Portraits: Rev. Robert Grossmann

Robert Edwin Grossmann was born at Eureka, SD, on August 7, 1937, to the Rev. Walter Grossmann and his wife, Dorothy (nee Mueller) of Hosmer, SD. Rev. Walter Grossmann served the Hosmer Charge, a charge of over four hundred baptized members spread among three congregations: the town Church, Neudorf (Newtown), and Calvin congregations located in the countryside north and northeast of Hosmer. Walter, the son of the Rev. John Grossmann, who had been ordained in 1906 by the Manitoba Classis of the Reformed Church in the United States, was a committed Reformed pastor and teacher who also served as Clerk of the Eureka Classis from 1935 until his death at the age of 49 in 1956. Since there was an extreme shortage of pastors in the Eureka Classis until the 1960s, Rev. Grossmann traveled many Sunday afternoons to provide evening services in churches located from 40 to 300 miles distant from Hosmer. Thus Robert, and his two-year older brother, Peter, became well-acquainted not only with elders and members of the three Hosmer Charge congregations, but also with those of RCUS congregations as far west as Isabel, SD, as far north as Lincoln Valley, ND, and as far south as Alpena, SD. As if Rev. Walter Grossmann was not busy enough, he also was instrumental in establishing First Reformed Church of Aberdeen, SD, beginning evening services there in 1947.

Through his work as Stated Clerk of the Eureka Classis, Rev. Walter Grossmann worked constantly and closely with Rev. William J. Krieger, a pastor much his senior, who was the real leader who enabled the renegade Eureka Classis to carry out its refusal to join the Evangelical and Reformed merger of 1934. Thus Peter and Robert were early on ushered into the world of Classical as well as congregational church life, and personally knew the people involved, both those friendly to the Eureka Classis cause, and those who opposed her. [At my present age of 75, one of my ambitions is to write about these heroes of our church and their work.]

Robert grew up at Hosmer, a very active northern plains farming community, until the age of 15. He was thoroughly catechized by his father in the old Reformed way, memorizing the Heidelberg until he was able to recite it in its entirety at the age of 13, a skill he loves and has maintained ever since. The course also included thorough instruction in Bible history and its meaning for Christians. Being a rambunctious, curious, and sinful lad, it did not take much to make him realize how badly he needed a Savior, and with his father’s pointed preaching he became a believer at an early age. He was educated in the Hosmer public schools and in summers worked on farms, beginning to drive a farm tractor at the age of eight, since World War II had lowered drastically the number of men available for farm work.

In 1952 the Grossmann family moved to Shafter, CA, where Robert finished high school. He then attended college, graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in January 1960 with a major in Philosophy and a minor in Chemical Engineering. He had worked 30 hours a week in a manufacturing plant during the last year and a half of his college years. During the summers he worked in Shafter, as an engineering draftsman, and later as a lifeguard and swimming pool manager. Following a short year of work in a cancer research group in San Francisco, Robert headed off to Philadelphia to attend Westminster Seminary, from which he graduated in 1963, and where he served as the grunt janitor to earn his living expenses. During his last year at Westminster, Robert was married to Pauline Carman of Philadelphia, and after fifty years of marriage, they have five children and twelve grandchildren. After graduation Robert was examined and ordained at the 1963 Classis meeting held at his home church in Shafter, California.

Having served two summers of internship at the new Pierre, SD, mission work in 1961 and 1962, Robert was called to be their first pastor and began his pastoral service there in 1963. In 1968, he was called to the Odessa Charge at Artas and Herreid, SD, which he then served until 1975, when he was called to be the home mission pastor at Kansas City, MO. From Kansas City the Grossmanns moved to Mitchell, SD, where Rev. Grossmann led the congregation as it finished its mission years and became self-supporting and constructed a new church building. In 1985, Rev. Grossmann was called to be Assistant Professor of Church History and Pastoral Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary at Orange City, IA (now in Dyer, IN). Rev. Grossmann served at Mid-America for seven and one-half years, accepting a call to pastor Peace Reformed Church at Garner, IA, in 1992. In 2000, Rev. Grossmann accepted a call to be the home mission pastor at Vermillion, SD, and has served this congregation since then.

During the years of his service in the ministry, Rev. Grossmann has earned a Masters in Theology degree from Whitfield Seminary in Winter Garden, FL, and a Doctor of Theology degree from Reformed International Seminary at Fellsmere, FL. He has also served as a professor at both of those seminaries which teach by correspondence, and at Heidelberg Theological Seminary, both in Vermillion, and later at Sioux Falls. At the age of 75 he is still active as a full-time pastor, being in excellent health, and has written a number of books and booklets, as well as countless articles for the Reformed Herald and several other Reformed periodicals. His engineering and mechanical skills have enabled him to remodel several church buildings and parsonages, to build several buildings, and to install furnaces and air conditioners in churches and parsonages. He has been an active private pilot for 41 years, having covered over 450,000 miles in small airplanes, and he holds an amateur radio operator’s license. He also produces a weekly radio program that is aired on WNAX Radio in Yankton, SD.

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