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 Otto & Rosalie Reinbacher


Pastoral Partners, Collectors, Travelers

Rosalie Kerbs had her first teaching job in Scottsbluff, Neb., and Otto Reinbacher was a newly minted pastor in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, in Gordon, Neb., 130 miles away. “I taught first grade in Nebraska, was active in my church, and good friends with my pastor and his wife,” Rosalie recalls. That Nebraska pastor and his wife were effective match-makers: Otto and Rosalie were introduced at a church function in 1961, and were married in 1963.

“You couldn’t be married in seminary in those days,” quips Otto, “and you had to be married as a pastor. That gave you about a week …”

  Otto and Rosalie before their wedding   June 16, 1963: Married!  

The young couple moved into their first parsonage in Gordon, Neb., where Otto tended to Grace Lutheran congregation. Rosalie became a full-time parson’s wife and mother with the arrival first of Catherine and then Karen.

Their quiet life in a small-town parsonage ended when Otto joined the U.S. Army in 1966, volunteering to serve his country as a chaplain in Vietnam. Rosalie and the children made the first of what would eventually be 23 moves during their military career, to Alabama and then to Colorado.

A high point of their early Army years came in 1968 “when we all went to Hawaii,” says Rosalie. “Getting to live in Schofield Barracks sealed our career in the Army,” says Otto. During their three years in Hawaii, Otto notes, he came “to realize a [military] base is a community, a marvelous community.”

Aboard the Monterey Madson Liner in 1971, saying goodbye to Hawaii

In 1971, the Reinbacher family went to Missouri, then they headed to advanced chaplain’s school at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, N.Y. While there, Otto earned a masters degree in guidance and counseling from Long Island Univ. From there they moved to Maryland, “where we became Colts and Orioles fans,” he notes. (Their fandom shifted to the local teams in future postings; today they root for D.C.’s sports teams.)

The Reinbacher family in Korea’s Demilitarized Zone

The mid-career high point of their Army years was an accompanied two-year tour in Korea. On returning to the U.S., Otto ent to Syracuse, N.Y., as a full-time student, earning an MBA and completing the Army comptrollership course. From there, Otto became comptroller of the Army chaplain school at Ft. Monmouth, N.J. Their longest Army tour allowed Catherine and Karen to finish high school.

Otto’s promotion to colonel, 1985

Their next move was eagerly anticipated. In 1984, with both daughters in college in the U.S., Rosalie and Otto went to Germany. Otto’s parents were German immigrants, and Rosalie counts German ancestors in her heritage. Otto and Rosalie first spent a year in Bremerhaven, and then two years in Heidelberg. They devoted those years to enjoying Germany. “We traveled all over Germany, using a book called Fifty One-Day Tours of Germany. I think we took 49 of them,” Otto says, “and I liked the beer.” Adds Rosalie, “I liked the Christkindl Markets.” It was in Germany that Otto added to his extensive beer stein collection and Rosalie to her collections of nutcrackers, thimbles, Christmas ornaments and nativity scenes.

  Otto’s beer stein collection   Rosalie’s thimble collection  

“The lord blessed us through our military career,” Otto notes. “In Germany I was blessed with a calling as personnel manager for chaplains, and Rosalie and I could travel.”

Rosalie's miniature Christmas market decorated their elevator lobby in December

Otto and Rosalie returned stateside to Fort Meade, Md., for their final Army tour, where Otto served as post chaplain from 1987 to 1988.

Otto leads a memorial service in Flemington, N.J. for a victim of 9-11

On retiring from the U.S. Army, Otto was called by his church to become senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Flemington, N.J. “We spent 16 years there,” says Rosalie. After seven years in the parsonage in Flemington, “we bought a house in New Hope, Pa.,” across the state line and just 20 miles away. For the first time in her long marriage she wasn’t in military housing or a parsonage; she could make her own decorating choices.

“In 2006 I finally retired from the church,” says Otto, “except for the occasional family wedding.”

A post-retirement holiday in Egypt

With daughter Karen living in the Washington, D.C., area, Otto and Rosalie decided to explore retirement options in this area. “One day Otto was on the computer, and Goodwin House popped up. In 2009 the Pointe was under construction, so we came to look,” Rosalie says. They were smitten by the views and layout of upper floor apartments, and put their names on the waiting list, but turnover was slow. In 2016 they moved in to move up, and in 2017 happily secured their current home, Pointe apartment 1376.

Celebrating 50 years of marriage in 2013 with family, including daughters Karen and Cathy (front left and right) and three grandchildren

At Goodwin House Bailey’ Crossroads, Otto and Rosalie have engaged in good causes galore. In 2018 they co-chaired the Employee Gift Fund, raising over $400,000 for the first time in the Fund’s history. Otto organized the weekly covid-compliant bingo games that could accommodate 12 people before the latest pandemic restrictions. He continues to be active in Rotary – he was Rotarian of the Year during his tenure in Flemington. He also collects suitcases for a special-education school in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) in southern Africa. Rosalie knits sweaters, blankets and hats for kids, and has resumed quilting after a long hiatus. “Since I’ve rediscovered my sewing machine, I’ve made over 400 masks,” she adds. 

Over the years, Rosalie has spent many long hours as a volunteer for Red Cross, schools, chaplains’ wives groups, church projects, English as a second language, substitute teaching and teaching piano. There is no slow time for a pastor’s wife. 

Rosalie points out, “Wherever we are we welcome visitors to meals, receptions, gatherings. Our home is a warm place where we share our lives and gifts with others.”

With the pandemic’s restrictions, Otto and Rosalie miss traveling. “We’ve been to all 50 states and to nearly 100 countries,” Rosalie says. Sadly, they have canceled their customary trip to Florida in February and March. “We miss entertaining,” she concludes. “We’ll have no Christmas open house this year.” 

Otto and Rosalie look forward to the return to normalcy, when they can again spend time with daughter Catherine who lives in Iowa, and her two adult children, and daughter Karen, who lives in Georgetown with her 14-year-old son.

By Nancy DeMarco

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