John Trom

Obituary of John Phillip Trom

The Rev. John Phillip Trom, 87, died peacefully on January 24 in Portland, Oregon, shortly after entering hospice care.  As a lover of music, it is fitting he breathed his last while a harpist was playing for him. 

John grew up in Lisbon, North Dakota, cradled in the beautiful Sheyenne River Valley.  After graduation in 1953 from Lisbon High School, he attended a year at Concordia College before transferring to North Dakota Agricultural College (NDAC), now North Dakota State University (NDSU), graduating with a Pharmacy degree in 1958.  He worked as a retail pharmacist for a decade at Trom Drug, his family’s drugstore. 

In 1961, he married Karen Marie Froemke.  They moved to Brooklyn Park, MN, in 1969.  There he worked as a hospital pharmacist for Mt. Sinai and North Memorial.  While working nights at North Memorial, he was a seminary student during the day at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  He was ordained in the American Lutheran Church (ALC), now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in 1977.

His first call as parish pastor was a two-point parish in LaSalle and Lake Hanska, MN.  In 1981 he accepted a new call to Hope Lutheran in Sunburg, MN.  In 1989 he was called to a three-point parish including Singsaas, Marble, and Christ Lutheran Churches in Hendricks, MN.  His last call was in 1998 to another three-point parish including Hope Lutheran and Our Savior’s Lutheran (the “rock church”) in Menno, SD, and St. Dysmus Lutheran Church in the state prison in Springfield, SD.

After retiring in 2000, he lived in Grand Junction and Cedaredge, CO. In June 2021 he moved to Portland, OR, to be near his children and grandchildren, bringing his most treasured material goods – one thousand books.  His computer home page became Powell’s City of Books, and his home was lined with bookshelves about the U.S. Civil War, history, theology, Norway, North Dakota, and so much more.    

He was kind, non-judgmental, smart, and humble.  He was a man of few words, and those words held wisdom and humor.  He found joy in being present with people he loved, and was himself dearly loved by family and friends alike.  He always had more questions than answers, and had such curiosity and admiration for every person’s unique life story.  “Can you imagine?” he would ask.  

He was one of the first people to show up for breakfast every morning where he lived his last years at Courtyard Village, enjoying the food and the conversation with friends equally.  And on Sunday mornings, he would not miss being a part of his church community as they worshiped together while watching a livestream of a service.  The rituals of church were of utmost importance to him.

John is survived by his son Matthew, daughter Jennifer and her spouse Chris and their children Abigail and Kimberly, and daughter Kate and her spouse Doug (all of Portland, OR), and by his sister, Karen Marshall, nephew David and his spouse Gina (all of Longmont, CO).

John was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Karen (d. 1997), brother-in-law Bruce Marshall (d. 2008), and nephew John Marshall (d. 1981).

A memorial service will be at 1:00 pm on Saturday, February 4, 2023, at First Immanuel Lutheran Church in NW Portland.  Interment will be at Oakwood Cemetery in Lisbon, ND. 

Memorial contributions may be made to First Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1816 NW Irving St., Portland, OR 97209 or the ELCA. 

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