A Tribute to Ingvar Rehnberg

by Phil Johnson

When I arrived as a green Intern Pastor at Salem Square Covenant Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the Fall of 1962, one of the first persons I met was Ing Rehnberg, Church Sexton. He immediately befriended me and it was always a joy to see him. He would say: "C’mon, Buddy Ruff, let’s go see the Greek for some coffee." The Greek ran the eating place on the upper corner of Salem Square. I soon learned that "regular" in Worcester meant with cream and sugar. There was another eating place at the lower corner. Between the two of them, stood Salem Square Covenant with its towering steeple and, alongside Salem, Ascension Church (the "French Church"). Both of these great houses of worship looked out to the West on the Square itself toward City Hall. It was a great location.

I also learned, as I joined Ing at his favorite spots, that, contrary to what I had been told in Chicago, New Englanders were warm and friendly. Maybe it was Ing’s good humor and personal way— his special qualities—that drew warmth from people.

Early on, Ing took me up into the Salem steeple, to the very top. From there we had a great view of the Square and the part of the City which lay to the West. He frequently reminded me that, like Rome, Worcester was built on seven hills.

Ing worked at Norton’s, the abrasives manufacturer, and did the Sexton work at Salem as an extra job. He lived on one of the hills a couple of miles away, up on Huntington Ave (he, as most Worcesterites, always said "Ave"). Salem Square lay in the center at the bottom, surrounded by the hills. Ing was short and a bit rotund. I liked to tell him that he was the only one I knew who could step outside his front door and roll all the way to work.

Ing and his wife Ruth had three great children. They made me welcome in their home and Ruth frequently treated me to her truly great meals. With the help of Ruth and a number of other hospitable cooks in Worcester, I began to take on the shape of a taller Ing.

Well, my companion of those great two years at Salem Square Covenant died this Fall. He was 90-years-old. When I think of Ing, I think also of the many other wonderful people who befriended me in Worcester. Most of them, the men especially, have died, too. We are indeed mortal.

May God bless the life and memory of Ingvar Rehnberg and may God comfort Ruth and the family which includes six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. As for me, I am grateful for my memory of him and of our friendship.

Phil Johnson is Editor Emeritus of Pietisten.

See all articles by Phil Johnson