May 26, 1922 – April 27, 2021
Age 98, of Castle Pines, CO and formerly of Omaha.
FUNERAL SERVICE: Thursday, May 6th at 11am at Lutheran Church of the Master, 2617 S. 114th St. Interment, Evergreen Memorial Park. Complete obit to follow.
To view a live broadcast of the Funeral and Graveside Service, go to www.heafeyheafey.com and click on the “View Live Cast” button on our home page.
Alice Lorraine Pagenkopf was born May 26, 1922 to Fred and Alvina Pagenkopf on the family farm near Herington, Kansas. She was baptized on June 4, 1922 and later confirmed in her faith at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Herington on May 3, 1936. Her confirmation verse was 1Timothy 1:15a: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The first prayer she remembered praying was “Abba Lieber Vater. Amen.” – “Father, dear father” – a table prayer, often the first prayer learned by the children of German immigrant families in America. Alice came to know her loving, heavenly Father through the faith and example of her parents and grandparents. To the end of her life on earth, she gave great thanks to God for her spiritual heritage and the witness of her family to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Alice grew up under the wide open Kansas skies on a wheat and dairy farm. As soon as she was able, she had her morning chores, assisting with the milking of 25 Holstein cows, early morning and again right after school. She and her brother had fun competing to see who could milk the fastest. In summertime she would help her mother with a large garden: sowing, weeding, harvesting, and then canning the fruits and vegetables as the harvest came in. Alice never saw her mother idle; she watched and learned about hard work and the simple joys of life on the farm. She went to St. Paul’s Parochial School and presented a drawing to her teacher on her very first day with joy: “Sehen Sie die hübschen Blumen” – “see the pretty flowers” as she spoke in her native German. Alice could always see the beauty around her and appreciate the blessing of their life on the farm, especially in the lean years of the Great Depression. Her father shared his faith in a natural winsome manner as he went about his daily life; he looked to the Lord in simple trust. Alice remarked she only saw him cry near the end of life, when during his difficult battle with lymphoma, he said he could take the pain, but he missed being in church so much. Her mom was always willing to set another place at the table, for friends, for extended family, even for strangers, so it’s easy to understand how Alice grew to become the woman that she would become. In their home there was quiet humility, prayerfulness, not much materially, but always lots of joy in the Lord and each other.
She graduated from Herington High School in 1940 and worked at the Herington Air Base during World War II. At the end of war, Alice abruptly quit her job without a prospect of what was next. Reflecting later, she saw the Lord had brought her to a still place, one of trust that would lead to something new. In just a few weeks, the doors opened and she was offered the opportunity to join the mission work of the American Lutheran Church as a parish worker, a vocation that would shape the rest of her life. She helped the American Lutheran Church with the establishment of new and growing churches in Kansas City, Kansas, Omaha, Nebraska, and Denver, Colorado. She would go into neighborhoods, house-by-house, knocking on the doors of as many as 200 homes a day, to meet the neighbors, learn about them, and help make relational connections. She invited those outside the life of the church to come in, to come and hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She confessed in pure humility and honesty that the first time she went up to a house, she prayed they would not be home or answer! As in anything to which the Lord might call, she had to press beyond her fears and lean into His strength. Her first assignment was to help lay the groundwork for a new mission parish in Olathe, Kansas. Fifty years later she was invited back to celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church – a thriving, beautiful church! Next came assignments to parishes in Denver and Omaha.
