Egil Grislis passed away peacefully early on April 21at his residence, with wife Indra at his side.
Born in Jelgava, Latvia, Egil was predeceased by an infant sister Valda, his father Robert, mother Lucija (nee Stankevitz), devoted childhood caregiver Paula Kalkenieks, and beloved wife Lorraine (nee Sommers).
Egil is survived by his loving wife of 20 years Indra Skuja-Grislis, children Karen Grislis (Gilles Rousseau), Kris Taylor (Ken), Erik Grislis (Jennifer Toews-Grislis), grandchildren Theodore, Caroline, Steve, Amy, Allyson, Laura, Alex and Claire, great-grandchildren, cousin Dzidra Asaris Ikvilds, special niece Linda Studente, and extended family in Latvia, Canada, and the U.S.
Egil spent his childhood summers on the family farm in the parish of Sesava, Zemgale Region, Latvia. The family’s city home (and his father’s book printing factory) was in Jelgava, Latvia. Egil was doted on by his parents and live-in caregiver Paula, who became a surrogate grandmother to his own children.
In 1944 when Soviet Forces invaded Latvia, 16 year old Egil escaped with his parents to Germany, eventually reuniting with Paula in a refugee camp for “displaced persons” in the American Zone of occupation near the village of Kleinkoetz. Here Egil lived for 4 1/2 years, completing high school and learning Latin and Greek. The war-time invasion of his home country, his experiences of loss, and his years of deprivation as a refugee had a lasting impact on Egil.
Following the war, Egil was admitted to the Faculty of Theology, University of Heidelberg. In 1949, Egil received a scholarship from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania to study in the Department of Philosophy. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree, then his Bachelor of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He went on to complete his Ph.D. at the Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1958.
Egil was also very proud of his honourary degrees (D.Min. , Graduate Theological Foundation, Notre Dame, IN, 1988; Dr., University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia, 1998; D.D., St. John’s College, University of Manitoba, 2000; D.D., Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon, SK, 2007).
After his pastoral internship serving Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Hudson, New York, Egil taught Theology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (1959 – 1969), the Hartford Seminary Foundation in Hartford, Connecticut (1969 – 1974), Fordham University in New York City (1974 – 1976) and the University of Manitoba (1976 – 2007). From 1991 – 2001, Egil regularly returned to the University of Latvia at the year-end of classes at the University of Manitoba, volunteering to teach Theology courses otherwise unavailable to the students in his home country. He also served as pastor to Holy Cross Latvian Lutheran Church in Winnipeg from 1976 – 2008.
Upon his retirement, Egil was Professor Emeritus and then Visiting Fellow at St. John’s College, U. of M. (2008 – 2011). Over the years, Egil was the graduate supervisor for 14 Ph.D. students and 22 M.A. students.
Egil was also a prolific author. He published over 70 journal articles (in English and Latvian), 27 books in Latvian, and 5 in English, including the commentary for volume 5 of the Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker, a project to which he dedicated well over 20 years of his life.
Egil will be remembered as a devoted pastor, a lifelong scholar, and a professor dedicated both to his students and his studies.