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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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John Lutthans Was Minister To Aged, Ill And Underdogs

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

The Rev. John Lutthans, who served gays, lesbians and Southeast Asian refugees as a Lutheran minister, then bone-cancer and AIDS patients as a hospital chaplain, at first found it hard helping people marginalized by society.

He was a "caring, loving and compassionate man who especially wanted to help the underdog," said his wife of 33 years, Marlene Lutthans of Bothell.

"At first, he didn't know how to work with homosexuals, and later, bone-marrow transplant patients and people with HIV/AIDS," she said. "But after he worked with them awhile, he said they taught him. It was sad when some patients died. But he got so much joy from knowing the families and meeting the people."

Chaplain Lutthans died last Wednesday (May 19) of esophageal cancer. He was 60.

Born in Everett to a religious family who took in boarders, he learned compassion early and decided on a career in the ministry.

He graduated from Concordia School, then an all-male religious school, in Portland. He studied at the former Concordia College, served in the Army, then finished his religious studies at the former Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Ill., before being ordained into the ministry in 1970.

During his first pastorship in Veneta, Ore., he was asked to minister to a young homosexual.

"At that time, the young man wanted help getting out of homosexuality," said Marlene Lutthans. "But as years went by and we worked with other gays and lesbians, we became educated. We learned some people are born that way."

In 1978, the Rev. Lutthans moved to Edmonds to serve as pastor at St. Timothy Lutheran Church and began a ministry with refugees. He and his wife took three men and a foster daughter into their home. He had the pleasure of walking his foster daughter, Nancy Lee of Los Angeles, down the aisle at her wedding.

He left the parish ministry in 1984 because he felt called to be a clinical chaplain. He served as hospice chaplain for Swedish Medical Center, then as a hospital nursing-home chaplain for Lutheran Ministries Seattle. He worked in the Swedish bone-marrow ward, and with people living with AIDS. Since 1997, he had served as pastor at Friends in Christ Lutheran Church, Redmond.

He liked to ride his bicycle 10 miles a day, walk the beach and visit Vancouver, B.C. In 1997, he took a cross-country train trip with his wife.

"He taught me how to live my life as a Christian and let God's light shine through me," she said. "And he did let (his light) shine."

Also surviving are his children, Joel and Beth Lutthans, both of Bothell; brothers, Ralph Lutthans, Snohomish; and Mark Lutthans, Everett; sister, Lynnette McTee, Marysville; and a grandson.

Services are scheduled for 7 p.m. June 2 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1200 10th Ave. E., Seattle.

Donations may go to Lutheran Ministries Seattle, 4130 University Ave. N.E., Seattle, WA 98105; or to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1124 Columbia St., Seattle, WA 98104.

Carole Beers' phone message number is 206-464-2391. Her e-mail address is: cbeers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 1999 The Seattle Times Company

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