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Remembering Rev. Don Deines

A longtime fixture in the Lutheran church, and a beloved Austin community member, passed away this weekend.

The Rev. Don Deines, 65, of Austin died Sunday, June 6, at Three Links Care Center in Northfield, Minn.

Deines served as pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Austin from 1987 until 2004, when he retired after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

While in Austin, contemporaries agreed, Deines was well-known for working to bring together the Lutheran and Catholic communities, providing aid to the depressed and simply, his grace.

Bishop Harold Usgaard and the Rev. Glenn Monson will officiate the funeral service Friday. Both had known Deines for decades.

Monson, now senior pastor at Our Savior’s, was associate pastor under Deines from 1996 to 2004.

“It is a huge loss for our community. He was special to many, many people,” he said. “It’s not going to be an easy service Friday.”

Monson remembers Deines as an “ecumenically-minded person, who truly believed that God’s love is for all.”

He noted that Deines, who had dealt with depression himself, provided special ministries for the depressed.

Deines was involved in the development of D.A.W.N. (Depression Awareness and Wellness Network) at Austin Medical Center, serving on an advisory board, said one of the program’s founders Mary Anne Wolesky.

“He was an early supporter and a strong supporter,” she said. “We appreciated him so much.”

When the program started in the mid-1990s, Deines organized a memorial service at Our Savior’s for survivors of people who died by suicide, Wolesky said.

Usgaard, whose time as pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church overlapped with Deines’ at Our Savior’s, recalled that pastors county-wide and even doctors referred their depressed church-members and patients to Deines.

“He went out of his way to minister to people who were down and out,” Usgaard said. “He was a grace-filled person. He just lived it.”

Usgaard, who met Deines in the 1960s when they were both members of the Nordic Choir at Luther College, said Deines had been “saved by grace,” which was one reason he wanted to help those who suffered from depression.

Deines enjoyed drawing people together, explained his friend, the Rev. Paul Nelson, who was a priest at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church when Deines was at Our Savior’s.

“He and I exchanged pulpits,” Nelson said. “And, I brought my confirmation candidates to him and he taught them about the Lutheran tradition. He brought his students to me, and I taught them the Catholic tradition… It was good for both communities to come together.”

Deines, born in Greene, Iowa, spent time in other churches before becoming senior pastor at Our Savior’s.

After graduating from Luther, he married Judy Snell in Mason City, Iowa in 1967 before attending Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. He was ordained in 1971 at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greene, Iowa.

His first call was as youth pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in LeMars, Iowa. He later served as co-pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran in Tacoma, Wash., pastor of Underwood Lutheran Church in Underwood, Iowa and pastor of life and growth at Bethel Lutheran in Rochester, Minn., before coming to Austin where he would run into his college friend Usgaard again.

“He was a kind and gracious person who preached about the love of God and lived that love out in the community. We will all miss him,” Usgaard said.

Deines is survived by his wife, Judy Deines, of Northfield, Minn.; children, Benjamin Deines of Austin, Joseph (Becky) Deines of Bend, Ore., Sarah (The Rev. Dan) Forsgren of Cannon Falls, Minn.; grandchildren, Autumn Weeks, Donny, Karis and William Forsgren; siblings, Joe (Fontell) Deines of Cordova, Ill., The Rev. John (Martha) Deines of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Carol (Jim) Neessen of Tucson, Ariz.; mother-in-law, Leola Snell of Mason City, Iowa; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Pat and Dr. Keith Colwell of Johnston, Iowa, Dr. Mick and Carol Snell of Hampton, Iowa; nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, June 11, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church with the Rev. Glenn Monson and Bishop Harold Usgaard officiating. The nursery will be opening during the funeral service at the church. Visitation will be on Thursday, June 10, from 4 to 8 p.m. and at the church on Friday for one hour before the service. Interment will be at Memorial Park Cemetery in Mason City, Iowa.

Memorials are preferred to the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Research Center or Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

Arrangements are by the Clasen-Jordan Mortuary.