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Peter Lars Kjeseth

July 24, 1928 - January 16, 2022

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

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Peter Lars Kjeseth died on January 16, 2022, at 93 years of age. Born in Mauston, Wisconsin on July 24, 1928, he graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota in 1950 and went on to Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Following his ordination, he served for two years as an Army chaplain, spending much of his time in Germany. This was the beginning of a lifetime of interest and involvement in domestic and international politics, with a strong emphasis on issues of justice for marginalized persons.

After earning his PhD at the University of Chicago, Peter taught New Testament and the Greek language for 35 years (1965 – 2000) at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Sprinkled among those years were teaching assignments in Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Namibia and Zimbabwe. After retirement in 2000, he taught at the United Lutheran Theological Seminary Paulinum in Windhoek, Namibia, before working for 16 years as a waiter in the family’s guesthouse on the ocean near Cape Town, South Africa. Lynchburg, Virginia was his home since 2016.

Peter is survived by his wife of 61 years, Solveig Mertice Mason, fearless partner in both parenting and in speaking truth to power. They shared a daily commitment to learning and teaching social justice by cultivating knowledge, empathy and courage. They went to great lengths to immerse their family in cultures different from their own, once taking all six children to travel the European continent by car for several months, often camping. The eldest child was 13, the youngest, 11 months.

Peter was deeply involved in the lives of his loved ones. He spent many evenings tutoring his kids in various subjects. He supervised cello, viola and piano practice, accompanying the stringed instruments on piano. For years, Peter devoted a weekend a month to bake forty loaves of a variety of breads, which were enjoyed by family and the many guests who stopped by daily.

Peter was tough, challenging, irreverent, and pivotally influential to hundreds of seminary students. One remarked, “Laughing, singing Peter – never without an anecdote. He was the rare person who cared so much about the suffering in the world and somehow pulled himself out of bed each day to make a dent in it.”

In addition to Solveig, Peter is survived by their six children: Lars (Temok Juarez), Martha Kjeseth-Johnson, Thor (Hisako Araya), Sara (Fred Stone), Eric, and Peder (Karla Elmberg) and seven grandchildren: Hisashi and Kana Araya-Kjeseth, Tor-Ole and Tove Kjeseth, and Siri, Steena and Synnove Johnson.

The family would like to thank Summer Myers, the angels of Edley Place, and members of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, for their care and support. Memorials may be sent to The Center for Global Theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary, or to Democracy Now!, an independent global news program Peter watched (and took notes on) every night: A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg is assisting the family.


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