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Published: Tuesday, 9/19/2006

Longtime minister known for his caring nature

NAPOLEON- The Rev. Reuben Emil Bebler, 82, a retired pastor who led St. John's United Church of Christ in Holgate, Ohio, for many years, died yesterday in the Lutheran Home at Napoleon, from complications of an intestinal infection.

Mr. Bebler, who went into active ministry after many years of farming, took the helm of St. John's in 1969 and retired from the church in 1987. He and his wife moved to Angola, Ind., where he continued in part-time ministry for many years before returning to Napoleon in 2003.

"He was a very caring person that would do anything to help out someone in need," his son, James said. "He enjoyed visiting with people and could talk to anybody."

Born in Wells, Minn., he grew up on a farm and intended to become a farmer, but felt a calling to ministry, his son said. "He was a farmer for more than 10 years, and he liked what he did, but he always wanted to be a minister."

Mr. Bebler, who was stationed in the South Pacific for two years with the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, married the former Joyce Miller on Oct. 8, 1948.

He attended Mankato State College in Minnesota and then received his bachelor's degree from Lakeland College in Wisconsin. After college, he pursued a degree in divinity from United Theological Seminary in Minnesota, receiving his degree in 1964.

After seminary, he served as the pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Ortonville, Minn., until 1969, when he was called to serve as the pastor at St. John's.

Surviving are his wife, Joyce Bebler; daughter, Suzanne Dunlop; son, James; sister, Eunice Grunzke; three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow in the Snyder-Wesche Funeral Home, Napoleon. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. John's United Church of Christ.

The family suggests tributes to the church, the Lutheran Home at Napoleon, or to a charity of the donor's choice.

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