Robert Julius Wieland, beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather as well as minister of the Gospel, longtime missionary to East Africa, author, pastor and friend, died peacefully on July 13, 2011 at the age of 95 in Walnut Creek, Calif. He and his beloved departed wife Grace lived their last 20 years together in Meadow Vista, Calif.
He is survived by children Robert E. Wieland, John Wieland and Margaret Utt, as well as foster daughter Vickie Sagaral. He is also mourned by five grandchildren, Sonia Wieland, Ian Wieland, Heidi Ketcherside, Kirsten Yeates and Kristin Sagaral. He leaves three great-grandaughters, Riley Yeates, Hannah Ketcherside and Alison Yeates.
When only two, Robert, whose father owned the electric company in Spencer, W. Virginia, lost his mother and very nearly his own life to Spanish Influenza. When he was six he moved with his father, stepmother, and brother Howard to Florida. As a boy he read avidly and widely and developed his growing writing talent. Listening to an old cracked Victrola recording of Jascha Heifetz started a lifetime of violin playing and a passion for classical music. He graduated from high school in St. Cloud, and won a Florida statewide academic contest. He attended Southern Missionary College and later graduated from the Seventh-day Adventist seminary at Emmanuel Missionary College near Washington D.C. He became pastor of a small church in St. Augustine, Florida.
He couldn't, however, forget the young nursing student, Grace Thomson, he had met during a job as a bellhop at Florida Sanitarium and Hospital. She was working as an R.N. in California. After continuing their relationship by correspondence he crossed the country in his 1937 Chevy to propose. They were married two weeks later, on January 11, 1942 in Glendale, California. That started 66 years of a very devoted, loving and supportive marriage that inspired and nurtured all those around them, until Grace's death in 2008.
Their first son was born while he and Grace lived in a garage apartment near the church they pastored in Florida. Their second son and their daughter were both born in Uganda, East Africa, since Robert and Grace in 1945 had answered a call to become Seventh-day Adventist missionaries. The young family of three had journeyed to Africa just after the war, initially on a still blacked out Portuguese ocean liner only a few weeks after the German U-boats had ceased their operations.
Robert and Grace loved the people and tropical beauty of Uganda. At first they lived in the primitive countryside, near the Mountains of the Moon, and Robert built several churches and a hospital that survived the Idi Amin regime. Their second son and daughter were born after the family moved to the capital city of Kampala. In 1952 they moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where Robert was a pastor, church administrator, radio speaker, editor and prolific writer. He was fluent in Luganda and Swahili. His Christian books are still sold there; and many Africans still read and remember him and Grace with love and appreciation.
After moving back to the United States in 1964 Robert became pastor of the Brawley, Banning and Chula Vista Seventh-day Adventist churches in California. In 1979 Robert and Grace returned to Africa for two years of further service in their beloved Kenya. After retirement they moved to Meadow Vista in 1986.
However being of sound body, mind and spirit Robert continued his dedicated service to his church, speaking widely at seminars and church meetings in Europe, India, Japan, Australia, West Africa and around the United States. His enormous life work of magazines and dozens of books, tapes and videos survive him and will continue to minister to many people.
However, it is as a kind and generous gentleman, ever thoughtful and deeply wise in the Scriptures, that he is most remembered. He leaves many friends and family who are thankful for his lifetime of willing and gracious service.
A memorial service for Robert will be held on Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 4 p.m. in the Meadow Vista Seventh-day Adventist Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Adventist Development and Relief Agency for emergency help for the devastating famine in E. Africa (www.adra.org
) as a memorial donation for Robert J. Wieland.