Rev. Gerald Essenburg, 71, a U.S. Navy veteran and a lover of good music, was meticulous and conscientious in his ministry and was known for his kindness and humility. He died of Parkinson’s disease and congestive heart failure.
Essenburg was born on a farm in Borculo, Mich., where he attended grade school. He graduated from Zeeland (Mich.) High School in 1959.
During a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy, Essenburg served on two aircraft carriers, making it possible for him to visit a number of missionaries in the Far East. Those experiences affirmed in him a desire to serve his Savior in the gospel ministry. He discovered that he had a gift for leading Bible discussion groups. His administrative skills, so evident in his later ministry, were another benefit of his naval training.
In l963, he enrolled in Calvin College; he entered Calvin Theological Seminary in l967 and graduated in l970.
Essenburg served the following Christian Reformed congregations: Harrison (S.D.) CRC; Prairie City (Iowa) CRC; Rudyard (Mich.) CRC; and Hancock (Minn.) CRC. Health problems made it necessary for Essenburg to seek early retirement in 2001, with regular emeritation in 2006.
Essenburg was a gentle and humble but strong Christian with a servant’s heart. He was a student of the Word and loved to discuss it. His faith was the direct outcome of his personal walk with his Savior. Growing up on a farm qualified him to minister with great effectiveness in rural congregations. He related to his family with joyful affection. His love for making music stemmed from the years when he played tenor saxophone in the Zeeland High School band and marched in the Tulip Time Parade in Holland. When he was 38 he learned to play the piano. He and his wife, Janice, were known for the multitude of pastoral calls they made.
From mid-life on, Gerald struggled with painful health problems with utmost patience and grace. In spite of frail health and discomfort, he persevered in ministry.
Essenburg is survived by his wife, Janice, and their children Laura and Robert Postma, Linda and Michael Hoolsema, Mary Essenburg and her fiancé Steven Crumbaugh, and four grandchildren.