5 generations and counting

Published 2:05 pm Friday, March 16, 2012

J.O. and Matilda Johnson, Webster’s parents and Judy’s grandparents, were founding members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lyle. -- Photo provided

The Ransom family has been a part of Our Savior’s in Lyle for 100 years

This story originally appeared in Progress 2012. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald.

For the Ransom family, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lyle has been home for more than a century.

The Ransom family has been a fixture at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lyle since Judy Ransom’s grandmother helped found the church. The family is Treasure and Dan Ransom, back, Judy and Don Ransom, middle and Jordan, 9, and Peyton, 6, Ransom, front.

Don and Judy Ransom have ties dating to the church’s formation. Don and Judy’s grandsons, 9-year-old Peyton and 6-year-old Jordan, are the fifth generation in their family to attend the church. The boys’ parents, Treasure and Dan — Judy’s and Don’s son — are also active members.

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“This is just home for us,” said Judy, a retired teacher. “We’ve lived in Lyle all our lives.”

Even though Judy and Don, who is a retired farmer, recently moved to Austin, Lyle is still “home,” and they travel back for service every week.

“Every Sunday they’re here,” Our Savior’s Pastor Barbara Finley-Shea said.

To the Ransoms, Our Savior’s is more than a church, it’s a family tradition.

Judy’s grandmother, Matilda, was a founding member of Lyle’s Lutheran Ladies Aid in 1903, and she was the group’s president when community members decided to build a Lutheran church. The Ladies Aid did a lot of fundraising by charging dues, and holding dinners, bazaars and food sales.

Judy’s grandfather, J.O., was one of the first trustees for the church, and he was on the building committee when construction started in 1911.

Since it’s inception, the church has been a constant part of the family’s life.

“We’ve all been baptized here and confirmed here, married here,” Dan said.

It is bittersweet, as they hold fond memories of Christmas pageants and church dinners, but Don also remembers funeral services there for departed family members and friends.

More than Sunday mornings

The Ransom’s don’t just attend church on Sunday mornings. They’re involved in church activities.

Dan is the church’s financial secretary, and Treasure leads the music for the Sunday school program, sings in the choir and for special events, and she’s on the education board.

Webster and Marlys Johnson, Judy’s parents.

“She’s a top-notch singer,” Don said of his daughter-in-law.

Judy led the history committee for the centennial, and compiled a book highlighting the church’s history, but she’s involved in other activities, too.

“She’s constantly serving meals and in circles,” Treasure said.

Judy’s 93-year-old Mother, Marlys, sang in the church choir for more than 60 years and sang at weddings and funerals. She now lives in a nursing home.

Treasure and Dan both work for Mayo Clinic in Rochester and lived there for a short while. Still, it was important to maintain membership.

“When there’s that strong sense of a family history, it makes sense to continue that tradition,” Treasure said.

Judy said she never pressured Dan and Treasure to attend Our Savior’s, and she even expected them to be married in Montana, where Treasure grew up.

“I never told Dan and Treasure you have to come to church in Lyle,” Judy said. “They just on their own said that they wanted to come to church here.”

Don wasn’t as coy about his wishes.

“Oh, I twisted their arms,” Don admitted.

Longtime pastors

The Ransoms attribute much of the church’s success to its long-tenured pastors.

Finley-Shea has served at the church since 1998.

“We have a wonderful pastor who is definitely very caring,” Judy said.

Before Finley-Shea, the church was led by the Rev. Harold Luecke, who was a close friend of Don and Judy.

The family touted Finley-Shea as someone who makes everyone feel welcome. To Finley-Shea, that’s church 101.

“If we can’t make people feel welcome, we have no business being here,” she said.

Looking to the future

While the pastor has kept the church operating smoothly, there have been challenges.

Out Savior’s has a declining membership because of an aging population. Judy said it has been difficult seeing the older people leave their homes, move to nursing homes and pass on.

Still, the Ransoms see a bright future for their church, citing increased enrollment in the Sunday school program.

“I can see a lot of growth in the church,” Judy said.

The church has a membership of about 460 people, and the Ransom’s aren’t the only long-standing members, as it has five five-generation families.

The Ransoms were quick to note the church isn’t just a few long-standing families. All the members give back.

“In this church, everybody pitches in,” Judy said.

“Everyone utilizes their gifts,” Treasure added.

Treasure said there are active younger families, and many people are stepping up to help out and give back.

“There’s so many go-to people here for different things,” Treasure said.

The Ransoms’ tradition may not end at five generations. Dan and Treasure both grew up in church-going families, and they are trying to raise Jordan and Peyton the same way.

“We’re trying to share with our kids to show them it’s important to attend church, and hopefully they’ll make their own choices as they grow up,” Treasure said.