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Beacon Archive

October 2002
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Reverend Ralph Witmer 90 and Going Strong.

Even more remarkable than the beginning of his 91st year is the fact that this Beaver Islander (his beautiful home is on Esch Road and, appropriately, Paradise Bay) spent 70 of those years as a minister of the gospel. Starting at 20, Ralph began his calling as minister in the little town of Cedarville. His wages (in the depth of the Depression) were the collections for the Sunday services (amounting to about $200 a year.) Ralph soon embarked on a search for better wages for the calling he knew would be his life's work.

He served several other Michigan churches, including a Swedish Covenant, a Union Church, Hessel Presbyterian, Wesley Methodist in Detroit, Petoskey Methodist (for 7 years), then to Greenville, Marshall, Eaton Rapids, and down to St. Pete, followed LaGrange, Wisconsin, where he served three country churches every Sunday (morning, noon, and night), then to a seminary in Chicago, and finally as a chaplain in Albermarle, North Carolina.

He was introduced to Beaver Island by a Chicago friend in 1997 and decided that here was where he'd retire from the ministry. Some of you will remember the sermons he preached here. He bought a home here and sold it for enough to build his current home, which he reluctantly had to leave for quarters in North Carolina where he and his wife could get the care they needed--and a final ministry for Ralph.

The Witmers began a month's stay here this summer, renewing friendships and hosting a visit by friends and four generations of Witmers to celebrate Ralph's 90th birthday. Unfortunately the stay had to be terminated for needed medical treatment, but he and Ruth hope to come back for a month next summer. We all look forward to seeing him.

–Chuck Hooker


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