Rev. Joann Kramer passed away in May 2016. The women of St. John Lutheran of Nashua, IA, her first Call after graduation,made a banner celebrating Joann’s pastoral ministry, which you will see at ILT in Brookings if you come to visit. Her husband, Rev. David Kramer, thought that since Joann placed such a high esteem on the call to ministry our seminary was the fitting place.
Like all women who broke through the barrier to women’s ordination, Joann had to overcome many obstacles. Born in 1945 in Norfolk, Nebraska and raised on her parents farms in Nebraska, Joann was a good student, and while attending St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wayne, NE, during her confirmation years, Joann began to feel the Holy Spirit calling her to ordained ministry. St. Paul was affiliated with the LCA, which had just begun ordaining women. However, when Joann told her parents about the call and her desire to study to be a pastor they threatened to disown her.
After her high school graduation, to escape an abusive home, Joann moved to Norfolk, Nebraska where she began taking classes at community college to become a secretary. She graduated with an associate's degree and took a position as legal secretary. She married and as is so often the case of women who endured an abusive childhood, her husband verbally abused her and physically and verbally abused their sons. Joann eventually was helped by her pastor at the time to seek counseling, which resulted in her filing for divorce, determined that she had to protect her herself and her children.
Sometime after her divorce, Joann and David began going together, were married and lived with five teenage children. Another tragedy struck when Joann's third son, Christopher, died while he was a junior in high school. The call to ordained ministry that Joann had felt back in confirmation had never really left her, and with David’s encouragement she went back to college with the idea that perhaps she could answer God's call to ministry by becoming a Christian counselor, so earned her B.A., graduating at the top of her class. She enrolled in a Masters program in counselling and took a position as a therapist with Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. During that time, Joann also was hired as a part-time counselor and began a satellite office from his church for LFS.
Joann continued to experience the call to ordained ministry and enrolled at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, IA. Joann began to experience heart problems and was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease. She continued her seminary education, was ordained and joined David on staff at St. John of Nashua, Iowa. Joann’s first two open heart surgeries and the pacemaker implant between those surgeries took place at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN while erving St. John Lutheran in Nashua, IA. Needing to be closer to family in Nebraska, they took a call to serve as co- pastors in Beatrice. David tells us she had another open heart surgery there and that she never completely recovered from her second surgery during which she almost died.
In 2011, David Kramer interviewed and received a call to serve a wonderful church at rural Athol, KS where he continues to serve. Joann's health grew worse and worse during their years here. She was repeatedly in the hospital and endured constant pain but, the people at St. John’s, Athol were very kind to the Kramers during those difficult years. Joann must have wondered why she had only been allowed to serve ten years in ministry after answering a lifetime call and after enduring all the tremendously hard work, time and effort it took for her to reach ordination. In this life we see only in part, but she now has her answer. ILT is honored to be chosen as the repository for the banner honoring Joann’s ordination, and we wish to express our gratitude to Rev. David Kramer and St. John’s for choosing us.