The Rev. Paul Landahl, 82, died peacefully on Aug. 31, 2020, surrounded by his family.
Rev. Landahl was born on April 4, 1938, to Gustav and Bertha, Swedish immigrants. He was a graduate of Valparaiso University and Concordia Seminary. His lifetime of ministry took a remarkable range of forms: mission developer, parish minister of Ascension Lutheran Church in Riverside, an associate to the bishop, bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and finally the director of candidacy for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
His ministry was founded on a true love of community and people, a passion for finding ways to grow the church and make it more inclusive, and an unwavering commitment to social justice.
Rev. Landahl’s youthful spirit matched well with his passion for working with younger people, whether it was leading trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for 20 years to supporting seminary students navigating the candidacy process. His strong sense of service and calling was an inspiration to many.
While he was bishop of the Metro Chicago Synod from 2001-07, he advocated for the rights of LGBTQ parishioners and ministers in the ELCA and led the efforts to become a Reconciling in Christ synod.
Through his leadership as bishop, he was a tireless advocate for the rights of marginalized groups including people who live in poverty, persons of color, and the LGBTQ community.
In the words of those who knew him, “He lived a consequential life, walked his values, was a force, a beautiful soul, and someone who showed what compassion looks like.” Joy and justice lived in Rev. Landahl’s spirit.
Rev. Landahl also served his community as a longtime member and chairman of the Riverside Township Mental Health Board, volunteer and board member at BEDS Plus, and as a board member of Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208. He loved his community and Chicago including the Cubs, food and architecture.
He had a deep and abiding love for his family. His boundless energy enabled him to accomplish many great things in his life and also allowed him to be an amazing and supportive husband and dad.
Rev. Landahl’s sense of humor and positive spirit helped his family through good and difficult times. He embraced and celebrated life with music. He cherished family dinners and always welcomed an interesting political conversation. He was a rock of support for his children and grandchildren and will be deeply missed.
He was the husband of Carolyn who died in 2010; the father of Elizabeth (Heather Cusick), Amy (Mark Hill) and Matthew (Jeannette Payne); and ‘Papa’ to Eleanor and Nathan Hill and Jonah Landahl. He was preceded in death by his brother, George, and survived by his older brothers, John and Graydon.
The family is planning a memorial service for him when it is safe to do so. Memorial donations are welcome and appreciated to Ascension Lutheran Church, 400 Nuttall Road, Riverside, 60546 or BEDS Plus (beds-plus.org).
Arrangements were handled by The Original Kuratko Family, Kenneth D. and Brian D. Kuratko, directors.