Paul Bouman, 100

Renowned musician and teacher

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Paul Bernhard Bouman, 100, died peacefully on April 28, 2019. Born on Aug. 26, 1918, in Hamburg, Minnesota, after two years of high school in Minnesota, he entered the high school of what was then Concordia Teachers College in River Forest in 1933 and set about the vocation of becoming a Lutheran school teacher. His horizons expanded by contact with teachers and friends at Concordia — Carl Halter, Gerhard Becker, Edward Klammer, and Paul Manz — who were in the vanguard of a revival of the great Lutheran church music tradition. 

In 1939, he became a teacher and church musician in Ebenezer, Milwaukee, moved to St. Paul in Melrose Park in 1945, and then to Grace Lutheran in River Forest in 1953.  While in Milwaukee, he met his Victoria (nee Bartling) who died in 2011. Their 65-year life together was blessed with five children, Stephen (Janet), John (Robin Schirmer), Helene Debelak (Charles), Mark (Mary Jane Keitel), and Janet Peterson (Randy); 11 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. 

Their home became a center of love and laughter for all who entered it. The kids remember a busy father whose disciplinary style sweated the small stuff but granted freedom to explore and make big mistakes. 

He taught for 44 years and became an acknowledged expert in directing and writing music for children's choirs. He received a B.A. from Concordia in 1945, an M.Mus. from Northwestern in 1951, studied at the Westfaelische Landeskirchenmusikschule in Germany in 1964, and the Westminster Choir College in the 1970s. His musical output expanded over the years and especially in his long retirement, as he published over a hundred choral anthems, songs, and works for organ. One special commission came from the Oak Park Children's Choir to write new music based on Robert Louis Stevenson's poetry. For several years, he served as a faculty member of Lutheran Summer Music in the role that is now named the Paul Bouman Endowed Chapel Choir Chair. 

In 1971, he and Carl Schalk co-founded the Bach Cantata Vespers series at Grace, which is now in its 49th year as the second longest such series in the U.S. 

Paul Bouman last worshipped at Grace on a snowy Palm Sunday, some 86 years after he first entered its doors as a student. Among the last things he said while in Loyola Hospital was a prayer for the people of this church. He achieved many things in his long career. But most might remember the twinkle in his eye, a firm grip on the elbow to connect one person to another, a ready quip, a robust singing voice, and the way he lived out his favorite phrase from St. Augustine, that "a Christian should be an 'Alleluia' from head to foot." 

The family appreciates donations to Grace Lutheran Church and/or its Bach Cantata Vespers series ( or to his other favorite charity, Jeremiah Community Renewal Corporation c/o Grace Lutheran Church.

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