Lee Edward Bohnhoff
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Lee Edward Bohnhoff, age 85, of Orfordville, passed away at his home, on Sunday, August 7, 2022.
Lee was born on November 22, 1936 at Brodhead, WI, the son of Charles Kenneth 'Ken' Bohnhoff and Ella May Schumacher Bohnhoff. He was baptized and confirmed in Orfordville Lutheran Church. He was married to Eloise Henrietta Hanson on May 20, 1962 in Edina, MN. Eloise passed away on July 30, 1969 in Cameroon, Africa, where she is buried near the hospital in Ngaound?r?. He was remarried on December 8, 1979 to Torbjorg Johanne Heimstad, whom he met in Cameroon. After 32 years of married life, Torbjorg passed away on February 14, 2012 in Orfordville, WI, where she is buried in the Lutheran cemetery.
Lee grew up on the Bohnhoff family farm south of Orfordville, and graduated from Orfordville High School in the class of 1954. He studied at Luther College in Decorah, IA, graduating with a B.A. in 1958; then at Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, MN, where he graduated in 1962 with a 'Bachelor of Divinity', now called a Master of Divinity degree. Later he studied at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, obtaining his M.A. in Linguistics in 1968. During an extended home leave a few years later, he obtained his Ph.D. in Linguistics on December 3, 1976 from the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.
Lee was ordained on May 27, 1962 as a pastor in The American Lutheran Church, with a call to serve The ALC's Division of World Missions, being sent to work in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon (ELCC). He retired in 2001 after 39 years of work, first with The ALC, then with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Division for Global Mission. He went to Paris, France in the fall of 1962 for a year of French study where he obtained his certificate in spoken French, and his diploma of the French language. French was to become his major tool for his writings and for communicating with people and the authorities in Cameroon.
He arrived in Cameroon in September, 1963 with his wife Eloise and newborn son Jonathan. The ELCC asked him to work in the Dii language (pronounced 'Dee' in English), where over the years he trained 11 persons for work in the Dii Literature Center. These persons learned to read and write Dii, type, edit, create or translate, and mimeograph books and booklets for the church's use among the Dii. Later he had to teach the center employees how to manipulate a computer, diskettes and printer. During his time at the Dii center, he was constantly training staff and insisting on teamwork; usually several team members contributed before any item was published. While Lee was in Cameroon, the Dii team produced over 80 Dii books and booklets, or writings concerning the Dii language, some going through several editions over the years: primers and readers to teach reading and writing in Dii; hymnals; a catechism; a liturgy book; Bible stories booklets; evangelism tracts for ELCC work; development booklets on pregnancy, how to care for children, the danger of pesticides, how to improve cooking; and general literature and technical items like calendars, a Dii-French dictionary, a Dii Phonology and Grammar, booklets of folktales, and a Dii language course for expatriates (including audio tapes). His last year in Cameroon saw the latest edition of the hymnal published, as well as 91 selected Old Testament Psalms, and the whole New Testament in the Dii language was dedicated and put on sale. At the time Lee left Cameroon, more than four thousand Dii knew how to read in their own language.
Although Lee was an ordained pastor, he seldom had a parish in Cameroon, but used his knowledge of theology and linguistics to work with the Dii language and produce good literature so church workers could do their work better. The Dii seldom called him 'Pastor Lee', but usually: Baa yag dii 'the Dii language man'. A major concern of his was to train literature center personnel to be able to write and/or translate and publish literature that the church needs in its life; Lee spent all his life training staff and supervising their work. Late in 1987, he gave up the title 'technical counselor' and a Cameroonian pastor, Mathieu Kadia, was elected director of the literature team. Lee then worked under him until 1999, at which time he helped train a new director for the literature team, Pastor Iya Francois. Training, training, it was always training and teaching.
In addition to working with the Dii people, Lee was often handed other responsibilities in Cameroon. He was national Literature Coordinator over all seventeen ELCC literature projects for five years, representative or vice-representative for the ELCA missionary group for eighteen years, treasurer for the ELCA missionary group for over three years, national ELCC treasurer for three years, and a member of the Cameroon Bible Society Administrative Board for twelve years.
In 2001 he retired and took up residence with Torbjorg in Orfordville, WI, where they were active members of Orfordville Lutheran Church. In retirement he enjoyed reading, entertaining friends and neighbors for meals and movies, meeting with pastoral colleagues in the local pastoral group, and loved video chatting with friends back in Cameroon. He also continued writing about the Dii language, editing the most recent version of the Dii dictionary in collaboration with Mathieu Kadia and Marthe Asmaou: Dii (Duru)--French Dictionary with French and English Indexes, which was published in 2019 by Rudiger Koppe Verlag in Cologne, Germany. The latest version of A Description of Dii Phonology, Grammar, and Discourse was published on the internet in 2019.
He is survived by his sons Jonathan of Albany, WI; and Roger (Judy) of Highlands Ranch, CO; his brother Hal vonBohnhoff of Tucson, AZ; and sister Helen (Jerry) Pearson, of Rockford, IL. He was preceded in death by his parents, his wives Eloise and Torbjorg, and his sister Elizabeth Blush.
A Celebration of Life will be held Thursday, August 11, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. at Orfordville Lutheran Church, Orfordville. Visitation will take place on Thursday, from 11:00 a.m. until the time of service at the church. Burial will be in Orfordville Lutheran Cemetery.
Newcomer Silverthorn Chapel on the Hill, Orfordville is assisting the family. Newcomerfh.com