Rev. Wallace Bostelmann: Busy doing the Lord’s work
Rev. Wallace Lee Roy Bostelmann ‘55 was ordained by colloquy in 2019 at the age of 87. He recently retired from the holy ministry at the age of 90. He has had a long career filled with both secular and church-based ministry opportunities. But his journey began many years ago in rural Nebraska. And part of his story includes Concordia Nebraska Bulldogs basketball.
“I have been very busy doing the Lord’s work wrapped around a busy business life,” he said.
Bostelmann always knew he wanted to attend a college that had a strong sports program. Although he was offered many full scholarships from various colleges and universities, his parents encouraged him to avoid those opportunities, fearing that the financial incentives would lead Bostelmann to a school that did not align with their family values and ideals.
Through a series of unusual events, Bostelmann ended up doing a screen test with some TV executives from Chicago in 1951. They offered him a spot reading the nightly news on TV and a free degree from a university in Chicago, but Bostelmann said no. He wanted to play sports.
“I was teaching in a county school on a normal training certificate from Chester High School,” he explained. “The Lutheran school teacher was a Seward grad and took me to homecoming. I liked what I saw, and I enrolled.”
In 1954, Bostelmann found himself in a unique position. He had dropped out of the Bulldogs men’s basketball team. Soon after, some of the university’s young ladies approached him and asked him to start a women’s basketball team. Bostelmann talked to dean of students R.W. Griesse, who approved the idea and granted Bostelmann’s request for $500 to fund the team.
“We were off and running,” he said. “I believe we played seven games and won two. Six players on a team, four on one end when they had the ball, while the other two stayed at half court ‘to rest’ as per the rules. They could only bounce the ball three times when dribbling. Touching the ball while the other team was holding it was a foul. This was strictly a ladies game!”
Bostelmann’s adventure with the Bulldog women’s basketball team happened during his junior year.
“The men’s coach didn’t like that I shot two-handed and shot underhanded free throws,” he said. “So no matter how well I played, he just didn’t like it. The girls found out that I quit the team and asked me to start a ladies’ team.”
That year, the ladies played in a four team tournament in Lincoln. Bostelmann recalls a Lincoln Journal Star reporter writing that the team “wasn’t very talented, but they sure were good looking.” His schedule kept him from working with the team after that year, so his duties were taken over by Wilbur Tewes '56 during Bostelmann’s senior year.
“I must admit, I feel some pride in getting those ladies off and running,” he said.
Bostelmann’s fond memories of his time at Concordia Nebraska include more than just time on the basketball court.
“My freshman year was interesting,” he said. “The atomic bomb scare was out. All of the colleges and towns were required to send a rep to Lincoln to learn about an escape route in case of an event. The faculty thought I should be the one to go. I thought it was strange that they did not send a professor! When I returned, I made the presentation to the president was then given the position of ‘campus cop’.”
Bostelmann was responsible for ensuring that all cars were parked in their assigned positions. If cars were in the wrong location, they were ticketed.
“Can you imagine how popular I was for giving faculty 50 cent parking tickets?” he laughed.
Bostelmann was raised in small town Chester, Nebraska. He said his favorite thing about his time at Concordia Nebraska was being able to watch and learn from other people. He said he was and still is interested in watching and learning from people from all walks of life. Bostelmann sang in the university’s famed A Cappella choir and had the opportunity to study with the university’s legendary art professor Reinhold Marxhausen.
“He really made God’s creation jump out in his art classes,” he said. “He probably taught me more about God than any other professor.”
Bostelmann said he learned a lot about classroom teaching and interpersonal relationships during his time on campus, too. He experienced outstanding educators and instructors that he didn’t prefer. He excelled in some classes and struggled in others. Some classroom experiences led him to understand that all people in a church congregation or school classroom should be seen as individuals and cared for personally.
Following his time at Concordia Nebraska, Bostelmann took summer classes at Kansas City University. He was active with the Lutheran Layman’s League. He helped start a science fair program and a grade school basketball tournament for LCMS schools in the greater Kansas City area. He served on the board for the Greater Kansas City World Science Fair. He helped build a church in Vada Parra, India as well as a church in Monroe, Louisiana. He also worked with Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and School in Dallas, Texas to enlarge and eventually redesign the school as well as serve the church in various ways. Following that, he moved to Houston and was involved with the first national LCMS Youth Gathering.
“I have been blessed to do the Lord’s work in many places,” he said. “I am more than blessed. “I have combined my classroom teaching experience, building industry knowledge and involvement in various church leadership positions. I have learned what not to do and finding out what people are capable of.”
In addition to a variety of professional roles, he has also serve in a variety of civic and education focused volunteer positions, always focusing on serving people and the communities in which they live.
“In life, you realize that without God you are nothing, but with Him…He leads you to mountains you can climb,” he said. “My greatest blessing from God was to realize that I do not know everything, but I have found people who know what to do and used their knowledge. When you give people room to go, they will really get it done.”
God has led Bostelmann to serve in a variety of ways. His most recent call was at Zion Lutheran in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Prior to COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020, he led a Thursday morning Bible study at a halfway house and serving local churches in the area. He hopes to restart that Thursday morning Bible study soon.
“What a blessings that is, feeding the Word to hungry people. Wow!” he said. “Someone once told me to do a great thing, and I ask you do so the same: promise me that you will tell everyone you know that ‘I love you, and God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it, so don’t try!’ I have not had one person get angry with me for saying this. And remember: spreading the love of Jesus is not a Sunday job only!”