Against this backdrop, there was her dating relationship and courtship of Edgar Danitschek, though as things grew serious and he proposed, she made him wait an entire summer before answering – she was busy with the work the Lord set before her! Edgar persisted and came to visit Alice in Denver in August, 1946 and she finally accepted his (2nd!) proposal while walking among the rose gardens at City Park. They were married July 20, 1947. She often recalled the message at their wedding was to keep the Lord first always, then each other second, and community third – including your children and ministry. Edgar discovered along the way he had found far more than a wife for himself in Alice, but truly a partner, an encourager, whom he credited immensely for helping him to stay centered and grounded in the Lord, especially in the more demanding times of ministry. Their love grew stronger through the many challenges they’d face together for fifty-two years. They opened their home as an extension of their life and ministry together. It was a place of warmth and hospitality; to come into their home was to find yourself refreshed in mind, body, and spirit. They offered simple kindness, joy, and encouragement – a hug, a warm smile, a good meal – even when Alice burned the meat, which she was known to occasionally do, and She could later really laugh about it.. There was always joy in the Lord!
She and Ed were connected to five churches in their life together where they forged lifelong friendships. First came St. Peter Lutheran Church in Bassett, Nebraska and St. John’s in Atkinson, Nebraska, ranch country, in the Sand Hills. In 1957, they came to American Lutheran in Omaha, NE where they would stay the longest, raising their children right along with all the other young families. On their 20th anniversary of serving there, the parish family gifted them with the trip of a lifetime to the Holy Land. Alice, who at age 56, had never been on a plane before. She was so filled with joy, Ed laughed, she didn’t even need a plane to get to Israel. She couldn’t wait to see where Jesus had walked and taught, healed the sick, raised the dead, was crucified and raised to life to secure her salvation. After retiring, Ed and Alice came to Pohocco Lutheran Church near Fremont, Nebraska and discovered another chapter of ministry filled with many wonderful and mutual blessings. At full retirement, their spiritual home became the family of Lutheran Church of the Master, where Alice was deeply involved for about three decades including twenty years after Ed’s death in 2000.
In retirement her interests and passions also turned to quilting, genealogy, and walking briskly – even three mile walks into her nineties! She surprised herself and her family by agreeing to travel twice to Germany, the second time at age 85, still insisting that she carry her own bags through the streets of Berlin. It was a dream fulfilled for her to see the small villages where her grandmother and great-grandmother had lived. She traced the path they walked through the quiet pastoral countryside to the nearby village where they attended church and were baptized. For Alice, there was always the great joy of her family – just to be together – whether for holidays, weddings, reunions, even funerals. In later years, she became something of a quiet matriarch to her extended family, by birth and by marriage, a role deeply rooted in her faith and her prayerfulness and love for each of them near or far. It was something she’d learned about as a young mother by watching the example of her mother-in-law, Martha Danitschek, whose prayerfulness and gracious ways always beckoned others to know the gentle love of the Savior.
As you look around today to the pastor, the organist, Alice’s children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends you are seeing the lives for whom she prayed: these names were all on the prayer list tucked into her Bible at the end of her life here. To those who read this later or are at a distance, it is likely your name was there, too.
In this last year it was her deep desire to go home to heaven, and also to move to Colorado (at 98!) to be closer to family. She rejoiced to look up at the mountains one more time, laughing that she was now one step closer to heaven on her final journey home. She ended her time here, closer to children and grandchildren, allowing us to share many beautiful moments even amidst anxiety and uncertainty in her own failing health. In times of great anxiousness she turned to the Lord’s faithfulness in His word: meditating daily on these words from Philippians 4:4-7,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but
in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
In times that brought pain and suffering, near the end, she humbly asked, “Come pray for me, and hold my hand at death” and we sang favorite hymns together. She never claimed to live a perfect life, but simply wanted Jesus to be front and center in her life, in her death, and especially in our remembrances. Her gentleness remained evident to all and reminded many of the Savior’s near presence and his tender love in all circumstances. And so we do not grieve as through who have no hope. 1 Thess. 4:13
She was preceded in death by husband, Edgar; daughter, Jane. She is survived by son, Tom of Gypsum, Colorado; daughter, Kay Gerhart (Ken) of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; grandchildren, Nathan Gerhart of Denver; and Carly Brendle (Marc) of Castle Rock, Colorado; and many beloved nieces and nephews.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Cor. 1:3,4.