Leader of the Red Church, ‘Father Wolf,’ remembered

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat /

Mother Lode residents will have the chance to remember a local religious leader and advocate for the needy this weekend.

Fellow clergy and church leaders are organizing multiple memorial services for the Rev. Wolfgang Krismanits and his wife, LaDonn, who were killed Tuesday afternoon in a multi-vehicle car accident near Hollister.

Chapel in the Pines in Twain Harte will host a public memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, and Father Wolf's Red Church - the St. James Anglican Church in downtown Sonora - will hold a special service for parishioners at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

"There will be several pastors and colleagues, family and friends there for sharing," said Dennis Ortmann, pastor of the Twain Harte church, who is helping organize the Saturday service.

"Because he's so well-known in the community here, there will probably be some sort of open mic session," Ortmann said.

The Krismanitses were heading back from a doctor's appointment Tuesday when the accident occurred. Krismanits had undergone major heart surgery earlier this month.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Krismanits was driving his 2002 Mercury Sable east on State Highway 156 when his car was struck in the intersection by a northbound driver who ran a red light.

The Krismanitses' car was pushed beneath a westbound tractor trailer. He was pronounced dead at the scene, while LaDonn was taken to a nearby hospital where she died from her injuries, according to the CHP report.

The driver of the Nissan, identified as Rudy Lopez, 24, of Morgan Hill, was hospitalized with major injuries.

The Krismanitses are survived by their children, Paul, Stephen, Sonja and Summer, as well as several grandchildren.

The couple came to Sonora in 1989, where Father Wolf was named rector at the then-Episcopal church. While here, they both worked along with other local church leaders to help Sonora's needy population.

"I think it was in his heart for those that were in need," said Robert Townley, senior warden at St. James.

Townley and other church leaders gathered on Wednesday at the Red Church, making and fielding phone calls and offering comfort for parishioners. Also present was the regional bishop of the Anglican Church, Eric Menees, who will officiate Sunday's service.

He said Father Wolf was likely the longest-tenured rector in the Red Church's history dating back to 1860, saying it's not common for one to stay at a small church so long.

"I think he just kind of fell into a little niche of liking the area, and liking the people," said Townley.

The Krismanitses ran a food pantry at the church together, and Father Wolf also helped found Lighthouse Ministries, which ministers to the local poor.

Pastor Scott Richards, of New Life Lighthouse, recalled Krismanits as a close friend whom he "wanted to emulate."

On Wednesday, Richards remembered Father Wolf passing out tents, sleeping bags, gift cards and bus passes - even paying utility bills - to help those who needed it.

"He's the real deal," he said. "It was because he genuinely cared for them. That was just in his heart. This is who he was."

For more information on Saturday's public service, call Chapel in the Pines at 586-3284. The church is located on Cherokee Drive in Twain Harte, and overflow parking will be available at an adjacent lot.

The Union Democrat
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