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Milton H. Riemer, M.Div., Ph.D., J.D.

Obituary for Milton H. Riemer, M.Div., Ph.D., J.D.

May 20, 1933 - September 3, 2018
Austin, Texas | Age 85


Milton Henry Riemer of Austin, Texas, went to be with Jesus on Monday, 3 September, 2018 at the age of 85 years after a long struggle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was born in a farmhouse in the community of Freistadt, Wisconsin, on 20 May, 1933, the oldest of six children born to Erwin J. and Gertrude Radue Riemer; he became a child of God through Holy Baptism at Trinity Lutheran Church of Freistadt on 21 May, 1933.

He spent his early childhood living the life of a typical Wisconsin farm boy. Following his graduation from Trinity Lutheran Parochial School, he enrolled at Concordia High and Junior College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (AA, 1953), subsequently continuing his studies for the Lutheran ministry at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (BA, 1955; M.Div., 1958). Concurrent with his Seminary enrolment, he also earned an MA in English from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri (1958). As part of his Seminary training, he served a Summer internship in Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi (1955), and later a year-long internship in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (1956-1957), where he met the love and light of his life, Joan Eleanor Sperberg, RN. They were married in Ottawa 21 June, 1958 (and recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary). He was ordained as a Lutheran pastor in July, 1958, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

After their marriage and his Ordination, Milton served as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran of Egypt Mills, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, for two years before accepting a Call to join the faculty of Concordia Lutheran High School and Junior College (now Concordia University, Texas), serving from 1960 until he officially retired in 1998 as Professor Emeritus of English and Law – deciding it was the right time when the grandchildren of former students began showing up in his classes. While at Concordia, he earned a Ph.D. in English from UT Austin (1965) and later a J.D. from the UT School of Law in 1986 (he started Law School on his 50th birthday). He was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987; his small Law practice focused on Wills and Probate.

During his tenure at Concordia, Milton taught a wide variety of subjects: almost every English, Literature, and Drama course in the Catalog; Latin and Greek; Speech and Communications; various Religion courses; and Business Law and Environmental Law for the respective majors. Additionally, he served in various administrative roles in an era when administrators also were expected to carry teaching loads; notably as Acting President 1969-1970; Academic Dean 1972-1985, shepherding, nurturing, and spearheading Concordia's move from junior college to baccalaureate level in 1980, with responsibility for developing the four year program and curriculum, achieving the requisite state, regional, and national accreditations and certifications, and recruiting and hiring capable and credentialed faculty committed to Concordia's mission; and Interim Academic Vice President 2004-2005. In 1982, Concordia awarded him the Martin J. Neeb, Sr. Teaching Excellence Award. Periodically he also served as a member of on-site campus accreditation committees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. His signature courses were "Western World Literature" (which was also Concordia's first televised course); "Experience of Drama," a one credit course which involved his group of 20-35 students attending eight plays during each semester at local theaters, always on Thursday evenings; and the annual class trip each August to the Stratford Festival of Canada.

Never one to let too much grass grow under his feet, for some seventeen years he also served as Assisting Pastor at Evangelist Lutheran Church in Kingsbury, Texas, and two-and-a-half years as a part-time chaplain at then newly-opened Bastrop Federal Prison. He preached at over 80 Lutheran churches in Texas, often called on to perform his first person "Martin Luther." The first eight years after retirement he and Joan spent each January until after Easter in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, where she got her "snow fix" while he volunteered as a chaplain with the Pastoral Care staff at the Stratford General Hospital, and the next six winters volunteering as park hosts at Kerrville-Schreiner Park in Texas. Fall Term, 2005, they lived in London, UK, while he served as a Visiting Lecturer at Oak Hill College. In 2017 he and Joan fulfilled one of their life's dreams when he lead the Concordia University group to the Stratford, Ontario, drama festival for the 25th consecutive year.

Joan shared his passion for travel. They visited all 50 states (the criterion was spending at least one night in the state), completing the list with a "Sea Puffer" cruise to Hawaii in Winter 2017. They camped in 47 of the 50 states as well as the entire trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, British Columbia, to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and camped in at least 55 Texas state parks, plus numerous national parks, forests, and COE campgrounds. He and Joan also treasured the memories of their various trips to the UK and the Continent, including leading a group to the Oberammergau Passion Play in 2010, as well as visits to Ireland and Iceland. He also made two solo trips to South Korea. Additionally, he was a regular at UT home football games for more than 55 years.

Milton leaves behind his beloved wife of 60 years, Joan Eleanor (Sperberg) Riemer, RN; three children: Dr. Joel (Wade) Riemer, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Janice Riemer, RN, Glen Ellyn, Illinois; and Jonathan (Kari) Riemer, Austin, Texas. He also has seven grandchildren: Loren (Chris) Riemer Beck, Caleb (Rachel) Riemer, Hannah (Anthony) Riemer, Adam Coleman, Lindsey Coleman, Ryan Coleman, and Zoe Riemer; and one great-grandchild, Remington Dawn Riemer and two step-great grandchildren, States and Satchel Beck. He is also survived by his three brothers and one sister: Sylvia (Richard) Roembke, Cedarburg, Wisconsin; The Rev. Dr. Hilbert (Joan) Riemer, Oakdale, Minnesota; The Rev. Carlton (Arlene) Riemer, Stillwater, Oklahoma; The Rev. Leroy Riemer, Sutherland, Iowa; and brother-in-law The Rev. Myrl Wagenknecht, Las Vegas, Nevada; plus numerous nephews and nieces. He is preceded in death by his sister Marcella Wagenknecht.

The family especially cherishes the memories of many, many camping adventures; the Summer vacation trips to visit the respective grandparents on the dairy farm in Wisconsin and in Ottawa, Canada's national capital; his contagious love of and infectious enthusiasm for Theater, Music, and Art; his love for Learning; his homemade Christmas fudge; the memorable year they lived in Tacoma, Washington (1970-1971), while Dad served as a Visiting Professor at Pacific Lutheran University; and above all, his abiding faith in Jesus as his Savior and Lord. To his children and grandchildren he leaves a legacy of instilling in them a love of intellectual inquiry and spiritual curiosity, and a deep sense of our individual responsibility as stewards and guardians of God's beautiful Creation.

A Memorial Service will be held at Hope Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas – where he and Joan were long-time members – on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 11:00 AM.

As a teacher, Milton faithfully modeled the old adage: "Students don't care what you know, until they know you really care," striving to emulate the standard set by the parson / clerk in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: "That firste he wroghte, and afterward he taughte." He signed off and ended each class with his trademark dismissal – "Walk With Light!" His four granddaughters are continuing that legacy.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to
• Hospice Austin (
• Hope Lutheran Church (,
• Concordia University, Austin (
• American Lung Association (
Or the charity of your choice.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to
  • Hospice Austin

Arrangements By

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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