The Rev. Karl Schmidt led St. Peter's Lutheran Church Community in Arlington Heights for 30 years, where colleagues say he led by example and personified a true servant leader.
"Countless men and women, boys and girls, have been encouraged and strengthened by his life and his teaching," said his longtime assistant, Janet Fischer.
Schmidt passed away on Wednesday. He was 66.
By all accounts, Schmidt was a traditional pastor, whose love of the gospel was contagious and devotion to serving others was evident in his visits to the shut-ins and hospitalized.
"He was extremely compassionate and whatever need there was he would be the first one there," said Fischer. "I worked for him for over 20 years and never met someone who would drop everything to help a person in need, even driving in snowstorms to take care of a parishioner."
Schmidt was a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he grew up in a faith-filled family and attended Lutheran schools. Family members say he felt a calling to the ministry from the time he was a child.
He was ordained in 1978 and he was assigned as pastor at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Detroit.
Schmidt and his family joined St. Peter's in 1984 while he taught religion at Luther North High School in Chicago. By 1986, he was called as pastor of the congregation, whose roots date back to 1860.
"Our family has been richly blessed by the family of faith at St. Peter for the last 33 years," said his wife, Kathy.
Near the end of his term as pastor, the congregation wanted to give him a trip or a monetary gift, but family members say he would not accept them.
"He declined emphatically and said that he wanted any gifts anyone wanted to give him to be given to St. Peter designated for social ministry," Kathy Schmidt said.
Besides his wife, Schmidt is survived by two children, Meaghan (Mike) Harmon, and Lexi and Katie Schmidt, as well as two grandchildren.
A funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at the church, 111 W. Olive St.