Rev. Paul F. Luebbe Sr., 79, adult day-care center head

September 07, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

The Rev. Paul Frank Luebbe Sr., a retired Lutheran minister, clinical counselor and first director of the medical adult day-care program at Keswick Multi-Care Center, died Sunday at ManorCare Health Services in Chambersburg, Pa., of injuries suffered in an April automobile accident. He was 79.

Mr. Luebbe was born and raised in Johnstown, Pa., and earned his bachelor's degree from Gettysburg College in 1948. He was ordained a Lutheran minister after earning his divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg in 1951.

He began his career in Latrobe, Pa., and moved to Parkville in 1952 to become the first pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church.

After leaving St. Andrew in 1960, Mr. Luebbe served at small churches in Pennsylvania while working on his master's degree in clinical counseling at the Johns Hopkins University, awarded in 1979. He was pastor for more than 20 years at St. John's Lutheran in Summerhill, Pa., from which he retired in 2005.

He balanced his pastoral work while teaching counseling at the former Dundalk Community College and at Anne Arundel Community College during the 1980s.

"I always admired his dedication to his church work," said Beth Hostetler, a nurse and member of St. John's in Summerhill.

"Every Sunday, he'd drive two hours from his Chambersburg home to Summerhill on a journey that took him over the Tuscarora Mountains," Ms. Hostetler said. "It wasn't just church; after services, he'd visit the sick before driving two hours back home."

Since 1972, Mr. Luebbe had lived in Chambersburg but commuted daily to Baltimore, where he had a private mental health practice.

Mr. Luebbe was director of the day-care center at Keswick from 1985 until retiring there in 1998.

"I viewed Paul as my mentor, predecessor and dear friend," said Peg Parrish, who succeeded him. "He was a man who led by example. He wrote in a job description that he wanted applicants to have `a natural compassion and empathy for those they would serve.'"

Half of the patients Mr. Luebbe and his team worked with had a primary diagnosis of dementia, Ms. Parrish said.

When the program began in 1987, there were four patients; it quickly grew to include 70 a day. The staff expanded to 19, and by the time of Mr. Luebbe's retirement, the program had handled more than 500 "participants" and their families.

"Paul didn't use the word patient to describe them. He used the word participant because he didn't want to make them think they were sick. He wanted them to preserve their identities," said Beth Lebow, a retired social worker and former Keswick staffer.

"His goal with adult day care was to help a family keep their loved one at home until the time came to transition them into the nursing home. He was the ideal administrator whose compassion drove everything he did."

Mr. Luebbe arrived early in the morning, worked late into the night and was always available to both patients and staff. "And he'd do whatever was needed for his staff and participants, and was fond of saying, `It's easier to say you're sorry than to ask for permission,'" Ms. Parrish said.

The day-care program became a model for operations across the nation and abroad.

"People came from Japan and all over the country to see what we were doing. The Japanese representatives even came with a film crew," Ms. Lebow said.

"He was very dedicated to his work. Helping people was his profession," said a daughter, Jennifer S. Keller of Philadelphia.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 16 in the chapel of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg.

Also surviving are his wife of 58 years, the former Barbara Schoenrock; two sons, Paul F. Luebbe Jr. of Chantilly, Va., and Christopher D. Luebbe of Ann Arbor, Mich.; two other daughters, Gretchen M. Luebbe of Leesburg, Va., and Lisa L. Stapleford of Lemasters, Pa.; a brother, H. Robert Luebbe of Warminster, Pa.; a sister, Margaret Butler of Phoenix, Baltimore County; and seven grandchildren.

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