St. Olaf College and Luther Seminary in St. Paul. He was installed in his first parish, in New York, by his future father-in-law, the Rev. Fredrik Schiotz, who would later serve as president of the Lutheran World Federation.
But after a few years in the ministry, Eid "decided it really wasn't for him," said Burton. He brought his wife, Lois, and young children back to Minnesota and earned a master's in social work at the University of Minnesota in 1961.
In his first stint at Lutheran Social Service, he started support groups for single parents and tailored programs to prepare adoptive and expectant parents for their new arrivals. After he and his wife adopted their youngest child, Rebekah, from Children's Home Society, he went on to run its adoption program for 10 years.
By the 1980s, when the AIDS crisis hit, Eid had returned to Lutheran Social Service, training ministers and others in counseling programs. He was tapped to head up a statewide program to help local churches cope with rising anxiety about the AIDS epidemic.
In a 1988 interview, Eid bemoaned the stigma and fear surrounding AIDS patients. "There is this kind of irrationality," he said. "People are just not listening; they get so anxious when the name AIDS is mentioned that they just lose their rationality." His goal, he said then, was to address the way people "express our Christian compassion" and ensure that AIDS patients weren't cut off from their communities.
Mark Peterson, then CEO of Lutheran Social Service, said Eid played a pivotal role spreading that message. "I think that others felt Paul's courage to take on hard issues," he said. "We felt it appropriate to encourage the synods and the congregations to not be judgmental or hysterical, or respond negatively to the threat of AIDS.
"Since Paul wasn't judgmental, he really gave a lot of room to people to be their best selves. He was really quite a remarkable guy in that regard."
After retiring in 1990, Eid indulged in his lifelong love of music, serving as the "klokker" or music leader at summer church services at a campground in northwestern Minnesota, where his family has had a cabin for nearly a century.
In August, he and his wife celebrated their 60th anniversary, and he stayed active and engaged despite diagnoses of Alzheimer's and cancer, said Burton.
"To the end, [he was] just very sweet and gentle," she said.
In addition to his wife and Burton, Eid is survived by daughter Deborah Eid of Grand Rapids, Mich., sons Jonathan Eid of Lakewood, Colo., and Kellan Christopher of Mill Valley, Calif., and 10 grandchildren. Services have been held.
Maura Lerner 612-673-7384