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The Rev. Dr. Martin Fredrick Saarinen died peacefully at his Newberry SC home on April 1, 2023, after a brief illness with pancreatic cancer. Son of Pastor John and Tekla (Toppari) Saarinen, Martti was born in Portland OR on July 6, 1929.
He was predeceased by his parents, children Beth and Paul, brothers Paul and Daniel, and sister Marie Frislie. He is survived by his wife Marilyn (Culy); son Erik; granddaughter Katelyn; stepchildren Randall Featherston, Christi Pursey, Melanie Hughey, Kevin Featherston, Mary Moser and their children; sister Martha Asuma; sister-in-law Jane Lepisto; grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews; and special caregiver Theresa Halfacre.
Martti earned degrees from the University of Minnesota (BA), Suomi Theological Seminary (BD), Wisconsin State University (MEd), Hamma School of Theology (Dmin) and Hamilton University (PhD). He was ordained into ministry by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on June 19, 1955. Proficient in Finnish, he served bilingual Lutheran parishes in Brule WI and Ashtabula OH and developed congregations in Orr MN and Iron River WI. He wore many hats as Campus Pastor, Registrar and Instructor in his call at Suomi College (now Finlandia University) in MI.
After serving as Assistant to the President of the Ohio Synod, Lutheran Church in America, he joined the faculty of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia SC in 1972 as Professor and Director of the Doctor of Ministry and Continuing Education Programs. He retired in 1990 and continued to assist congregations as church consultant in ministry planning, conflict resolution and team-building and as an interim pastor. Martti will be remembered as a loving family member, friend, U.S. Marine Corps World War II and Korean War veteran, pastor, author, researcher, scholar, teacher, reader for the blind, woodworker, carver, bicyclist, tinkerer, lover of dachshunds and—most importantly—Beloved Child of God.
The family extends gratitude to Springfield Place, the staff of Bernardo Geriatrics and Home Care, Newberry County Memorial Hospital, and MSA Hospice.
Services will be incorporated during regular worship at Summer Memorial Lutheran Church in Newberry on Sunday, April 16, at 10:30 am and livestreamed on the church’s Facebook page. Repast will follow.
Martti donated his body to the Gift of Body Program at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. His cremains will later be interred in Ashtabula OH.
Memorials may be directed to Southern Poverty Law Center, Doctors Without Borders, TechnoServe and Lutheran World Relief.
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