The Rev. Howard Gleason of St. John Lutheran Church in Burlington points out the route that his running group used back in 2008. Gleason died Tuesday night of cancer. | Sun-Times Media~File Photo
Updated: February 26, 2013 6:27AM
BURLINGTON — The Rev. Howard Gleason is being remembered by members of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church as a welcoming pastor who had a had a deep impact on the congregation and the community.
The 60-year-old Gleason died Tuesday night from kidney cancer.
Survivors include his wife, Diana, and the couple’s two grown children, Andrea Diana and Howard Jr.
Gleason came to St. John Lutheran in July 2001. He was previously the pastor of Grace Lutheran Mission in Cloverdale, Ind.
Hampshire resident Sheri Stout once worked with the church’s Sunday school and youth group. She also attended a church youth gathering in Florida.
“Pastor was a wonderful addition to our church,” Stout said. “We searched a long time for a good fit. He was great with all ages. He was a good people person and good at remembering names. He encouraged us to welcome new members.”
Shelly Brost and her family in Hampshire have been church members for the past 13 years. She said her sons, Nathan and Hayden, were baptized at the church.
“Pastor Gleason was a great man,” said Brost. “He was such a part of the community outside of the church.”
“We’re going to miss him,” said Hampshire resident and churchgoer Dorothy Paddock.
During Gleason’s time as pastor, Kayleigh Belvery came to the church as a director of Christian education intern. She established a junior high youth group known as Ignite and a high school group known as Noiz, along with other ministries. Belvery is now a permanent staff member at the church.
The last two events that Gleason worked on were the church’s 125th anniversary and having Adeena, the church’s Comfort Dog, travel to Sandy Hook, Conn., to help people deal with the grief of the shootings there.
Adeena, a golden retriever, is a certified and trained service dog that interacts with people where there has been a tragedy. Her caregivers are Hampshire couple David and Shar Farran.
“Pastor Gleason, David and I once took Adeena to Joplin, Mo., to help tornado victims,” Shar Farran said. “We served at the church that was at the edge of the devastation. It was an experience I never expected to have.”
She and Adeena came back from Sandy Hook last weekend. Adeena and four other comfort dogs were brought to interact with the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and Newtown High School students in the wake of the Dec. 14 fatal shooting of 20 children and six adult staff members at the elementary school.
Gleason died just days after Shar and Adeena returned from Connecticut.
“Pastor Gleason was just a wonderful guy,” Shar said. “He made a huge impact on the members of our church. When I got the call to go to Connecticut through Lutheran Church Charities, he said I should go. He thought beyond the boundaries of our church. We reached out to Joplin and Connecticut through his vision.”
Visitation will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, and the funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, both at the church.