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Interview with Lawrence Shoberg and Karen Shoberg, July 23, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Lawrence Shoberg and Karen Shoberg, July 23, 2007
July 23, 2007
Interview with Larry and Karen Shoberg.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Shoberg, Lawrence / Shoberg, Karen Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  7/23/2007 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes

Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. We're at Williamsburg, Virginia this morning, and continuing our interviews of military chaplains and the oral history connected with and to Military Chaplains. Today is the 23rd of July in the year 2007, and to our right is Larry Sohlberg, and to the left of the camera his wife, Karen Sohlberg. Good morning, sir, how are you?

Lawrence Shoberg: Good morning, Paul. I'm very well, and I'm going to correct my name as Shoberg, instead of Sohlberg. I did have a psychology professor at Pacific Lutheran University named Sohlberg, but no relation at all.

Zarbock: Well, the name Zarbock and Starbuck sometimes-- and Karen. How are you, this morning?

Karen Shoberg: I'm doing quite well. The weather is beautiful here in Williamsburg for a July day, so I can't complain at all.

Zarbock: Larry, what individual, series of individuals, or event or series of events led you into the ministry?

Lawrence Shoberg: I've been giving that some thought since I talked with you initially, on the telephone, Paul, and the little thread of thinking that I followed takes me all the way back to the time that I was in elementary school in Long Beach, California. That would have been during the Second World War, and we belonged to a small church that was very close to the Boeing facility that were manufacturing airplanes. And I remember particularly, the pastor who was a German Lutheran named George Meudeking, eventually he became a professor at, which later formed, the Pacific Lutheran Seminary in Berkeley.

Zarbock: By the way, do you remember how to spell his name?

Lawrence Shoberg: M-E-U-D-E-K-I-N-G, Meudeking.

Zarbock: Thank you.

Lawrence Shoberg: And he became the editor of the then Lutheran Standard which was the house organ of the American Lutheran Church, back in those days. But very influential. I think it was his first call to that small church. He had time for elementary school kids, and it was wonderful. Many memories of him taking my sister and I someplace, and me someplace. But I remember that whole trip he taught us to sing "My name is Jon Jonsson, I come from Wisconsin." It's not Paul Zarbock from Wisconsin. "I work in a lumber mill there Ja, Ja." And he, I think created, he gave humanity to the pastor's role. Really concerned about kids, and that was the first impression I had of what a pastor was and who a pastor was. And it grew from there, a series of events in my life. But my focus, I guess I could say, was in the church, and the church was important. My father worked for Shell Oil Company as a pipeline, midlevel manager working in the pipeline division. My mother had a number of small jobs, but nothing really extensive. Those weren't the days when people worked outside the home, but she did some things from time to time. We moved a lot, moved from Long Beach at the end of the war to Gardena. Interesting sidelight; we continued to go back to Long Beach to church, but we were in Gardena because the Office of Price Administration removed all of its restrictions, therefore the landlady who had been unable to raise our rent and been able to reclaim her property, raised our rent and reclaimed her property, and thanks to my father working for Shell Oil Company, we moved into a shack, and literally it was a shack on an oil lease at the corner of Rosecrans and Figaro in Gardena. About 250 feet from my bedroom window was a working oil well, and there were several oil wells along the way there. But went through the sixth grade there and moved up to Arcadia and did the rest of my boyhood in Arcadia.

In Arcadia, I joined Lutheran Church, and I guess some Lutherans have those problems as well. After I was confirmed, there was some unpleasantness in the church, that there were people who felt we should grow and build and those who felt that we shouldn't. There was some name-calling. One of the interesting issues in Arcadia, just as kind of an aside, is that every year, in my memory, anyway, every year the Santa Anita Racetrack, which was probably three-quarters of a mile, or half a mile from the church, would offer the churches in the area a sum of money because of the inconvenience of the crowds, the traffic that would come in. And the issue in our little Lutheran Church every year was whether to accept the devil's money or not, and that was a very divisive issue. The issue being: Should we accept this money that comes from the sin of gambling and the other side of the issue, or those who said, "No, we shouldn't, because it's tainted money." The other side of the issue was, "If the devil wants to pay the church to do God's work, why not take his money?"

But anyway, the church split after I was confirmed and in high school. We joined another congregation and the pastors of those congregations, Norbert Voer, V-O-E-R who was at the Arcadia church, and the San Gabriel Church was Walter Mees, M-E-E-S. And those two gentlemen were very influential, again, because of their interest in me. But when the family moved and we had the problem in the church, I joined an organization that's very local out there called The Boy's Christian League. It was a fairly conservative, fundamental kind of organization for a Lutheran kid who grew up in a home where you could take a beer, that's fine. Not me as a kid, but family. My dad smoked. According to this thing that had the fundamental roots in which I was told you know that your father's place in heaven is not very secure if he smokes and if he drinks. I was introduced to a whole new fundamental approach to understanding, interpreting the Scripture and the Christian life.

