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Rev. Robert Fuehrer, former Navy chaplain, was known for compassionate touch

By JEFF HIMLER | Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa. | Published: November 17, 2017

GREENSBURG, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — The Rev. Robert Fuehrer's down-to-earth approach served him well, whether he sought to inspire members of his flock at the First Presbyterian Church of Jeannette or to comfort fellow military servicemembers.

Ordained in 1985, after completing studies at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, he served as a Navy chaplain aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, completing a tour to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11.

After leaving the Navy in 2011 as a lieutenant commander, he served as pastor at a Presbyterian church in Shalimar, Fla., before returning to his native Southwestern Pennsylvania and becoming pastor of the Jeannette church in 2014.

“He kept the sermons down-to-earth. He would work in his own personal life at times, about his time in the Navy or raising kids,” said Jeannette church elder Nancy Peters.

He enjoyed adding a humorous touch. Peters recalled the pastor's account of a live Nativity, staged aboard the Roosevelt, that involved creative casting. “They used a teddy bear for Baby Jesus,” she said.

The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Fuehrer, 60, of Jeannette, died Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, following a heart attack. He was born May 30, 1957, in McKeesport, a son of the late William and Gladys Fuehrer.

The Rev. Fuehrer was raised in Saxonburg, where he served as the youngest first responder and paramedic with the Saxonburg Volunteer Fire Department. The medical experience he gained came in handy when he completed an initial military stint — flying helicopters as an Air Force corpsman.

He worked as a chemist for General Motors in Ohio while completing his undergraduate degree in psychology in 1981 at Westminster College.

In his later role as chaplain, he did everything from counseling service members suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder to conducting marriages and baptizing babies.

Fellow veteran and friend Pete Highlands said the Rev. Fuehrer “never talked down to you, he talked to you. Some people referred to him as a soft touch, but that wasn't the case at all. If there was a need, somehow he would try to meet that need.”

Peters noted that his level of concern for others went beyond the normal expectations of his role with the church.

“He sat with me and my daughter for 15 hours when my husband had open-heart surgery,” Peters said. “There's not many pastors who would do that.”

“He loved helping people,” said his wife, Janet Hopkins-Fuehrer. “He was a good listener and very compassionate.”

The Rev. Fuehrer was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons Lodge No. 750 and the Shriners.

He is survived by his wife, Janet Hopkins-Fuehrer of Jeannette; four children, Amber Wenzel and husband, Michael, of Raleigh, N.C.; Emily Fuehrer and Jason Davis of Fort Atkinson, Wis.; Benjamin and wife, Cassondra, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Aaron Fuehrer and Sharri Flores of Whitewater, Wis.; seven grandchildren; five stepsons; and nine step-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and 1:30 until the 3 p.m. service Saturday in the First Presbyterian Church, 314 Bullitt Ave., Jeannette.

Mason-Gelder Funeral Home of Jeannette is assisting with arrangements. Memorial donations are suggested to the Jeannette church.

jhimler@tribweb.com

©2017 Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)
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