Lithuanian Lutheran Church Marks the Passing of Benefactor Kurtas Vėlius

Mr. Kurtas Vėlius


God in his mercy and grace called from this life on March 4, 2015 Kurtas Vėlius, one of the founders of the “Tėviškės” (“Fatherland”) Lutheran parish of Chicago, honorary member of the consistory of the Lutheran Church in Lithuania, and great benefactor of the church.

Kurtas Vėlius was born on Mach 8, 1920 in Stankiškiai, Šilutė district, Lithuania. While still in school, he became a member of Santara, the patriotic Lithuanian organization of the Klaipėda Region, and always sought to instill a patriotic spirit in his fellow Lithuanians. When the Klaipėda Region was annexed to Germany in 1939, he ran afoul of SiPo-SD, the Nazi Security Police and was detained for three days in the Kintai jail for interrogation. When he was released, he left the region and moved to Kaunas in Major Lithuania. However, after the country was overrun by the Bolsheviks in June 1940, he came under suspicion of anti-soviet views and activities by the NKVD – the Soviet police. When he was summoned by the NKVD a third time to come for interrogation, he decided to return to Stankiškiai, where he once again same under the suspicion of the Nazis. At the end of the war he left Lithuania for Germany and the United States, where he settled in Chicago.


In addition to his work as a founding member of “Tėviškės” (“Fatherland”) Church, he served as a chairman of the Minor Lithuanian Fund. After independence he became a generous supporter of the Lithuanian Lutheran Church , and supported book publishing, and charitable activities. He was a major and very generous contributor to the building of the Lutheran church and deaconal center in Palanga.


He published his autobiography “Dvyliktoji diena” (“Twelfth Day”) in 2002, giving details of his early life in Lithuania and in the United States. “All my forty years of work would have been fruitless and not worth a dime, were it not for the privilege of serving my homeland and my church. In this world spiritual values must show themselves also in material gifts. I thank God that my prayer that Lithuania would gain its impendence was answered. Then the time came for me to show my thanksgiving, together with contributions for the future of my country. I picture it this way: Lithuania, my homeland, is like a honeycomb and we are like worker bees who deposit the honey for the good of the hive. Only when this is done, will the country achieve its complete independence.”


Funeral services for Kurtas Vėlius were held on Friday, March 13, led by Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis, parish priest Liudas Miliauskas, and other clergy. Memorials were read in Lithuanian parishes, in both Lithuania and Chicago on Sunday, March 15. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:13).


The Rev. Dr. Darius Petkūnas