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Rev. Ralph F. Strand
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Ralph Frederick Strand passed away on Thursday, September 10, 2009.

He was born May 11, 1927, in Escalon, California. The oldest child of Esmer and Mabel Strand, he grew up on the family farm with brother Donald and sister Carol, raising peaches, apricots, almonds and walnuts. He was baptized and confirmed at Saron Lutheran Church in Escalon.

After graduating high school in 1945, Ralph served in the U.S. Marine Corps. At the University of California-Davis he studied to be a vocational agriculture instructor and learned to fly small aircraft. But after earning his degree, he heard another calling.

In 1953, Ralph began attending California Lutheran Bible School in Los Angeles, where he met Amy Opdahl, a farm girl from North Dakota. They were married September 4, 1954 in Minneapolis.

The Strands moved to Rock Island, Illinois, where Ralph started classes at Augustana Theological Seminary. After his ordination in 1958, he and Amy began a 34-year partnership in ministry by accepting a call to Bethany Lutheran near Axtell, Nebraska. Ralph later accepted calls to two other Nebraska congregations: St. John's Lutheran in Yutan in 1965 and Bethel Lutheran in Holdrege in 1969.

Ralph's congregations were in agricultural areas, and he saw it as his mission to nourish the spirit of those who fed the world. He loved riding a tractor when visiting members on their farms.

In 1992, Ralph and Amy retired to Northfield, Minnesota, where they were active members of St. John's Lutheran Church. Ralph poured his energies into community work.

Survivors include two sons, Philip and wife Betsy of Woodbury, Minnesota, and Timothy of St. Paul, Minnesota; granddaughters Emma and Sarah; brother Donald Strand and wife Joanne of Turlock; and sister Carol Hildebrand and husband Mark of Cupertino; many cousins, in-laws and 27 nieces and nephews to whom he faithfully sent birthday messages or cards; and numerous friends and parishioners with whom he shared his unshakable faith.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Amy, in 2006.

Services were Saturday, Sept. 19, at St. John's Lutheran Church, Northfield. Memorials are preferred to Lutheran World Relief and Saron Lutheran Church in Escalon.

Arrangements were by the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home in Northfield.

The Escalon (Calif.) Times

Sept. 23, 2009