J. Elvern "Al" Rommereim
3132nd Signal Service Co
Born 1923 in SD, Died 2012
County of residence at enlistment: Lincoln County, SD
Other residence(s): Boulder, CO; St. Paul, MN; Garden Grove, CA; Whitefish, MT; Santa Rosa, CA; Kalispell, MT
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: foremen, n.e.c.
College education before the war: Augustana 1 year; St. Olaf
College education after the war: St. Olaf; Luther Seminary
Al Rommereim, along with his twin sister Joyce Virginia, was born on January 16, 1923, on a farm in Beresford, SD, with only a neighbor to help. The story is told that when his father came in from milking he dropped the pails of milk when he was told that his wife had given birth to not one baby, but two. Al's parents were both South Dakota-born, but all four of his grandparents were born in Norway.
Al grew up attending a one-room schoolhouse for his first eight grades and then furthered his studies at Augustana Academy, a Lutheran high school in Canton, SD. His first year of college was spent at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. In 1942 he transferred to St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where he sang in the choir.
Al filled out his draft registration on June 30, 1942, and that November he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Because of the need for more soldiers on the European front, this program was closed and Al became part of the Ghost Army, where he was a member of the 3132 Signal Service Co. He was discharged from the Army on October 30, 1945.
Shortly thereafter, Al returned to St. Olaf College, where he majored in sociology. He had a beautiful, strong, bass voice and again was accepted into the choir. On the choir tour to the East Coast in 1947, a romance bloomed as he started dating Helen Jane Reitmann. Following his graduation, in June of 1948, Al and Helen were married in Red Wing, MN. They settled in Boulder, CO, where Al enrolled in graduate school, studying business and personnel administration.
In December of 1948, after much thoughtful prayer, Al felt called to the ministry. The following September, Al and Helen moved to St. Paul, MN with their infant son Douglas so that Al could study at Luther Seminary. Their daughter Connie and son David were born during his studies there. Al was ordained into the ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at his home church, Romsdal Lutheran, a part of Moe Parish at Beresford, in May of 1952.
His first parish was Walnut Grove, MN, where another daughter, Mary, was born. Two years later, in the fall of 1954, Al was called to establish a Lutheran mission congregation in Garden Grove, CA, and the family moved again. California became their home and Al established three mission churches and served two established churches. He was a gifted pastor and had a special knack for developing relationships and establishing congregations.
Two more children were born in California, John and Annie.
During their ministry Al and Helen traveled extensively. They were travel guides to the Holy Land, Egypt and on the journeys of St. Paul two times, and also took two groups to Oberammergau, Germany, for the beautiful “Passion Play.”
After retiring in 1985, Al served several churches as interim pastor.
The family spent summers on Whitefish Lake in an A-frame cabin and wintered in Santa Rosa, CA. The cabin became a wonderful family gathering place and Al enjoyed creative carpentry--building decks, Adirondack chairs, etc. In 1988, Al and Helen built a small log cabin together, as by this time their family of eight had expanded with spouses and grandchildren and an extra area was needed for sleeping. Throughout their life, they enjoyed camping trips with the family and fishing, sitting on the deck, enjoying beautiful sunsets and the wonder of nature, boating on the lake, and pulling grandchildren behind the boat on floats.
Al was a kind, loving husband, father, and grandfather with a twinkle in his eye and a good sense of humor. He loved music, especially choral. He was an avid reader and enjoyed watching sporting events on television. A good theological discussion and some laughs with his buddies were very special to him.
In 2006, Al and Helen moved from Santa Rosa to Kalispell, MT where they enjoyed the fellowship of Northridge Lutheran Church.
Al died on February 13, 2012, and is interred at Northridge Lutheran Columbarium in Kalispell.
NOTE re his name: His first name was "Joy" apparently, but he used "J. Elvern" in everything after his draft card.
1948 in St. Olaf yearbook
1942 draft card
1942 enlistment record
1948 St. Olaf yearbook
1948 marriage record
1952 article in the Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD) about his ordination
2012 Find a Grave, including obituary; the biography above has been adapted from that obituary.
2012 Montana state deaths