April 04, 2012 - For 33 years, his name and his work were virtually synonymous with charity, kindness and compassion in Oxford.
Rev. ArthurHabermehl (click for larger version)
Sadly, Rev. Arthur J. Habermehl's good works on this Earth came to an end when he passed away on Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Port Huron. He was 77 years old.
From 1966-99, Habermehl served as pastor of Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ, located at 1 Hovey St. in the village.
"All of us are in a great deal of shock and sorrow," said Liz Wilson, who's served as the full-time pastor of Immanuel for the past two years. "It's very, very painful. The calling around to inform people (of Habermehl's death) took hours because everybody wanted to talk and express their love and their concern."
Wilson's been a member of Immanuel since 1978, so she's quite familiar with the vital role Habermehl played in both the small church and the Oxford area.
"Art was a very humble man, but very active in the community," she said. "He was very sure to never divulge any confidences. He delivered an excellent sermon. He was always there to help people who needed help. I can't find a fault. He was a wonderful, wonderful person."
Whether he was at pulpit or on the street, Wilson learned a great deal from the sterling example Habermehl set when dealing with folks from all walks of life.
"I learned to consider my opinion before I give it – to not go shooting off at the mouth," she said. "When somebody asks me something, I give it some thought before I answer."
Wilson also learned to be "very accepting of where others are in both life and theology."
"You just accept where people are and go from there," she said.
During his years in Oxford, Habermehl helped found Oxford-Orion FISH (a local food pantry that feeds the needy), delivered food for Meals-on-Wheels and served as a hospice chaplain. Seeking social justice for the poor and disenfranchised was one of his passions.
He loved working with young people and served as a junior church camp director. From field trips to work camps, he was always there as both a friend and mentor to youth.
Despite all he did for Oxford and its people, Habermehl never bragged about his work or sought the spotlight.
"He was confident in his ability, but he was very humble about his ability, which is kind of a hard thing to achieve," Wilson said.
Habermehl was so active, so respected and so well-liked throughout the community that most folks were more familiar with him than his church.
"For years, if you said anything about Immanuel, people gave you a blank look," Wilson said. "If you said anything about Art, everybody knew exactly who you were talking about. Everybody knew him."
Habermehl was born May 31, 1934 in St. Louis, Missouri to parents Rev. Arthur Habermehl, Sr. and Viola Boll Habermehl.
He grew up in Staunton, Illinois, then moved to Michigan, where he graduated from Three Oaks High School. He later graduated from Elmhurst College in Illinois and Eden Theological Seminary in Missouri.
In 1959, he married Connie Hamilton and was ordained as a minister of the United Church of Christ.
Following ordination, he served at Trinity Church in Detroit and Bethlehem Church in Ann Arbor before becoming pastor of Immanuel in Oxford, where he remained until his retirement in June 1999 and subsequent move to Port Huron.
Habermehl never regretted his decision to spend the majority of his career here.
When he retired, he told the Leader, "It's a wonderful community. Many people have volunteered their time to help others in need and I think that's really what the church should be about."
Habermehl is survived by his wife Connie; a sister, Esther Rosenberger; beloved niece Mary (Charles) McMullen and their daughters; beloved nephew Walter (Phyllis) Martinez and their son; two foster kitties; and his wife's extended family, including many very beloved nieces and nephews and their children. He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Charlene Martinez, and two sisters-in-law, June Garza and Alyce Henckel.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 15 at Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ.
Pastor Wilson will officiate.
Memorials may be given to the church or to Church World Service, 899 Center St., Ste. 7, Lansing, Michigan, 48906. Arrangements are by Pollock-Randall Funeral Home, Port Huron. To send condolences, visit pollockrandall.com.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.