Rev. Robert W. Strobel

July 16, 1936 - May 14, 2024

Visitation: Thursday, June 6, 2024, 1-4 & 6-8 p.m.; Devlin Funeral Home, Inc., Ross Twp.

Service: Friday, June 7, 2024 music to start at 6 p.m. with service to follow at 6:30 p.m. and a celebration of life after; St John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.


Rev. Robert W. Strobel died peacefully May 14, 2024 at age 87 years after a short illness. His wife of 63 years, Joyce Moon Strobel, daughter Sarah Sawaya and husband Corey Sawaya, sons Robert II and David Andrew were by his side for his last days telling stories, recalling his jokes, and sharing memories. Grandchildren Gabriel, Paula, Josefa, and daughter-in-law Natalia Beltran-Strobel were in video chats with him near the end, including a blessing for her upcoming marriage to Drew.

Son of Rev. George W. Strobel, a Lutheran pastor, and Ruth Moyle Strobel, a school teacher and formidable pastor’s wife, Bob was born in Baltimore, MD and grew up in various locations in Ohio, Maryland, and, joined by his sister, Lois Ruth (later Shipe), North Carolina, in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, and lastly in Zelienople, PA where Rev. George served St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Bob attended Capital University in Columbus, OH and Trinity Seminary where he met Joyce Moon at a freshman class mixer. They were later engaged before his internship in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada at German-speaking Lutheran Church of the Cross where he learned he did not want to serve his congregation as “Herr Pastor,” and gained a lifelong aversion to cold. Bob and Joyce were married in August of 1960, and he was ordained two years later.

Pastor Strobel was called to Grace Lutheran Church of Gray Manor in the Dundalk neighborhood of Baltimore, MD in 1962 and served there seven years with Joyce as organist, and then as parents of Sarah, Bob II, and David. Rev. George died suddenly in 1963, and St. Paul named their educational wing in his honor. Bob’s mother lived nearby for the rest of her life, including years at then Passavant Retirement Home.

In 1969, Pastor Strobel was called to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Perrysville, PA, just north of Pittsburgh and bought a home nearby. He served with devotion for 32 years, both in joy (his daughter’s wedding where he officiated) and tragedy (a church member’s paralyzing accident). He was self-deprecating and humble but rallied the skills of his members to meet the needs of their congregation. He grew the membership from 250 upon arriving to over 900 at his retirement. He trained the next generation of pastors with multiple interns and added an educational wing named for him. He will be remembered for his timeliness (“keep it [service] under an hour and sermons under 12 minutes; 6 is better”), witticisms (“don’t pray long over hot food”), jokes, orderliness, and reverence (more than one wedding was paused for an overly intrusive photographer).

Upon his “retirement” in 2001, Pastor Strobel kept his title and career going for the next 22 years; he served 12 area congregations as interim pastor. These included Butler, Saxonburg, and West View amongst others, and Monaca for four years. His 80th birthday was celebrated there with his childhood wish of a pony finally being delivered (at least for a day).

Bob (again) and Joyce both retired in 2022 and moved from their beloved house of 54 years to now Passavant Senior Life Center in Zelienople, within walking distance from St. Paul Lutheran Church where his father served.

From Sarah, Bob, and Drew:
While he was “Pastor Strobel” to many, “Dad” was reserved to us three. Family had priority, even though work sometimes interrupted or had to be planned around. As we grew and moved away for college, careers, and spouses, he loved to visit each couple whether frequently to Ohio (Sarah and Corey), annually to New Hampshire (Bob II and Jeff), or various international trips to Paraguay, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Thailand, or Europe to wherever Drew was at the time. When he became “grandpa”, summers with Gabriel and Paula were relished even as Pittsburgh became the destination rather than departure. He so looked forward to upcoming time with Drew and Natalia and granddaughter Josefa.

Dad loved being outside, working in the garden or the yard, watching the birds on the numerous feeders, or walking the neighborhood or woods in the early morning. Vacations were adventures: long trips to Winnipeg and Colorado, Nebraska, and the mountains of West Virginia to revisit his childhood there were foundational events, instilling in us a love of travel, and he set the pace going twice around the world and visiting over a dozen countries on 4 continents. Of special fondness was a trip to Israel and Egypt which was a gift from St. John’s in honor of his 25th ordination. Along with memories, he brought back many tchotchkes, photos, and interesting rocks to record his trips. We have many locations to be able to say “Remember when Dad was here and…” In this world, he now exists only in memory. We look forward to seeing him in the next.

