Obituaries » Peter Lars Kjeseth

Peter Lars Kjeseth

July 24, 1928 - January 16, 2022

Peter Lars Kjeseth died on January 16, 2022, at 93 years of age. Born in Mauston, Wisconsin on July 24, 1928, he graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota in 1950 and went on to Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Following his ordination, he served for two years as an Army chaplain, spending much of his time in Germany. This was the beginning of a lifetime of interest and involvement in domestic and international politics, with a strong emphasis on issues of justice for marginalized persons.

After earning his PhD at the University of Chicago, Peter taught New Testament and the Greek language for 35 years (1965 – 2000) at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Sprinkled among those years were teaching assignments in Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Namibia and Zimbabwe. After retirement in 2000, he taught at the United Lutheran Theological Seminary Paulinum in Windhoek, Namibia, before working for 16 years as a waiter in the family’s guesthouse on the ocean near Cape Town, South Africa. Lynchburg, Virginia was his home since 2016.

Peter is survived by his wife of 61 years, Solveig Mertice Mason, fearless partner in both parenting and in speaking truth to power. They shared a daily commitment to learning and teaching social justice by cultivating knowledge, empathy and courage. They went to great lengths to immerse their family in cultures different from their own, once taking all six children to travel the European continent by car for several months, often camping. The eldest child was 13, the youngest, 11 months.

Peter was deeply involved in the lives of his loved ones. He spent many evenings tutoring his kids in various subjects. He supervised cello, viola and piano practice, accompanying the stringed instruments on piano. For years, Peter devoted a weekend a month to bake forty loaves of a variety of breads, which were enjoyed by family and the many guests who stopped by daily.

Peter was tough, challenging, irreverent, and pivotally influential to hundreds of seminary students. One remarked, “Laughing, singing Peter – never without an anecdote. He was the rare person who cared so much about the suffering in the world and somehow pulled himself out of bed each day to make a dent in it.”

In addition to Solveig, Peter is survived by their six children: Lars (Temok Juarez), Martha Kjeseth-Johnson, Thor (Hisako Araya), Sara (Fred Stone), Eric, and Peder (Karla Elmberg) and seven grandchildren: Hisashi and Kana Araya-Kjeseth, Tor-Ole and Tove Kjeseth, and Siri, Steena and Synnove Johnson.

The family would like to thank Summer Myers, the angels of Edley Place, and members of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, for their care and support. Memorials may be sent to The Center for Global Theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary, or to Democracy Now!, an independent global news program Peter watched (and took notes on) every night: A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg is assisting the family.


A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Condolences & Tributes

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Peter was such an important person to my mother. They were friends and shared political views (and outrage!). Peter was unfailingly kind and attentive to her as she aged and died. My deepest condolences to all of you!

Posted by Monica Leo on March 6, 2022

So sorry to hear about the passing of your father. He had quite a legacy. I hope his memories will give you comfort. Thinking of you.

Posted by Anonymous on February 2, 2022

Peter was such a breath of fresh air during his many visits to Common Grounds Cafe where he and his wonderful Lynchburg family have frequented on Friday mornings for the last several years. Peter never shied away from asking the tough questions; he and Solveig were always unpacking the injustices of our society at the communal table. Peter would bring along his newspaper and point out a topic or an issue and want to wrestle with it, fearless, insightful, often witty, and always on point. You could even see him and Solveig at moments of social crisis and/or critical change in our city, whether at a school board meeting or women's rights rally, or a vigil... they were there together, a quiet, caring, powerful presence-like elders nodding to the younger generations, encouraging us all to stand strong, and stand together. Those of us from Common Grounds and Church of the Covenant so appreciate the legacy that Peter leaves. Our hearts are with Solveig and their wonderful children and grandchildren. May Peter's spirit live on in each of them...

Posted by Dan Harrison on February 2, 2022

Thank you for sharing your father to others, a wonderful Man, Teacher and a dear Dad.

Posted by Joan Smith on February 2, 2022

Such a powerful legacy Peter left that will not be forgotten. My condolences to you Martha and your dear family. Trusting you will find comfort together amidst the grief, as you share the many incredible memories you created together.

Posted by Tracey Langseth on February 2, 2022

What a wonderful man! Our deepest sympathy goes to all of the family, but especially Martha, Siri, Steena and my sweet student, Synnove. You have so many wonderful experiences and memories, and yet, he will be missed. Sending hugs and prayers for comfort as you work through your grief. Carla and Joe, Sam and Catherine

Posted by Carla Fedeler on February 1, 2022

My goodness, what an incredible man. I am so sorry the world has lost Peter, but he leaves behind a powerful legacy. Solveig and Martha (and the rest of the family) my heart is with you.

Posted by Heather Legge on February 1, 2022

I'm very sorry to hear about Peter's death. My condolences to Solveig, her children and grandchildren. Joe

Posted by Joe Woodward on January 29, 2022

Our sympathies to Solveig and family. It was a great privilege to spend Christmas at Sunny Cove and spend time with Peter. Paul and Barb Gibbs Alice Steiner ( Gibbs)

Posted by Paul Gibbs on January 27, 2022

Our sympathies to Solveig and family. It was a great privilege to spend Christmas at Sunny Cove and spend time with Peter. Paul and Barb Gibbs Alice Steiner ( Gibbs)

Posted by Paul Gibbs on January 27, 2022

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