HARTINGTON – John Grindvold said he’s been blessed all of his 103 years.
In a century’s time, he’s seen a lot of change but there’s always been one constant in his life – his faith.
“I don’t know how anyone can go through life without knowing the Savior,” he said.
In two weeks, the Hartington man will turn 104. But his church, Trinity Lutheran, will be celebrating a milestone, too – 150 years.
Grindvold is the oldest living member, having been baptized and confirmed at the Hartington Lutheran church. He still attends every Sunday.
His memory is pretty clear when he thinks back over the church’s history and how it intertwines with his own.
Grindvold said he remembers the old church location on Main Street ,which was across the street from another church mostly attended by Swedish immigrants. In 1934, that church - also known as Trinity Lutheran - moved to Crofton.
“In them days, we didn’t get around like we do now. They’d have to move it across the creek. I think they moved it with horses. That probably took them a few days,” he said.
Currently, Hartington’s Trinity Lutheran minister Amanda Talley also provides services at Crofton’s Trinity Lutheran.
The Trinity Lutheran church in Hartington was built at its current location in 1928.
“I was there when they laid the cornerstone. I wasn’t very old,” Grindvold said. “I remember putting some papers in this box that goes in the cornerstone. I’d always wanted to know what they put in there.”
As a youngster, he recalls attending Sunday School. In the wintertime, he’d travel to church by a team of horses pulling a sled.
“Now if the car don’t start you don’t go,” Grindvold said.
His parents both immigrated to the United States from Norway - first his father in 1907, and then his mother a few years later.
Although church services were in English, the Grindvolds continued to speak Norwegian at home.
“When I started school, I couldn’t speak English,” he said. “When I got home it’d be Norwegian. We’d go visit some place, it’d be Norwegian and my folks were just learning the language, too.”
Trinity Lutheran’s facilities have been updated over the years, including the building of a new parsonage in 1962 and the renovation of the sanctuary a few years later. More recently, renovations to the parsonage kitchen and bathroom were completed.
Grindvold volunteered to serve on the church council for a few years and his late wife, Elvira, was the Sunday School superintendent for 17 years. He also helped serve as an usher at funerals.
Pastors have come and gone but services generally have remained the same, Grindvold said.
He appreciates the sermon message each week and prefers the traditional hymns over contemporary worship songs.
“I’m kind of old fashioned,” he said, adding that “How Great Thou Art” remains his favorite hymn.
Grindvold said he’s disappointed that church attendance has decreased over the years.
“All the churches are that way and it’s too bad,” he said.
He’s hoping to reconnect with former pastors and congregants who attend Trinity Lutheran’s 150th celebration this weekend. He’ll also use the time to reflect on all the Lord’s blessings even in the hardship of losing a son at a young age, losing his wife to cancer, and seeing many of his friends and family members pass away.
He awaits a joyful reunion in heaven some day.
“We do a lot of praying. Sometimes we don’t think our prayers are answered but after awhile we can realize why, and why it takes so long. . . . Someone made the remark, ‘Heaven’s kind of wondering, did this guy go the other way? He hasn’t shown up yet,” Grindvold joked.