The Rev. William Karns, Gettysburg Seminary’s Longest Living Alumnus Dies at 104 Years of age
Update: The funeral for the Rev. Karns will take place at 11am on Saturday, January 4, 2014 at St. Johns Lutheran Church, Littlestown, PA.
Photo: Karns, right, tours Schmucker Hall with then Pastor, now Bishop James Dunlop.
The Rev. William C. Karns, a member and pastor emeritus of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Littlestown, PA, where he served as pastor from 1952-1974 died peacefully while hospitalized Sunday, December 29, 2013. He was 104 years of age, and the oldest living alumnus from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and Gettysburg College.
Karns, son of the late William Chester and Martha (Williams) Karns was born in Everett, Pa., on Sep. 29, 1909. He graduated Gettysburg College with an English degree in 1932. He then received his diploma at the Gettysburg Seminary in 1935 after being licensed to preach by the Allegheny Synod in 1934. Karns taught adult Christian education at St. John’s until recently.
Made possible by his pastor at the time, the Rev. James Dunlop, Karns visited his seminary alma mater and toured the rehabilitated Schmucker Hall, where he lived as a seminarian. During the visit, Karns was able to identify his room and reflect with humor the kind of dorm life he remembered from the 1930’s, including his own advocacy for rigorous physical activity, unusual in those days.
Seminary President, the Rev. Michael Cooper-White, met with Karns in 2012 to capture oral history of the Seminary and the life of early 20th Century seminarians. Cooper-White reflected on those conversations by saying “Pastor Karns was gifted with one of the most agile minds among retired pastors, ever sharp and full of clever and witty pastoral insight. I always enjoyed my conversations with him and I give thanks for his wonderful witness to his faith and his theological education.”
President Cooper-White also noted that Karns was one of those many alumni whom the Seminary shared with Gettysburg College.
Karns married the late Ruth Rhohm in June of 1936 and the two raised two daughters, Anne Martha Mummert and Melinda Hummel, who also extended the family with four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren for the elder generation. Ruth died in 2001, and William lived most recently in the Genesis Healthcare facility in Gettysburg.