By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Pastor Gerald Boldt and his wife, Louise, of Winsted are packing up their possessions and 10 years worth of memories as they prepare to move to Seabrook, TX.
The Boldts are leaving St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Jan. 1, where Gerald has been pastor since coming to Winsted in 1999. They are heading for warmer weather in the south, planning to retire, or at least take life a little easier.
“I like the warmer climate. We always talked about moving someplace milder,” Gerald said.
He had been planning to retire October 2009, but with another winter coming and a home waiting for them in Seabrook, the couple decided to make the move a little earlier than previously planned.
Seabrook is not too far from Galveston Island and what Gerald calls “hurricane country” where he will have the opportunity to work with his mobile chapel project.
“I will be involved in the ministry,” Gerald said. “I think I have a few years left. I will be looking at working with church organizations in Texas, especially with our synod in the Texas district. There are still churches in Galveston Island that are gone.”
The Boldts’ upcoming move to Texas is just one of many they have been on together since they married in June 1969. Some of their journeys have been more exciting than others.
Gerald was in the Army for 23 years before he became a minister. Previous to joining the Army, he was in the Marine Corp for three years.
He and Louise have been stationed throughout the country.
However, their time in Panama during the reign of Manuel Noriega, the Boldts agree, is definitely a part of their past they will never forget.
“We were sent to Panama because they (Army) knew there was going to be an American invasion,” Gerald said.
As part of the United States invasion of Panama in 1989, Noriega was overthrown and captured in Panama during Operation Nifty Package.
“We had mortar rounds going off in our backyard. They had our evacuation packet ready to go in case we had to evacuate,” Louise said. “It was a stressful time in our lives.”
One night the Boldts had gone out to supper at an Italian restaurant with some officers.
“Some very well-dressed young men came into the restaurant with suits on,” Louise said.
Although there were guards posted outside to protect the customers, they didn’t realize the young men entering the restaurant were armed and dangerous.
“They pulled their guns and said something in Spanish. We didn’t understand and everybody went under their tables except us Americans,” Louise said.
“They were stealing jewelry and I took off my wedding ring and stuck it underneath my tongue when they weren’t looking. They put a gun to my head. I just sat there. I was afraid they would catch me, but they didn’t take my wedding ring.”
Leaving Panama after three years did not come soon enough for Louise, but Gerald found a number of positives about living there.
“I loved Panama,” Gerald said. “It was the tropics with 95 degrees every day. You could go scuba diving in the ocean, which was just like taking a bath.”
The people of Panama were also inspiring to Gerald. Although they had little, they made use of what they had.
They managed to build a plain church that had a dirt floor. They decorated the church with orchids picked from nearby ditches. Their life was very rich with few material things, Gerald said.
“Too often in an affluent society we lose perspective of what is really important that is our love for God and fellow man,” Gerald said.
Before leaving Panama, their oldest daughter Heather married Rick McGregor, a military man, and stayed in Panama with him.
The Boldts returned to the States from Panama with their two younger daughters, Heidi and Holly, for what would be Gerald’s last station of duty at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin where he was a mobilization officer for units returning from Desert Storm.
Entering the seminary
By the time Gerald had served his three years in Fort McCoy, he decided he was ready to retire from the Army. The big question was what was he going to do now?
Always active in the church, Gerald said he knew that one day, if possible, he was going to go into the ministry. The time seemed right.
“I think it was a calling,” Gerald said. “I was in my mid-to-late 40s. It is not easy learning Greek when you are an old guy.”
For Louise, who had married the boy next door in Mankato almost 25 years earlier, she had reservations about his entering the ministry but did support him.
It was after spending a weekend visit at the seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana she was able to say, “I am ready for this change.”
It was tough times for the couple while Gerald was studying full-time and Louise was working at the seminary day care. Money was tight, but they adjusted, and they made it.
“You live on faith, and it will take care of you. It did, and it always does,” Gerald said.
Once Gerald became a minister, Louise found being married to a pastor wasn’t much different than being married to an Army man.
“Being a pastor’s wife is a lot like when he was in the service,” Louise said. “I was used to him being called out when he was in the service. Families came second, and I just took that with me when he became a pastor. He is always on call, so I accepted it.”
He first served at Divine Saviour Lutheran Church in Fon du Lac, WI, where the family stayed for four years.
When they moved to Winsted to serve at St. John’s, they left their second daughter, Heidi, in Fon du Lac where she had met and married Scott Valentino.
Both Gerald and Louise were excited to move back to Minnesota in 1999 with their youngest daughter, Holly.
One of the reasons for their wanting to move back to Minnesota was both of their parents were living in Mankato and were getting older. They wanted to be closer to them.
Another reason was the move to Winsted put them closer to the lake home they had purchased in 1978 when Gerald was city administrator in Aitkin, MN.
Gerald had also been city administrator in Mountain Lake, MN after he got his masters degree from Mankato State in 1975 and before entering the Army.
“Even now we go there and that has been our Minnesota home for 30 years. It is about two-and-a-half hours from Winsted,” Gerald said.
But the warmer climate has been calling the Boldts with a chance to go scuba diving and deep sea fishing again.
Their oldest daughter, Heather, has since moved from Panama to Dallas, TX, and Gerald and Louise have had the chance to visit often.
They began looking for homes while they were down there several years ago, beginning in Brownsville and eventually finding the perfect home in Seabrook.
“We were in the process of buying our house when Hurricane Ike went through and we thought ‘so much for that house.’” Gerald said. “But there wasn’t even a shingle that was removed. I have a tree in the front yard that tipped over. I am going to plant a palm tree there,” Gerald said with a big smile.
Looking back on their time in Winsted, they are both glad they were able to see the new addition to St. John’s Church and the elevator project that made the church handicap accessible.
“By no means was I the driving force there, but I was glad it was done during my time here,” Gerald said.
Gerald served on the Winsted City Council, as well. He pushed to get the video program for the city and the community.
Today, the Winsted council meetings are videotaped for cable, as well as St. John’s services.
“I was glad to serve on the council for four years. I think it is important that religious leaders become active in the community, as long as there isn’t a conflict,” Gerald said.
As he prepares for the next chapter in his life, Gerald reflects on his time in Winsted.
“Winsted is a great community. I loved it from the churches standpoint,” Gerald said. “The warm receptive relationship between the churches. I think it is closer here than in some communities. A lot has to do with former Pastor Borgman of St. John’s and Fr. Jack of Holy Trinity. They got to be good friends.”
Louise, too, has found Winsted to be a good home.
“This has just been a wonderful community,” Louise said. “I really enjoyed being here, and I am going to miss a lot of people in this town, but I am looking forward to Seabrook and this change in our lives called retirement.”
This time, when Louise and Gerald move to Seabrook, the only family member they are bringing is their dachshund, Brutus.
Their youngest daughter, Holly, married Anthony Blake, and they live in Woodbury.
The Boldts have six grandchildren.