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June 9, 2003 ELCA News Service
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Lutheran Leader H. W. Pfennig, Jr., Dies

Chicago (ELCA)-JAC* — H. W. Pfennig, Jr., 72, who was influential in the merger that created the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), died May 18 of a heart condition.

Pfennig was a retired chemical firm executive and an active member of the ELCA. He served on the board of regents of Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, Texas, and was a member of the board of the Lutheran Foundation of the Southwest. He previously served on the board of trustees for the ELCA Mission Investment Fund and the board for the ELCA Division for Outreach.

Pfennig was a leader in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod and in the Houston community.

In 1987 the Lutheran Church in America, American Lutheran Church and Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches merged to form the ELCA.

Before the merger in 1987, Pfennig served on various councils of the American Lutheran Church, including serving as Church Council Chair of the American Lutheran Church. In 1985 he became chairman for the transition team that worked on the merger among the three churches that became the ELCA.

Born in Austin and raised in San Antonio, Texas, he earned both bachelor's and master's degrees at University of Texas, Austin. He served as a military policeman in the U. S. Army during the Korean War.

Working in Houston as a chemical engineer, Pfennig eventually became the executive president of Merichem Company. Following retirement in 1995, he continued to serve as a board member until his death.

"His education as an engineer served him well in his ability to analyze issues and chair deliberations," said the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary.

As chair of the transition team, Pfennig was responsible for many early decisions made in the formation of the ELCA, said Almen. The transition team was responsible for purchasing the building which houses the churchwide office, setting personnel policies and choosing nominees for directors of the churchwide units.

"That analytical ability always was shaped by his commitment to the health and well-being of the life of the Church," Almen said.

Pfennig had "a profound dedication to Christ and to the Church" and consequently remained active on early churchwide committees in the ELCA, Almen said.

"He had a quiet, understated manner that in some ways may have hid his brilliant, insightful mind," Almen said.

Pfennig is survived by his wife, Claudette, their two daughters — Deborah Burdett of Cypress, Texas, and Pamela Glazener of Pearland, Texas — his twin sister, Eleanor Koester, and his mother, Ella Pfluger Pfennig, both of New Braunfels, Texas. He is also survived by four grandchildren.

Pfennig was a member of Peace Lutheran Church, Pasadena, Texas. Services were held May 21 at Peace Lutheran Church.

* Jessica A. Crane is completing her bachelor of arts degree at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn. This summer she is an intern with ELCA News and Media production.