Funeral Service of Don Mundinger
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Valparaiso, Indiana | August 25, 2010
Eulogy by Pastor Steve Bongard
By any human measure of success, Don Mundinger was a successful person. With degrees from Concordia, River Forest, Northwestern, Washington University, and post-doctoral work at the University of Michigan and Cambridge, well-educated would seem to be an understatement in Don’s case.
His 59-year marriage to June. Three children, three grandchildren of whom he was so very proud.
He held a variety of positions at Valparaiso University – professor of political science, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, vice president of academic affairs. Then, president of Illinois College for 20 years. All of these are important, cherished and valuable parts of the way in which Don lived so fully and so well.
And as if that were not enough, there is even more. At the tender age of 22 days, Don was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And from that moment on, it was deeply and centrally part of his identity right there in the midst of his education, his work, his family.
A lot of people have been baptized. But the baptismal promise took hold in Don – deeply and abidingly – and it showed. It gave him a success that cannot be quantified or degreed or counted. In fact success is not the best word for this at all. Probably something more like the word “grace” describes it. This baptismal grace became deeply embedded into the fiber of his being. And through Don’s life, the ways in which he strived for excellence, persevered in difficult circumstances, and handled tragedy and loss, we all caught a glimpse of God’s grace to us.
I marvel at how the things that God calls us to be and to do with our lives come to life in amazing ways in real, flesh and blood people. Don is, for me, one of those people in whom we see the hand of God at work giving us a flesh a blood glimpse of what God intends for our lives. Don has shown me what it looks like when grace comes a knocking and the door is answered and God’s grace is welcomed into heart and home.
Now I have only known Don in his post-retirement, post-stroke years. Many of you here today have known him much longer than I, but I am guessing that my experience of Don is consistent with yours. Here are some of the ways in which I have come to know Don, and ways in which God has shown me grace through Don. Don was not perfect. No one is. But God let the light of His grace shine through Don in many ways, and here are some of them I experienced.
Don was soft spoken. By soft spoken I do not mean that he did not have anything to say. It is that he said what he had to say with gentleness, with respect for the people around him, with a tone that exuded kindness and dignity, and, of course, grace. Nor by soft-spoken to I mean to say that what Don said was weak, or lacking in power. No, when Don spoke it was powerful with grace, with wisdom, with good humor, with kindness, with a sense that he was speaking to you in order to build you up rather than to tear you down.
And in his soft-spokeness, I have an image now for that Old Testament phrase about God speaking in a still, small voice, speaking the promise to be with us no matter what, the promise to forgive our sins, the promise to give us life of a greater quality than we dare to imagine.
Don was gracious. Whenever I visited Don and June at home, he had some sort of gracious word, some encouragement. June tells me that he was even gracious to the nurses who cared for him in the hospital and in the nursing home in recent months – making sure he knew their names, treating them with the same kind of gracious respect that he did his family and friends. I have been around people who make you feel like you are constantly being sized up, judged, and evaluated. Don was not one of those people. He was a man of grace.
Don was still learning. Almost every time I visited, he made sure to tell me what book the Tuesday group was reading. Sometimes I would have already read it, too, and we were able to talk about it. At other times he would fill me in on what sort of book it was. I have known people who, when they got beyond 70 years old, figured they already learned everything there is to learn, already know it all. Don was not one of those people. He was a life-long learner, one who, as Augustine said, was restless until his heart rested in God.