Rev. Joseph W. Hager, 81, of Sugarloaf, passed away Monday, December 23, 2019, at St. Luke Pavilion in Hazleton following a brief illness.
Born in Bucks County on May 29, 1938, he was the son of the late Edwin and Elizabeth (Meyers) Hager, and spent the past 44 years in Sugarloaf after moving from West Hazleton.
Rev. Hager had served mainly as Chaplain at the old Lutheran Home on Broad Street, St. Luke Manor and St. Luke Pavilion, as well as Amity Village, before retiring in 2001. He provided worship experiences twice a week and special Christian education programs, as well as compassionate care to chronically and terminally ill residents and their families throughout his ministry.
Hager was a member of the Association of Professional Chaplains and used his skills to minister to the Lutheran Welfare Services (LWS) family of staff and residents.
He was pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, West Hazleton, from 1968 to 1974. From 1974 to 1977, he was the Chaplain at the Lutheran Home in the old Altamont Hotel and at St. Luke Manor and, in 1985, at the new St. Luke Pavilion. In 1977, he was promoted to director of human services/Chaplain. He held this position until 1987.
Hager was a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Lutheran Theological Seminary. In 1992, he received his Masters of Science degree in counseling from the University of Scranton, and served as part-time pastoral counselor in LWS Life Enrichment Centers in Hazleton and Lehighton.
Hager gave 15 years to providing guidance to children, youth and adults with family/personal problems. From 1988 to 1992, he was given the added responsibility of managing Amity Village.
In 1995, he accepted the responsibility of co-coordinator of the LWS Genesis Program until his retirement. Also, from 1998 until his retirement, he was the director of pastoral care/chaplain at St. Luke Village campus.
One of the highlights of his ministry was providing for 15 years an annual community education program for family caregivers of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. After each educational program, he conducted monthly support groups.
His work with Alzheimer’s disease inspired him to write an article to help those providing pastoral care at home to people with Alzheimer’s. The article, “How to Continue Ministry as Memory Fades,” first appeared in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s September – October 1997 issue of its monthly magazine. This was mailed to 6,000 ELCA congregations and social ministry agencies throughout the United States. He received over 80 requests from congregations and social ministry agencies asking for more information. The full article, “Providing a Pastoral, Caring Ministry to People Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease,” appeared in the Elba’s quarterly publication of the Lutheran Quarterly July – August 1999 issue.
Hager provided continuing theological education seminars for Lutheran/ecumenical clergy. He arranged one day seminars, mostly Bible studies, using accredited professors from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.
Hager was very active in the Hazleton area community and his faith community. He was past president/chaplain of the West Hazleton Lions Club and the club’s 35th president. He was also past president and member of the board of directors of Meals on Wheels, and a member of the board of directors of CAN-DO. Hager was also an active member of the education committee of the NEPA Alzheimer’s Association and past member of its board of directors.
Hager served on the Greater Hazleton Area Coalition, and the board of directors of the Greater Hazleton Area Public Library for six years and was a past president of the board of trustees. He served on the founding board of directors of the Hazleton Area Paramedics. The year he was president of the West Hazleton Lions Club, it donated $2,000 to the Hazleton Paramedics Association.
Hager served on the board of directors of the Hazleton Area Chapter of the American Red Cross for seven years and was a past president. He was also a member of the board of directors for the Institute of Cultural Diversity at College Misericordia. In the faith community he served on two committees of the NEPA Synod. He was a member and past chairman of the HIV-AIDS education/advocacy committee.
He was a member of the continuing education committee for church professionals, coordinating genesis events with other providers like the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Muhlenberg College, Lehigh Valley Congregational Services, Topton Lutheran Services and Moravian Seminary.
Hager also was involved with the inception of Rails to Trails.
He was preceded in death, in addition to his parents, by brothers Arthur, David, Chester, Kenneth and Robert Hager, and sisters Echo Painter, Laura Buzdygon and Mary Hager.
Surviving are his loving wife of 55 years, the former Judith Ann Moyer, Sugarloaf; daughter Taitia Shelow and her husband Scott, Canonsburg, PA; son Parrish Hager and his wife Emily, Spring Grove, PA; two grandsons, Dominic and Gavin Shelow; sisters Elaine Campbell, Pipersville, PA; Betty Blatz, Grottoes, VA; and Ruth Hager, Tamp, FL; and brother Dean Hager, Perkasie, PA.
His memorial service will be held Saturday, January 4 at 11 a.m. from Harman Funeral Homes & Crematory Inc. (East), 669 W. Butler Drive, Drums, PA 18222. Friends may call at the funeral home from 10 a.m. until the time of the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Alzheimer’s Association, 2595 Interstate Drive, Suite 100, Harrisburg, PA 17110 or online at www.alz.org; the American Cancer Society Greater Hazleton Unit, PO Box 2306, Hazleton, PA 18201; or Rails to Trails, Greater Hazleton Area Civic Partnership, 8 W. Broad St. #M-1490, Hazleton, PA 18201-6424. Online condolences can be entered and more information is available at www.harmanfuneral.com.
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