The Rev. R. E. Utecht was born Aug. 8, 1928, in Merrill, Wis., to Emil and Alma (Lutzke) Utecht. Ordained into the ministry in 1951, he was the longest serving Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor in South Dakota, serving congregations at Alexandria, Emery, Gettysburg and Dimock. He founded the churches at Rosebud and Pine Ridge as the first Missionary at Large to the Native Americans in South Dakota. A pioneer of puppet and magic ministry, he used visual arts to innovatively proclaim the Gospel. South Dakota State Fair attendees enjoyed “Pastor Bob” and his Puppet Place for 40 years. His ministry concluded in the spring of 2012 after 59 years of ordained ministry.
He is survived by his wife, Donna, Lead; children: Richard (Pat) Soyk, Dickinson, N.D.; Dave (Sandi) Soyk, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Mark (Lynn) Utecht, Virginia Beach, Va.; Dorcas Gienger, Mount Carmel, Ill.; Ken (Bev) Soyk, Parkston; Rob (Karen) Utecht, Mount Carmel, Ill.; Kathy (Wallace) Schulz, Augusta, Mo.; Luke Utecht, Rapid City; Mary (George) Oxar, North Miami, Fla.; Linda Utecht Houston, Texas; Peter (Rachel) Utecht, Redfield; Andrew (Lori) Utecht, Rosebud; Sarah (Patrick) Gaffney, Beecher, Ill.; Joanna Utecht, Valentine, Neb.; along with 29 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Marge (Tom) Trembath, of Ely, Minn.
The Rev. Robert Utecht was preceded in death by his wife, Grace; father, Emil; mother, Alma; and brother, Richard.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to the Rev. Robert Utecht Family Scholarship Fund, Native American Missions or LWML.