More than 50 people from different faiths and backgrounds gathered at First Unitarian Church Sunday to sing a rousing "Happy Birthday" to Woody Trautman at his 90th birthday party.
Mr. Trautman, a retired electrical engineer, is the co-founder of the Multifaith Council of Northwest Ohio, with his wife, Judy Lee Trautman.
A member of First Unitarian Church, he has worked for more than 10 years organizing multifaith activities with the goal of bringing people together.
Friends who attended the birthday party said they were inspired by Mr. Trautman's energy and resolve.
"He has a 90-year-old body, but with the mind of a 20-year-old," Joe Moran said, watching as Mr. Trautman walked around eating cake and greeting friends.
The Trautmans founded the Multifaith Council in January, 2003.
Now, more than seven years later, the council has about 500 active participants and includes about a dozen faiths.
"We rely on a number of activities, fellowship, service, and education to foster relationships," he said.
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The main benefit was expanding and diversifying his group of friends, Mr. Trautman said. A Unitarian, he married his wife, who is Sufi, shortly after the two began working on the Multifaith Council. Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam.
Mr. Trautman said those who attended the wedding were from a wide range of backgrounds. Eight clergymen from different faiths performed the service.
"It just makes you feel good," he said. "It's like a family."
Mrs. Trautman said she is involved in multifaith work to decrease the amount of violence among faith groups as a result of political strife, which she said is often in the name of religion.
Although the couple agreed that there were always going to be arguments, even within the council, they said the group allowed people a forum for understanding each other better.
An important moment for Mrs. Trautman occurred when she had to turn people away from the council's ninth banquet because there were too many people.
"For me, and Woody too, when we go into an activity like that, we just get a feeling of warmth," Mrs. Trautman said.
Now, she said the council's board wants to encourage the creation of more community gardens, among other activities. She wants to "pass the baton" to younger council members so their work will outlive them.
Mr. Moran, also a member of First Unitarian Church, became involved with the Multifaith Council three years ago and now works on a blood drive and men's discussion group. He said Mr. Trautman succeeds because he's "hard to say no to" and sincerely loves bringing people together.
Claudia Cooper met Mr. Trautman at another multifaith activity, International Dances of Peace, before he started working on the Multifaith Council.
She said they became closer friends through their involvement at First Unitarian Church.
"He amazes me. I want to know his secret," Ms. Cooper said, laughing.
When asked what his next step was in multifaith work, Mr. Trautman thought for a second before he answered. "Onward," he said. "To get more people involved. I've got to do it in the next 10 years."
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