From Joyce:
Approaching this task is not terribly different from choosing music for Christmas or Easter: Not what TO play, what NOT to play, the choices are so rich. This is how I feel for the blessing of nearly sixty-four years of marriage to Robert William Strobel. He was my chief supporter, in all aspects of life, including career. We were a team in parenting, and were privileged to see our children grow into truly fine adults. The support they have been for their dad and me, during this crisis, is a gift beyond measure.

Our love, which truly did begin at first sight, never stopped increasing. One of the blessings of this final journey was, when hospice entered the scene, the removal of all tubes and uncovering his mouth. We shared many kisses during those hours. Thoughts of our relationship, of love that never wavered, are keeping me—and will continue to keep me—balanced. Of course I miss him, and always will; but the memories are strong. Maybe the best medicine for an aching heart.

Of course, there was the love. But there was also the fact that there is no one I have ever met I respected as much as I did Bob. Seeing how he operated in his beloved calling—he never wanted to be anything but a parish pastor—was just amazing. I was so proud to be his wife! He was faithful, affectionate, fun, thoughtful beyond imagination, kind, caring, a lover of gardening for our beloved house—the only one he ever lived in that was not a parsonage. Our move to Passavant Retirement Center last June was so he could know I would have a place of security if, as he would always say he hoped, he died first. Little could we have known how soon that would be. When he got the word last week that daughter Sarah was coming over the weekend of Mother’s Day, his response was, “But I don’t have a card!” I assured him I would pull one from my treasure stash, and that could be a rerun: Every card was, surely, just that—a treasure.

He voiced some regret about not being really active in leading worship on a regular basis recently; but he had a very enthusiastic response when he did fill in here—and I heard about that. Not long ago, on one of his less-than-cheerful days, I told him: I have never not known the church, and I have been involved as a musician in several. So I have seen other clergy operate, and some I sincerely admire. But I have never seen anyone to equal him! When Oakland was the primary location for serious surgery, and he had a member there for that, he would get up early enough to see the patient around 7:00am, knowing at that time, the patient would be in his/her room. And he would return after supper, again, knowing the patient would be available. One member I met recently, told me some years ago his wife was to have a procedure at Magee Women’s Hospital; they had not told anyone. Somehow (probably from her mother), Bob got the word. He met them at the door as they arrived at 6:00am. That was just how he saw his calling.

What has been missing from this is anything about God’s Providence. We shared great comfort in how God has worked in our lives, in things great and small, and have been grateful, so grateful. This was true in his passing, another sign of our loving Father. Present in my daily prayers for years and years has been to thank God for my husband, and what we have shared, for the years, our family, all the blessings we have been granted. That will not end. And neither will my love for Bob, nor the knowledge he knows the gift of life eternal, through our Savior Jesus Christ. I know this, too, and acknowledge Bob’s influence in the deepening of my own faith, another wonderful gift.

We were not into “pet” names, but often the phrase, “My darling Bob,” would pop into my mind, and a smile would come. Truer words were never spoken.
Amen and amen.
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A memorial service will be held at St. John’s, 920 Perry Highway in Ross, on Friday, June 7th with music at 6pm, worship at 630pm, and celebration of life following. Included will be an opportunity to hear many of the jokes Paster Strobel inflicted on friends, members, and family over the years.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. John’s Lutheran Church – Rev. Robert Strobel Fund. Memorial donations can be made in his name to:
* Global Refuge (https://globalrefuge.org) – formerly Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services
* Casa San Jose (https://www.casasanjose.org/) – A local Pittsburgh shelter where Paula worked
* Habitat Pittsburgh (https://www.habitatpittsburgh.org/) – The local chapter of HfH where Drew worked

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  • Lori Elnyczky

    Pastor Strobel was an amazing man and a wonderful person. His sermons always gave a wonderful insight and a great lesson. He was witty and kind. He married my Husband and I in 2000 . The world is a little darker place today without him as he was a ray of sunshine and a beacon of hope . Heaven truly gained an Angel . Thank you for your selfless service to our congregation for so many years. Until we meet again my friend.

  • Mary Jane Snyder

    Deepest sympathies to the Strobel Family and all who will miss Pastor Bob’s presence among us. Praise God for the blessing of knowing Pastor Bob, and benefitting from him sharing his faith in Christ, and his sense of humor. May our caring Christ provide His gracious comfort!

 

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