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updated: 2/6/2013 7:18 PM

Lombard pastor 'had the courage' to serve others

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  • Robert Hatfield led the First Church of Lombard United Church of Christ for 24 years as pastor until his death Tuesday morning at age 60.

      Robert Hatfield led the First Church of Lombard United Church of Christ for 24 years as pastor until his death Tuesday morning at age 60.
    Courtesy of First Church of Lombard

  • Pastor Robert Hatfield of First Church of Lombard talks to reporters in 2007 after the death of Lombard resident Rose Tani, mother of NASA astronaut Dan Tani.

      Pastor Robert Hatfield of First Church of Lombard talks to reporters in 2007 after the death of Lombard resident Rose Tani, mother of NASA astronaut Dan Tani.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Assisting those in need, following the St. Louis Cardinals and being a grandfather were among the passions of longtime First Church of Lombard Pastor Robert Hatfield, members of his congregation said Wednesday.

Hatfield died Tuesday, surprising many who worked with him and listened to him during 24 years as pastor. He was 60.

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Church moderator Rick Kelly said Hatfield made sure First Church of Lombard United Church of Christ focused on reaching out to others in need, including homeless people, local youths and residents of storm-ravaged communities.

"At our church, he was always about outreach, both to the local community and beyond," Kelly said.

The church hosts a Community Table dinner every Wednesday and provides overnight housing for the homeless every Tuesday as a DuPage Public Action to Deliver Shelter. or PADS, site. Through The Outreach House, a nonprofit affiliated with the church, First Church of Lombard offers assistance to low-income parents of children up to age 3 and visits from Northern Illinois Food Bank's food truck.

"He inspired people on staff and in our church to look outward not inward," Kelly said.

Hatfield's efforts to help those in need -- and inspire church members to do the same -- were noticed throughout Lombard.

"Rob led his congregation and served the less fortunate in the community," Village Manager David Hulseberg said. "Without any doubt, Rob left this world and entered the next hearing 'Job well done, my good and faithful servant.'"

Over the years, Hatfield worked to build Habitat for Humanity homes, led prayers at services in honor of Sept. 11 victims and helped lay to rest Lombard resident Rose Tani, the mother of NASA astronaut Dan Tani who died when her car was struck by a train in 2007.

He once gave a sermon highlighting the difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker, First Church member Ken Bohl of Lombard said.

"He wasn't just the peacekeeper ... He had the courage to be aggressively doing the right thing," Bohl said. "That's what I think personified Rob."

A lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, Kelly said Hatfield landed a spot on a team in the club's farm system before attending seminary. He wove together his passions for baseball, faith and his family as he interacted with other Lombard leaders, said the Rev. Emily Mellott of Calvary Episcopal Church, which is separated from First Church of Lombard only by a parking lot.

"It was so delightful to talk to him because he could switch effortlessly from baseball statistics and the fate of the St. Louis Cardinals to the best current biblical scholarship and the daily work of the church," Mellott said. "His humor and his incredible heart are a huge loss to my congregation as well as to his."

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday at Brust Funeral Home, 135 S. Main St., Lombard, and Hatfield will be lying in repose from 9:30 a.m. until a funeral service at 11 a.m. Saturday in the main sanctuary at the church, 220 S. Main St.

Interment will be private. Memorial donations can be made to the church in lieu of flowers.

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