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Rest in Peace, Rise in Glory: May 3

The Rev. Irving F. Ballert Jr., a U.S. Army and Navy veteran and engineer, died February 11 at 96.

He was born in Cohoes, New York, and was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the State University of New York.

From 1944 to 1946 he served in the 95th Infantry Division and was a separation counselor at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He later worked as an inspector of machinery for the U.S. Navy, and as an engineer in medium-induction motors at General Electric in Schenectady, New York.

Ballert trained for ordination under the direction of the Rev. George DeMille, and was ordained deacon and priest in 1962. He served in the Diocese of Albany for most of his ministry, including as rector of St. Paul’s Church, Sidney, for more than 30 years.

He was chairman of the diocese’s youth committee, and he and his wife, Dorothy, were active in the Cursillo and Happening movements, as well as in the Order of St. Francis.

His wife preceded him in death in 2021, after 72 years of marriage. He is survived by two daughters, a son, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

 

The Rev. Charles Sherman Burger, a veteran who long worked for the well-being of people with intellectual and development disabilities, died February 3 at 84.

Burger was born in St. Louis, and was a graduate of Trinity College and Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

After his graduation from college, he was an advertising specialist for the Hawaiian Electric Co. He served in the 25th Infantry “Tropic Lightning” Division and in the Engineer Battalion of the Hawaii Army National Guard.

He was ordained deacon and priest in 1966, and became the first vicar of St. Michael’s and All Angels Church in Lihue, Kauai. While there, he became president of the Arc of Maui County and was a chaplain to the Lahainaluna High School football team. He later served churches in Nevada and Idaho.

He is survived by Diane, his wife of 39 years; three sisters; two brothers; four sons; two daughters; ten grandchildren; two stepchildren; and four stepgrandchildren.

 

The Rev. Charles Howard Huffman, a U.S. Navy Reserve veteran who loved to sing, died January 23 at 97.

He was a native of Houston, and served in the United States Navy Reserve (Lieutenant jg) shortly after completing high school. After his military service, he completed a degree in physics at the University of Texas-Austin, and married Carolyn Barlow in 1951. After the couple’s first child died at age 6, Huffman sensed a call to ordained ministry.

He completed a degree at Seminary of the Southwest and was ordained deacon in 1966 and priest in 1967.

He served as an assistant rector of St. David’s in Austin before becoming an associate director of the Pittsburgh Experiment (1971-73). He then became rector of St. Matthew’s in Austin, and remained there for 18 years. He retired in 1991.

He was a member of the Love Notes Choir in Austin, and was a producer for a 2016 Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof.

He is survived by two daughters, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

 

Mrs. Mary Kohler, a philanthropist who supported Nashotah House Theological Seminary and The Living Church, died February 18 in Puerto Montt, Chile, at 93. She had experienced months of declining health, and was cared for by her son Chris Ferrell, his wife, Isolde, and their extended family.

She was born as Mary Stewart in Rockford, Illinois, and was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in geology.

She married Terry J. Kohler — a sports enthusiast, conservationist, and onetime gubernatorial candidate — in 1981. Together, they were active in a whooping-crane recovery project between Wisconsin and Florida.

She spent nearly every summer of her life at a primitive cabin on her family’s lake property in northwestern Wisconsin, where she enjoyed swimming, studying nature, cooking family meals on her wood-fired stove, and taking a daily pontoon boat cocktail cruise.

“Mary had a strong spirit, generous heart, and relentless curiosity to continually learn while seeking to make things better,” her friend Barbara Quasius said in a family obituary.

She is survived by four sons, two stepdaughters, 13 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

 

The Rev. Canon J. Kenneth Major, who brought his skills as a peacemaker to his birthplace of Miami, died February 16 at 87. He had retired as rector of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation after 35 years.

Major was born in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, and showed an affable manner toward his fellow students and teachers while attending high school. He was a graduate of St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Mercer Theological Seminary, which he attended after full days as a social worker. He was ordained deacon in 1968 and priest in 1969.

“When he went back to school at Mercer Seminary in Garden City, Long Island, New York, to continue his dream of becoming a priest, he was married with three young children,” said his longtime friend Whittington Johnson, in a report by Bea L. Hines of the Miami Herald. “He would leave work, attend classes, and at 11 p.m. at night, he would take the subway home. He once told me that he often would be so tired that he would fall asleep on the subway.”

In July of 1968, he was assigned as curate to assist with the pastoral work at the Church of the Incarnation. He became its rector by 1974.

When racial disturbances erupted in 1968, 1970, and 1980, Fr. Major worked with other community leaders to restore peace. His daughter said he was “humbly proud” of rescuing a white man, who was pulled from his car by angry rioters after he mistakenly drove through Overtown during the disturbance.

Fr. Major was preceded in death by his wife, Betty Jean, and daughter Karen Renee Major. He is survived by three daughters, two sons, and seven grandchildren.

 

Mr. Ira Albert Russell Jr., music director of St. John’s Lafayette Square from 1966 to 1984, died January 23 at 91.

He was a native of Marlin, Texas, who became interested in organ from an early age. He earned degrees from the Washington Institute of Music and Union Theological Seminary, and studied with Virgil Fox at Riverside Church in New York City. He made one of the first American recordings of Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem (1947).

He taught at American University and the Catholic University of America.

 

The Rev. Thomas K. Trutner, who once introduced singer Joan Baez for a speech on nonviolent resistance, died February 1 at 87.

Trutner was a native of Oakland, Calif., and a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley and Princeton Theological Seminary. He began serving as a Presbyterian minister in 1961, was an ecumenical guest pastor in Hamburg, Germany (1965-66), a minister at Piedmont Community Church (1967-70), and an administrator at UC-Berkeley (1970-87).

It was at Piedmont Community Church that he welcomed Baez in November 1969 to address members of Pi Chi, a youth organization in the East Bay area. Her speech, “Just You and Me,” including Trutner’s introduction, is available on the Internet Archive.

Trutner joined St. Paul’s Church in Oakland in 1978 as a non-stipendary pastor. He was ordained as an Episcopal deacon and priest in 1982, serving as associate priest and assistant priest until 1987.

In the summer of 1978, he led St. Paul’s youth group on a trip to the Grand Tetons that proved so memorable that it became an annual practice. Two vans full of teenagers, along with their chaperones, stayed at parishes in Nevada and Idaho. In Jackson, Wyoming, they stayed at a youth hostel and helped parishioners chop firewood for the harsh winter ahead.

“My father was accomplished, a true Renaissance man — minister, college administrator, counselor, travel adviser, rugby player,” said his son, Kirk. “But he would much rather be defined by his qualities. He was joyful, inquisitive, merciful, passionate, welcoming, empathetic, playful, and so much more.”

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