Grace Lutheran Church and School


A century of grace: Paul Bouman at 100

08.08.18 | Church News | by Michael D. Costello

A century of grace: Paul Bouman at 100

    Grace's Music Director Emeritus celebrates his 100th birthday later this month.

    Psalm 90:10 says that “The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong.” Grace’s Music Director Emeritus, Paul Bouman, must be some kind of superhero — he will celebrate his 100th birthday August 26! 

    And since August 26 falls on a Sunday, Grace’s Senior Choir will be starting their season a few weeks earlier than usual to celebrate Paul’s birthday that morning by singing some of his favorite service music. There is only one worship service that day, at 10 a.m., an opportunity for all of the Grace Church and School community to worship together before the annual Church and School Picnic.  

    Paul Bouman served both church and school at Grace, as 7th grade teacher and as Director of Music from 1953 until his retirement in 1983. Paul’s colleague Carl Schalk, composer and Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, describes his accomplishments at Grace: “In the course of his three decades as director of music at Grace Church, the longest service in this role in the history of the congregation, Paul Bouman developed a children’s choir which was widely acclaimed, presided over a major renovation of the church organ, inaugurated the Bach Vesper Cantata Series, and led the congregation to a richer and deeper appreciation of the Lutheran heritage of liturgical worship and church music.”

    It is no small thing that at 100 years of age Paul is at church nearly every Sunday, holding down the back row at the 11 a.m. service and at each Bach Cantata Vespers service. Paul and his wife, Vickie, who died in 2011, raised five children, all of whom graduated from Grace School. One of his greatest thrills, Paul has said, is seeing members of his family singing in the Senior Choir. Sons Mark and John sing with the choir, and so does John’s daughter, Lucy. 

    Paul’s legacy reaches far beyond his own family; he has touched the lives of thousands here at Grace and throughout his work in the wider church. His compositions are well known, and of course, after nearly a century of being a Lutheran in America, Paul knows just about everyone there is to know.

    His legacy at Grace includes all the students who remember him as Mr. Bouman. One of those students is Lyle Mortensen, who later taught alongside Paul at Grace School. Lyle remembers:

    Next to your pencil a ruler was the most indispensable object for Mr. Bouman’s classes. Heading a paper was taught as an art form using your ruler as a guide to justify your name, grade and date (no abbreviated  months allowed) at the top right of your paper. Any project requiring printing on non-lined paper wouldn’t pass muster if a ruler was not used as a guide to keep everything straight and uniform. The great works of art created under his tutelage always had a precisely measured half-inch margin. The lesson was not about how to use a ruler but how to take pride in your work.

    Schalk has noted that the establishment of the Bach Cantata Vespers series in 1971 was “perhaps one of Bouman’s most significant achievements.” The September 30 cantata, the first one of the 48th season of Bach Cantata Vespers, is being sponsored by the Bouman family in honor of Paul’s centennial. Coincidentally, the cantata being performed that day is the same one performed at the inaugural vespers series in 1971, Es erhub sich ein Streit (There arose a great strife), BWV 19. 

    The September 30 cantata service will include hymn settings by Paul Bouman, and his son Stephen P. Bouman will be the homilist. You won’t want to miss us singing “Happy Birthday” to Paul at the reception following the service, where Bach’s “Coffee Cantata” will also be performed. 

    Join us on August 26, Paul’s 100th birthday for worship. There will be on service that morning, followed by the Church and School Picnic. And be sure to give thanks for this servant of the Gospel as he celebrates a century of living in God’s grace.





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