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Delbert J. Schrag

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Delbert J. Schrag, 97, died Nov. 28, 2018 at his home in Forest Grove, Ore.

He was born on his family farm outside of Marion, S.D. on Oct. 13, 1921, the seventh of nine children, to John JA Schrag and Katie (Miller) Schrag.

An active member of the Salem-Zion Mennonite Church, where his father served as co-pastor, he had graduated from Marion High School, completed two years at Freeman Junior College and one year of teaching when World War II broke out. In 1942, he was drafted and was granted Conscientious Objector status. 

Del served his country through the duration of the war, working with crews of fellow “COs” at Civilian Public Service camps in South Dakota, Florida and California.

After being discharged from CPS in April 1946, Del returned to South Dakota and married Stella Waltner, whom he often described as “the best-looking girl” at the neighboring Salem Mennonite (South) Church.

The young couple moved to Kansas, where Del completed his undergraduate degree at Bethel College. He and Stella then moved to Chicago, where he enrolled in the University of Chicago Divinity School. While there he was assigned, as a student pastor, to a struggling Congregational church in a farming community north of the city. 

The expectation was that the young pastor would help the dwindling number of church members merge with a larger Congregational church in a nearby town. However, as Del told the story, the “stubborn old German farmers” had other ideas, and soon they won over the young pastor (who in his later years delighted in describing himself as a “stubborn old Kraut-head.”) 

Instead of closing the church, the young Rev. Schrag helped revive it and in 1971, the members of the Ivanhoe Congregational Church celebrated the 22 years that he’d served as their pastor, building a vibrant, growing community of faith, while he and Stella raised their growing family of four daughters and a son. 

In January 1972, Del took on a new challenge, accepting a position as an Area Conference Minister for the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ and moving the family to the western suburbs of Chicago. In his new position, Del worked with local congregations with a host of issues, from declining memberships and the changing demographics of the metropolitan area to the struggle to make the denomination welcoming to all people, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. His passion for social justice served him and the denomination well.

Del retired in 1990 and stayed busy with his flower and vegetable gardens, traveling with Stella and occasionally serving as an interim minster. They bought a small summer cottage near Tower Hill Camp in Sawyer, Mich. spent many winters in Tucson, Ariz., where they owned a townhouse near three of their daughters, exploring the desert and spending time with grandchildren. 

At the time of his retirement, Del and Stella’s kids all had settled on the West Coast. So, in the summer of 2004, he and Stella made one more big life change, moving to Forest Grove, Ore., where their son, John, and his family lived.

There, the couple was welcomed by the Forest Grove United Church of Christ, which was an important part of Del’s final years, embracing his quest for a world with less conflict and his ongoing exploration of the power and mystery of the Holy Spirit.  

Del was preceded in death by his parents; two sisters, Edna Glanzer and Emma Graber; and four brothers: Silas, Paul, Felix and Oswald. He’s survived by two brothers, Allen (Ardelle) and Calvin; his wife, Stella; his five children (and their spouses): Kathryn (Martin), Jan (David), Megan (Erec), Barb (Paul) and John (Karen); and his nine grandchildren.

A celebration of his life was held Dec. 1, 2018 at the Forest Grove United Church of Christ. 

Memorial donations can be directed to:

West Tuality Habitat for Humanity, PO Box 806, Forest Grove, OR 97116

Care Partners Hospice, 1600 NW Compton Drive #201, Beaverton, OR 97006

Center on Conscience and War, 1830 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20009