It was standing room only at Chapel in the Pines on Saturday as family members and friends celebrated the lives of Wolfgang and LaDonn Krismanits, who died in an automobile accident in Hollister on Tuesday.
An estimated 500 people filled the building, and another service was held at Krismanits’ home church, St. James Anglican in Sonora, on Sunday.
“Father Wolf” Krismanits, 60, was pastor of St. James, also known as the Red Church. He also was one of the founders of Lighthouse Ministries, an advocate for traditional values and a champion of causes for the poor and homeless.
Mrs. Krismanits’ activities included supporting her husband’s ministries, running the food pantry at St. James and being instrumental in starting the Foothill Pregnancy Center.
Several religious leaders spoke about the couple’s good works and integrity during the 2 1/2-hour celebration of life, and their family members provided insight into their loving household.
Their oldest son, Paul Krismanits, of Redding, started it by saying his parents had struggled with finances over the years, and some said they should stop giving everything to their ministries and make some money.
“But look at this room,” he said. “Thank all of you for coming. I would rather have this than all the riches in the world. No son could be prouder of his parents than I am, and I want to be just like them. I’m sure some of you don’t even believe in God, but you were touched by God when you met my parents, and you are richer for it.”
He added that many people didn’t know how funny his parents were.
“My mom was really into pop culture,” he said. “If she mentioned Carrie Underwood, we knew we were in for a long talk. Dad was more quiet, but he loved cheesy movies. If we mentioned the latest ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Indiana Jones,’ he perked right up.”
Paul Krismanits said his parents never knew how loved and respected they were, and never felt like they were better than anyone else.
“You could be the worst person in the world, but my parents would find something good in you, and you would become better for it,” he said.
Their oldest daughter, Sonja Heisinger, of San Antonio, Texas, said she wanted people to remember her parents’ silliness.
“I want to make you guys laugh,” she said, “because that’s what they want you to do. They are happy right now. Dad might be on a sailboat fishing, or maybe he is at a symphony in Vienna. He always wanted to go back to Austria, where he was born.”
She said her mother is laughing with Jesus and eating all of the things she couldn’t eat while she was suffering from Lyme Disease.
She recalled her dad having fits of sneezing really loud, and his love of the television show, “24,” with Keifer Sutherland playing the starring role of Jack Bauer.
“All my life I remember hearing him say, ‘Oh no,’ really loud, and we would run to see what was wrong. He would say it was OK. He just found his glasses. They were on his head.”
She said her mother had a wonderful loud hysterical laugh.
“They had their checks and balances,” she said. “If Dad got into an intellectual slump about something, Mom would say ‘let’s have a party.’ ”
But she said her dad was fun, too. She remembers him staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. Sundays to play board games with her, then getting up at 5 a.m. to get ready for church.
The Krismanitses’ younger son, Stephen, of Sonora, said the biggest thing he remembers about his father is that he never judged.
“I screwed up a lot,” he said, “but he’d do anything for me. I remember as a kid I had asthma. He would take me to the hospital and stay with me all night, then go straight to work and never complain.”
He said the other thing that stands out is his father’s integrity. “He always did what he said he’d do,” Stephen Krismanits said. “My parents were my best friends. I’m glad they went together. They’re happy now. They’re home.”
Paul Krismanits’ wife, Summer, of Redding, said LaDonn was the best grandmother in the world, and Christmas was her favorite time of the year.
“It was the only time it was OK to use credit cards,” she said. “Paul said that’s why he believed in Santa Claus for so long. He knew his parents couldn’t afford all those presents.”
Another Christmas tradition was shopping on Christmas Eve, she said.
Sonja’s husband, Andrew Heisinger, of Texas, said he and Sonja were best friends in high school, and he spent a lot of time at their house.
“They truly cared about their children and were very focused on them,” he said. “I am grateful that I now have this amazing wife, thanks to them.”