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Faith and family are key to Duge Gramlich

Published: August 11, 2012   
Maryanne Meyerriecks
Father Jon McDougal, pastor of St. Boniface Church in Fort Smith, presents John Franklin "Duge" Gramlich with a plaque honoring his years of service as a trustee of the parish Endowment Fund.

Name: John Franklin "Duge" Gramlich

Parish: St. Boniface Church

City: Fort Smith

Age: 81

Family: Married to Gertrude 61 years, eight children: Cindy Toth, Debbie Hudson, Charlotte Weisenfels, Dianna Williams, Jeff Gramlich, Jim Gramlich, Maria Lau and Greg Gramlich; 23 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren

Why you want to know Duge Gramlich: Gramlich was recently honored by his parish for a lifetime of service, as a trustee of the Endowment Fund and for his work in parish sports and school programs, missions and special events.

In his own words

Arkansas Catholic's theme this year is "Catholic Beyond Sunday." How do you remain committed as a Catholic beyond Sunday? Our lives have always been centered around St. Boniface Church, and even though we are not as active as we were, we still participate in many parish and school activities and the Knights of Columbus.

How long have you been a parishioner at St. Boniface? I grew up on 21st Street in Fort Smith, four blocks away from St. Boniface Church. My brother and sister and I attended St. Boniface School, and all eight of my children are St. Boniface graduates.

What are some of the ministries you've been involved in as an adult? After I married my wife, Gertie, in 1950, and began raising a family, I started the parish baseball program. I worked in scouts and volunteered at the school. Working in our family construction business gave me some flexibility to spend time with the kids. My dad, brother and I would go out in our 1939 Ford and get trees for the Nativity sets of all three Fort Smith churches - Immaculate Conception, Christ the King and St. Boniface. We'd always get involved in building the platforms and booths for St. Boniface's Fall Lawn Social.

Tell me about your mission work. Our missions committee supported a Navajo mission in Crown Point, N.M. When we began our ministry, the missions were in dire need. St. Boniface brought down 15 busloads of sheets, clothes, food, non-perishables and building materials - enough to supply five missions there. Today the mission is self-sustaining.

Tell us about the honor you received from St. Boniface recently. I've been on the Endowment Fund Board of Trustees at St. Boniface since the 1990s. Like the German-Americans who founded St. Boniface, the parishioners today are very thrifty. Our parish has no debt and has always paid for improvements and new construction from parish savings. In the past few years we have refurbished the organ and stained glass windows, repainted the statues, renovated the school and made many other improvements - all without borrowing money, with income from the endowment fund. ... When I turned 80, I decided to let a younger person, Lee Watson, take my place on the committee. On June 3, Father Jon McDougal (pastor) presented me with a plaque to thank me for my service there.

Now that you are retired, what are some of your hobbies? I retired and sold my business in 2002. We moved to a smaller home that is still big enough for children and grandchildren to visit, and I spent some time renovating it. I also participated in the Senior Olympics in events like the long jump and high jump, earning over 200 medals.

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