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Walter Lagerwey-A Remembrance
June 6, 2005
Walter Lagerwey
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Walter Lagerwey passed away on June 2, 2005 after a short illness. Lagerwey retired from Calvin College in 1983 after 30 years of service to the college as a professor of Dutch.
I count it an honor to speak a few words about Walter Lagerwey as a colleague and friend this afternoon. I thank you, Wilma, and all of the members of the family for asking me to do so.

I have many memories of Walter, good ones.

I remember him with admiration and respect as the teacher who early on realized that the available texts for teaching Dutch were inadequate and outdated, and who responded by willingly, systematically, creatively taking on the demanding task of writing a new one, which was then published and widely and appreciatively used, even well beyond the borders of this country.

I remember Walter as a scholar totally committed to his discipline. And as a scholar who loved his discipline and the culture that it reflected in which it was embedded. It is one thing to be master of one's discipline; it is a higher Christian calling to love it. Walter realized that higher calling.

I remember Walter as an enthusiastic and ebullient teacher, brimming with ideas, suffering, even agonizing, through times of low enrollment in Dutch, grateful when things went well.

I remember with gratitude Walter's commitment to and love for Calvin College, his respect for his colleagues, and his gratitude for the support of the college administration, and especially for the support of President Emeritus Spoelhof.

I remember Walter as a grateful child of the Lord:

  • thankful for you, Wilma, and for the family always so close to his heart

  • thankful for any small gesture a colleague made to help him along his way

  • thankful for Abraham Kuyper's-and the Lord's-little people, especially the people of West Leonard Christian Reformed Church who supported his family during the depression's darkest days, when the family was beset by great need

I remember Walter as a generous person, quick to value the achievements and gifts of others.

I remember Walter's concern for the suffering of others, for his quiet attempts to help me, for example, when our daughter became seriously ill at a young age.

I also remember him for his sense of humor, for his readiness to heartfelt, but gentle laughter, never done at the expense of another.

  • I remember sill the impish smile on his face when he listened to me massacre some lines from a work by Vondel.

  • And I remember him laughing at a student skit performed at his retirement, in which the student players tried to demonstrate what happened when Walter, smitten with some new insight or pedagogical idea he had thought of on the way to school, changed his lesson plan while on his feet-with mixed results. Walter could laugh at himself.

And finally, and through it all, I remember Walter as a man of faith, a believer who sometimes wrestled hard with the problem of pain and suffering in particular, and who wouldn't take easy answers. But he always wrestled as a believer.

I remember-I believe it was during his retirement speech-when Walter spoke of one of the great discoveries of faith which had been his in his adult life, when, while reading the Dutch theologian Berkhouwer, he came to see the resplendent fullness of the river of divine grace. I remember his voice choking with emotion, even as he spoke of it.

Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy-was a short plea, often spoken by Walter in humility and faith, and with deep longing.

I join all of you today in turning those words around just a bit, thanking the Lord for the rich mercy he showed us in giving us Walter for more than a little while-for days, months, and years-good days, good months, good years. Good in the very deepest sense of the word.

Wallace Bratt
Professor Emeritus of German