A. Thomas (Tom) Kraabel

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 3:02 pm

A. Thomas (Tom) Kraabel died Nov. 2, 2016, at Aase Haugen Home where he had been a resident for four and a half years. Tom had a 28-year journey with Parkinson’s disease, a journey he traveled with strength, dignity and grace. A memorial service is at 2 pm, Friday, Nov. 11, at First Lutheran Church, Decorah. The family suggests memorials be given to Luther College, First Lutheran Church, Aase Haugen Home or other charities. Interment is a private family gathering Saturday.

Tom was born All Saint’s Sunday, Nov. 4, 1934, in Portland, Ore., to Rev. Alf M. and Marie (Swenson) Kraabel. He now joins all the saints who have gone before him, including his parents, daughter Martha, nephew Eric and many family and friends. He attended schools in Oregon, Minnesota and California, graduating from Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, Calif. He excelled in the study of Latin in high school and majored in classical languages and literature during his four years of study at Luther College in Decorah. Following completion of a bachelor’s degree in 1956, he continued the study of classics at the University of Iowa for two years with the support of a Danforth graduate fellowship, earning the Master of Arts degree in 1958.

In the three years from 1958 to 1961, Tom studied theology at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. During that time, he offered instruction in New Testament Greek for seminary students. On completion of the Bachelor of Theology degree in 1961, he was ordained as a Lutheran pastor and served as assistant pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis for two years. In 1963, Tom began a doctoral degree program in New Testament and Early Christian Literature at Harvard Divinity School. Harvard awarded him the Doctor of Theology degree in 1968. While working on that degree he received a Rockefeller doctoral fellowship in religion and the Harvard Divinity School’s Pfeiffer fellowship in archeology. He also served as assistant in Greek and lecturer in New Testament at Episcopal Theological Seminary, Cambridge, Mass., from 1966 to 1967. He served several churches in the Boston area as supply pastor while at Harvard. It was at Harvard that Tom’s lifelong interest in archeology began. This interest continued in his experience as field archeologist, in 1966, for the Harvard-Cornell archeological exploration of the site of ancient Sardis in Turkey. From 1969 to 1973 Tom was associate director, along with Eric Myers of Duke University, of the Joint Expedition to Khirbet Shema’, Israel, an archaeological project of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Institutional partners in the project were Duke, University of Minnesota, Harvard, Princeton, Luther College, Dropsie University and the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1967, Tom began his teaching career as a member of the faculty of the Department of Classics at the University of Minnesota. He enjoyed the rank of full professor in that department from 1976 to 1982, including three years (1978-81) as chairman of the department. He also served as chairman of the department of religious studies from 1969 to 1976. While on the University of Minnesota faculty, Tom spent the academic year of 1977-78 as a visiting fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford University, England, and in 1981 as a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. In January 1983, Luther College named Tom vice-president and dean of the College, as well as a professor of religion and classics. He continued in this position through the 1995-1996 academic year.

Subsequently he taught religion and classics at the college until his retirement at the end of the 1999-2000 academic year. In 1988, Luther College named him to an endowed professorial chair, Qualley professor of classics, a position he occupied until his retirement. In 1956, Tom married Janice (Hanson) and their life journey of 60 years began. Son Allen was born in 1957 in Iowa City, while Tom was in graduate school at University of Iowa. Son Thomas was born in 1961, while Tom was a student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

The family moved to Cambridge, Mass. in 1961, where Tom completed work at Harvard Divinity School, earning his doctorate in 1967. Daughter Sarah and twin Martha (deceased) were born in 1965. Knowing that the Parkinson’s disease was advancing, Tom and Janice continued to travel after his retirement, returning to Israel in 2000. Their journey took them to Singapore to visit son Tom and family, to Spain, Portugal, England and Norway over these years.

Tom is survived by his wife Janice; son, Allen (Debra); son, Thomas (Kristine); and daughter, Sarah (Dan); five grandchildren: Amanda (Charles) McCarty, Andrew (Lindsey) Kraabel, Eleanor and Peter Kriewall, Erika Kraabel; and three great-grandchildren: Maloa and Gabriel McCarty and yet-to-be-born sibling. He is also survived by brother, Paul S. Kraabel, and family.

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