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Tallmadge -- Over 21 years at Tallmadge Lutheran Church, the Rev. Dr. David Zachrich performed 465 baptisms and 450 confirmations and presided over 295 weddings.
He also has been the spiritual leader and counselor for many who have been through some of the darkest times in their lives, including divorces, illnesses and deaths.
And after he retires May 18, some of his colleagues at the church and members of the congregation -- some of whom are personal friends -- say he'll be very difficult to replace.
Zachrich, 65, has been in the ministry for 40 years. When asked how he'd like people to remember him he said: "I don't need a legacy. What I would hope more than anything is that faith has become more real." He also hopes the congregation will continue to work together in unity.
He said it's difficult to leave as the congregation has been "a joy and a blessing in many ways," and his co-workers have been wonderful to work with. He's not worried about the church carrying on its mission because he said he knows it will, and after so many years, he feels they've become family.
Typically, the church has two services on Sunday, but on his last day, there will be only one at 10:30 a.m. A breakfast in his honor, which is by invitation only, will take place at the church before the service. An open house for the public is set for 2 to 5 p.m. at Tallmadge High School.
Zachrich and his wife, Ann, a teacher at Redeemer Christian School in Cuyahoga Falls who's retiring at the end of the school year, will continue to live in Tallmadge. They have four grown children and 10 grandchildren.
In their retirement, Zachrich and Ann plan to spend more time with family.
Marty Hauser, chief executive officer for Summa Care in Akron, has been a member of the church for 32 years. The Stow resident who previously served as head elder and is now on the Board of Elders will be the master of ceremonies for the reception.
Hauser said Zachrich is a personal friend and an "incredible leader."
"He's probably one of the most down-to-earth, yet dynamic preachers you'll ever meet," Hauser said. "The things everyone's going to miss are his sermons and his teachings because that's what his passions are."
Zachrich injects humor into his sermons, makes them personal and easy for people of all ages to understand, he said.
"We jokingly say that when Pastor's preaching and you look around the church, you don't see anybody dozing off," he said.
Amber Styskal, director of Christian Education at Tallmadge Lutheran, has worked with him for 19 years.
"He's been a wonderful pastor to work with, a great co-worker," she said. "Whenever I've had problems or issues I've been able to go to him, and he just helps you through that." She added their relationship is similar to that of a father and daughter.
"He's definitely going to be very much missed here," she said.
Zachrich said he can't single out only one fond memory. When he joined the church, he was the only staff member, and when the old sanctuary was remodeled, the church started a preschool. Additional fundraising allowed it to add on a gym and classrooms.
The church worked with the Tallmadge Little League to turn some of its land into baseball diamonds and with the city of Tallmadge to turn more land into the Community Gardens.
The church added a hand bell choir and a before- and after-school care program for children.
"The congregation has been really permission-giving, and I've appreciated that so much," Zachrich said. "That doesn't mean that everything I've said they've agreed or everything I've said has worked, but they have always been willing to try. And that's not the case everywhere."
Zachrich said he's formed relationships with many people in the community who aren't members of the church. He's on the board for the Tallmadge Recreation Center and helped with the early stages of the Faithful Servants Care Center.
Hauser said over the years, Zachrich has reached out to and recognized community members, such as when the church had lunches for the local safety forces, first responders and teachers to thank them for what they do in the community.
The church's call committee has asked Andrew Alberts, a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Athens, Wis., near Green Bay, to replace Zachrich as pastor, according to Styskal who is a nonvoting member of the committee.
Alberts will be visiting Tallmadge Lutheran May 20 and 21 to meet the congregation and determine whether he should remain at his church in Wisconsin or come to Tallmadge. Styskal expects him to make his decision by the beginning of June.
"My hope would be that the new pastor would come in, and he's going to have his own set of skills, gifts and abilities, but whatever those are he would continue to move the church forward in a really positive and good way," she said.
In the meantime, multiple pastors will take turns preaching during Sunday services until Zachrich's replacement starts.
Contact this reporter at 330-541-9428 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Holly Schoenstein, Record Publishing Co.