Pastor Joseph W. Schwartz - Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Homes & Crematory

Pastor Joseph W. Schwartz

Born May 5, 1930

Pastor Joseph W. Schwartz, age 85, of Wilmington, DE, passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 10, 2016.

Pastor Schwartz was born on May 5, 1930 in Philadelphia, PA, one of eight children, and attended high school and the Brown Preparatory school there. He earned a B.A. degree at Muhlenberg College and a B.D. from Philadelphia Lutheran Seminary. He was ordained on May 26, 1955 at the St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stroudsburg, PA and just over a week later he married the former, Joanna Kavelek, who had recently graduated from nursing school. They attended the Kennedy School of Missions at Hartford, Connecticut. Joe was commissioned as a missionary in 1956 and first arrived in Liberia, Africa with Joanna on August 25, 1956. During his first term of service, Joe studied the Kpelle language and was assigned village evangelistic work. During his second term of service, he taught at the Lutheran Training Institute in Salayea. In early 1963, after seven years in Liberia, Joe and Joanna returned permanently to the United States.

Joe became pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Wilmington on March 1, 1963. During his 19 years at Holy Trinity, Joe was deeply committed to inner-city work. He initiated a concerted effort to take ministry to the surrounding neighborhood, particularly through a Vacation Bible School Program and later a tutoring program. Also during his time, Joe was heavily involved in the work of the Delaware/Maryland Synod of the ELCA. He served as chairperson of the Synod’s Stewardship Committee. He was also on the Synod’s executive board, and in the late 1960’s led a special synod-wide campaign. The campaign, Love Compels Action, raised funds for work in the inner-cities.

In 1982, Joe left Holy Trinity and assumed the responsibility of Executive Director of Lutheran Senior Services. He was in charge of Luther Tower I and II, supervising staff and caring for residents for thirteen years. Joe also faithfully served as Manager and Chaplain of Gilpin Hall for 30 years beginning November 21, 1983. Joe gave generously of his time as treasurer since June 19, 1989, and as Chairman of the Admissions, Budget and Investment Committees. He also served as Vice Chairman of the Personnel Committee and as a member of the Auxiliary/Special Events, Executive, Long Range Planning, Medical Affairs/Ethics, Nominating Property, Public Relations/Marketing and Safety/Quality of Life Committees.

Since 1982, Joe has also been actively engaged in the life of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Wilmington. In addition to frequently preaching and worship leading responsibilities, his commitments have included the following; Senior Choir Member, Soloist, Barbershop Quartet Member, Adult Sunday School Teacher, Stewardship Committee Member and Chairman, leader for several special giving programs, key member of the initial bond committee, and served as interim Pastor from June 2006 to December 2007.

He retired in 1995 to enjoy his hobbies, woodworking, reading, and his many grandchildren. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Joanna Schwartz; his four children, Sue, Jan (William), Paula (Ray), and Peter (Marie); his 13 grandchildren; 2 step-grandchildren; 6 great grandchildren; and 2 step great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 am on Friday morning, January 15, 2016, at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 1530 Foulk Road, Wilmington, DE.

In lieu of flowers, Joe requested donations in his memory be made to Gilpin Hall, 1101 Gilpin Avenue, Wilmington, DE 19806.


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10 Condolences for Pastor Joseph W. Schwartz

  • You will be missed by you love and served. Rest in Peace Pastor Joe

  • Was loved and will be missed by your niece and family. Will always remember the good times and was blessed to have him say the blessing at our wedding. God has called you home and I know you will be watching over your family from heaven.

  • Pastor Joe Schwartz was an inspiration in faith to all who knew him. I will remember him always with great respect

  • May every memory you carry, every memory shared bring you comfort and peace. God’s blessings as you grieve. We love you Pete and Marie.

  • Rest in peace Joe, Uncle Joe.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with your family. So grateful we were able to reconnect with you and your family these past few years. It was always a great time! We love and will miss you.
    Bud, Ruth and Robert Schwartz

  • Despite the fact that my family (Herman’s) spent very little time with yours, and consequently I did not get to know you, I was deeply saddened to hear of Uncle Joe’s passing. As I read the obituary,I realized we had a lot in common beyond our names. I also enjoy woodworking, and I think, if he had the chance, he would have enjoyed spending a day with Aunt Jo, my wife Lori, and myself aboard my sailboat. We lived across the bay in Cape May for 3-4 years and it would have been fun to sail across the bay and meet up with some of you. I regret the years gone by without getting to know all of you and as I hear from Bob of the gatherings you have had, wish I could be a part of them. Know that you all are in my prayers as you go through this difficult time. Please don’t stop getting together with the other Schwartz’s despite the focal point of your and my parents no longer being a factor. And if any of you are ever in the Midwest, stop in Plymouth, IN and enjoy our hospitality. We are less than 30 minutes away from the campus of Notre Dame. Our deepest sympathies are with you all.

  • Aunt Joanna, SueAnn, Jan, Paula and Peter.
    God has taken into his care another amazing angel. He is now united with other members of his family and having one amusing reunion. Our Uncle Joe, your husband and father was an exceptional person and will be sadly missed. Our deepest sympathy, love and prayers are being sent to you all during this most difficult time.
    Sending our love to you all.
    Love Cousins,
    Bill and Carol Shaw and Family

  • Dear Joanna, Sue, Jan, Paula, and Peter: As I read Joe’s obituary my mind is full of memories of all of you, your house, Vacation Bible School, Holy Trinity.
    I was so sad to learn that Joe had passed away. My Mom called to tell me. I knew so many of the details of his ministry but never in chronology as posted here. What an extraordinary and faith-filled ministry, Joe lived out and you all with him. I first knew about Liberia through your family. And, when I reached seminary, one of my first friends was a young clergyman from the Episcopal Church of Liberia, who is now the Bishop.
    I feel so honored to have known Joe, another model of ministry for me. My prayers surround you each day. I wish I could be with you tomorrow. But I am surely with you in spirit. Posting angels around all members of the Schwartz family. Blessings to you, dear Jan. Nancy

  • May you all be comforted by your good memories!
    I know he will be missed by his family, friends and the countless other people he has served. As I read of his life of ministry, I’m impressed by the way he gave of himself to serve others. A life well lived!
    This scripture comes to mind;

    ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (‭Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭21‬ ESV)

    To all his family, may you experience comfort and grace from God the Father.

  • Nancy,

    Thanks so much for your very beautiful message. It meant so much to all of us, Sue, Paula, and Pete all mentioned to me how special this was. I am also deeply moved by it as well.

    It was wonderful to see your mother today. She appears to be doing well.