Pastor who stepped down to battle cancer dies

By JAIMEE LYNN FLETCHER
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

GARDEN GROVE – The Rev. Bob Rohdenburg, a community advocate and longtime pastor, died Saturday [March 6, 2010] after a battle with brain cancer. He was 60.

Rohdenburg had served the United Methodist Church for 32 years and had been lead pastor at Garden Grove United Methodist Church since 2004. He also served in La Mirada, Costa Mesa, Fullerton and Arizona.

Bob Rohdenburg
Rev. Bob Rohdenburg died on Saturday after a long battle with brain cancer. He is remembered by family and friends as an advocate various social causes in the community. A memorial will be held at Garden Grove Methodist Church at 2 p.m. on Saturday – JOSHUA SUDOCK, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Bob Rohdenburg
Rev. Bob Rohdenburg chats with congregants outside United Methodist Church in Garden Grove October after his farewell tribute service. Rohdenburg decided to retire to fight brain cancer. He died on Saturday after battling the disease.
Bob Rohdenburg

Rohdenburg was diagnosed with brain cancer in March 2008 and resigned last August after he announced his treatment would no longer allow him to serve as lead pastor at the Garden Grove church.

More than 400 people turned out in October to celebrate Rohdenburg's ministry and hundreds more are expected to attend his memorial service this Saturday, March 13, at the Garden Grove church.

Friends and family describe him as a pastor who worked to bond his church community despite age, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries. He participated in the Orange County Congregation Community Organization and fought for children's healthcare, senior mobility and immigration rights at the local and state levels, said his wife, Cynthia Rohdenburg.

"He was a man of integrity," she said. "He cared so very much for others."

Cynthia Rohdenburg met her husband on a blind date in Denver, Colo., and they married at the Garden Grove church where Rohdenburg played out his final days as a pastor.

"He was kind and gentle and really had a vision for where he felt the church should go," she said. "He was a man who spoke out for Orange County's most marginalized communities."

When not pushing for social change in his community, Bob Rohdenburg loved to play music, run and play soccer. He started a youth soccer camp at the church that became a hit with the congregation's children, said friend and Preschool Director Sally May.

"He just loved the children," she said. "He was just the epitome of Jesus on earth, I think. We miss him."

May said she remembers Rohdenburg meeting with the children in January to explain why he was leaving the ministry. He faced his own mortality with grace as he explained what it meant to go home to God, she said.

"I remember the last time he came to see us," she said. "He told the children, 'One day I will open my eyes and see Jesus' face and I'm so excited because I've waited so long to see him.'"

Just days before he died, one of the preschoolers, a 4-year-old boy, asked May, "Did Pastor Bob get to see Jesus' face yet?"

"No, not quite yet but I think it will be soon," she told him.

"That's going to be so cool," the boy told her. May agreed.

May had to break the news to the children in the preschool Monday. Some were upset that God didn't fix the pastor but many wanted to know how Rohdenburg was enjoying his new home, she said.

"They asked me what I thought he was doing and I said I thought he was taking a walk with Jesus," she said through tears. "We knew this was coming but it's hard when you finally lose his presence off the earth."

Rohdenburg is survived by his wife Cynthia, his son Paul, 29; daughter Denise, 26; and a granddaughter.

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