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Long-time Bethel pastor plans retirement

From age 4, Gary Garnatz knew what he wanted to do with his life.

Standing on the steps, he would preach to his grandmother's dog, Rusty. He knew then he would follow his faith into the ministry.

"I decided then that I wanted to be a pastor," Garnatz said. "I thought about that all through school. When I was in high school, I went to college with the intent of becoming a pastor. I went right from college to seminary."

But now, the long-time pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in South Superior is making plans to enter a new phase in his lifetime of faith — spending time with family in his retirement.

Over the next three weekends, the church Garnatz has ministered to for 18 years is going to say goodbye to the faithful of Bethel.

Garnatz said he got his first call in South Dakota and ministered there for five years before moving back to Wisconsin. He spent 15 years at Colfax and had a mission congregation in northeast Wisconsin for two years before coming to Bethel 18 years ago.

"I liked to help people," Garnatz said of his decision to become a pastor. "I liked Bible studies. I liked church life."

Garnatz said his first date with his wife, Faith, the daughter of a pastor, was to go to student congregation.

"It was just meant to be," Garnatz said.

But after having issues with his health, Garnatz said it's time to spend time with family, in particular, his granddaughters, ages 10 and 1, while he can still enjoy them.

"My wife retired in September, and we decided we needed to have some time for us," Garnatz said.

Garnatz said he's going to miss the people most.

"After 18 years of ministry here, it's going to be very strange not to be part of their lives," Garnatz said.

But he said he is looking forward to having time to himself and family.

"My oldest granddaughter lives down by Racine, and she's already booked us to take her to basketball camp for two weekends in June," Garnatz said.

The church is planning an open house 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Bethel Lutheran Church, 5821 John Ave., to give parishioners a chance to say their goodbyes.

Garnatz said he will be confirming his last class April 22, and his last Sunday at the church will be April 29, when the youth do the service. Cake and coffee follow the service.

"It would be great to see everyone," Garnatz said.