Donald Just

Obituary of Donald Ray Just

Donald Ray Just, 80, of Avery County, North Carolina, passed away April 27, 2020 at his winter residence in Boone, NC from complications of atypical Parkinson's disease. An ordained Lutheran minister for over 50 years, Rev. Just used his many gifts to educate, counsel, console, and shepherd students, seminarians, soldiers and congregations in several states in the USA and abroad. Don was born November 23, 1939 in rural McIntosh County, North Dakota, the first-born of Julius and Helen (Dockter) Just, both of German-Russian heritage. His childhood was greatly influenced by the values of his hard-working farm family and neighbors in Berlin, ND. Growing up, church, school, sports, and FFA provided formative experiences and opportunities to develop leadership skills. Don came to believe deeply in taking advantage of opportunities for personal development and spiritual servanthood. Don graduated from high school in LaMoure, ND in 1957. He then attended Concordia Junior College, St. Paul, Minnesota, graduating after two years with an Associate of Arts degree. He continued his studies at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota, graduating in 1961 with a BA degree with majors in Philosophy and History-Political Science. Don went on to earn advanced degrees in theology, guidance, and education at Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Illinois (MDiv. 1965), NC State (M.Ed, 1972), and the School of Theology and Graduate Center at Claremont, California (PhD, 1981). After ordination at his home church, Trinity of LaMoure, in September, 1965, Don was installed as pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church and Peace Lutheran Church in Victoria and Sydney, British Columbia, where he served for two years. Rev. Just was commissioned as Captain in the US Army Chaplaincy in June, 1967 and served for five years, including one year of combat in Vietnam. While there, he served with two distinguished and decorated battalions in the Tet Counter Offensive operations and was awarded Bronze Stars for service and valor and the Purple Heart. From 1969-1972 he was assigned to Fort Bragg, NC as Brigade Chaplain with the 82nd Airborne Division. After separating from the Army, Don became Dean of Student Affairs and assistant professor of psychology at Concordia College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin while simultaneously completing his doctoral work. He then served as interim pastor at three congregations in Wisconsin while anticipating a return to a college setting. He received a call to be campus chaplain at Lenoir Rhyne College in Hickory, NC in 1982 and served there for eleven years, followed by congregational ministry in Texas, serving as deployed staff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and ultimately a return to Lenoir Rhyne as adjunct faculty with a part-time interim pastorate at St. Mark's, Lenoir/Blowing Rock, NC. Don also participated in Bethany Lutheran Church's summer ministry in Ephraim, Wisconsin for forty years. Don felt honored and privileged to be a Lutheran pastor. He loved God and had a strong personal faith. He had an adventurous spirit, loved to travel, and had a pilot license for many years. He enjoyed working with his hands, building retaining walls at his beloved home, Pastorale, and woodworking/carving. Many friends, family members, students, and congregations were the recipients of wooden Advent wreaths and other functional and decorative objects he created. A devoted listener to classical music and avid reader, Don particularly enjoyed discussing literature, religion, philosophy, politics or the topic of the day. Rev. Don Just is survived by his wife, Laura Mueller Just, brothers, Myron (Ellen) Just and Walt (Patricia) Just, sisters Marcella (Robert) Ludwig and Carol Just, and many beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins. Over the years Don nurtured and treasured many special "almost family" relationships which endure. He adored and was especially proud of being "Bampa" to Emily, Bryan, and Samuel Sandifer. Special thanks and acknowledgments are made to Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care, which guided and supported Don's care over the past two years, and to the many fine nurses, nursing assistants, and home health aides who accompanied us on this journey and became friends as well as caregivers. Memorials, if desired, may be made to Grace Lutheran Church (Boone, NC), Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care (Lenoir, NC), or Bread for the World (Washington, DC). Funeral services will be held when circumstances allow. Online condolences may be shared with the Just family at the website www.austinandbarnesfuneralhome.com. Austin & Barnes Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the Just family.
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