Zarbock: Was this organization linked even marginally and peripherally to the Lutheran Church, or was this a freestanding organization?

Lawrence Shoberg: No, freestanding organization. The founder was one who was interested in boys, young men, and it turned out to be young women as well. And the avenue that they took was interesting kids in sports. That was before there was like very much Little League or leagues of athletic things, and they met in South Pasadena and had various groups of kids in Sierra Madre, and Arcadia, and Monrovia, El Monte, Pasadena, South Pasadena. We'd come together as our little units and those units were the teams whether it was football or baseball or whatever. Had a summer camp that we went to, but every week was a Bible Study, and we got this fundamental approach to it. In fact, for a while I even attended a worship service they had on Sundays, which, when I became a chaplain, really held me in good stead, because I learned a whole bunch of Bible songs and Scripture songs that weren't chorales in their derivation, and so I was exposed to both sides. But also during that time, had to make decisions that everything everybody said about the Scripture wasn't the way I read the Scripture the way I was brought up to understand the Scripture. But I appreciate the people, even though I didn't agree with their interpretation, their exposition of the Scriptures, so that was kind of formative as far as who I was and leading me in the direction at that point in high school.

I had no real thought of becoming a minister. No real thought of becoming anything very much, except I was encouraged by my folks to think about college. They'd never been. Again, no one in our family had ever been to college. So when I decided to go up to Pacific Lutheran College, now Pacific Lutheran University, I was kind of blazing a new trail. I went up there in 1953.

And to put that in history, and you mentioned your history, that was shortly after Korea, and I'm going to backtrack way back into my father's life so that you'll kind of understand a little bit of where I'm coming from, in terms of military chaplaincy, in that my father born in Sweden, came to this country at 18 months of age. Had a number of brothers and sisters. They were poor Swedes, and in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota, they were employed as farmhands. Really, they were tenant farmers for a rich Norwegian. That was kind of a strange combination but the Swedes and the Norwegians were living together back then. As it worked out, my grandfather died before I ever knew him. In fact, he died when my father was still young, so that when he was in high school, his mother was raising the kids all by themselves, and that came around in 1916, 1917. The other boys left home. Dad was left alone with mom on the farm, small area around Sisseton, South Dakota, are now a Township in Minnesota. And I think they were in Sisseton at the time but--

Zarbock: How do you spell that?

Lawrence Shoberg: S-I-S-S-E-T-O-N, Sisseton. The draft board, as I understand the story at that time, was made up of local people, and they didn't just drop names out of the hat. They knew that Christina Shoberg had only her young son Sade, who was kind of taking care of things. So his name didn't come out of a hat, at least initially. And finally they couldn't put it off any longer. They were going to have to draft Dad, and as he told the story, he was ready to go. He was kind of eager and all set, but in 1918 the flu epidemic which really infected-- well, around the world, I understand, but in the boot camps they were not bringing people together in the boot camp, and so he was ready to catch the train to go to boot camp, and then he gets this letter that says no, we're not taking anybody into boot camp. He stayed behind and the war ended, and as close as he came to being in the military, was that encounter that was turned off because of the flu epidemic. But he had a very positive feel about the military. He felt that he had done his part. Great sense of responsibility, obligation and so forth. He imparted to me, I think--

Zarbock: And there was another aspect. Those immigrants, my father included, who came to this country, came here because they wanted to be here and frequently didn't leave a European country. They fled a European country. So they became very, very, very patriotic Americans.

Lawrence Shoberg: Absolutely. Yeah, and they fled, ours fled, not any kind of religious problems. They fled poverty.

Zarbock: Yes. They have rigidly closed social structure.

Lawrence Shoberg: Absolutely.

Zarbock: Where you were born, that's where you were going to die.

Lawrence Shoberg: So anyway, he brought that feel into the family regarding the military, which takes me back to 1953 as a 17 or 18 year old, 17 when I gradated from high school. Uh. Registered with the draft board, and immediately, because I was going to college, got a deferment, a college deferment. And went through college, and there was a growing awareness in college that I felt a call to the ministry, and I'm not sure what developed. This is kind of a blooming thing as I came along, but I was involved in the student congregation there and things were going on in college. So much a call to ministry that in my, I'll have to check, sophomore or junior year, I took Greek, anticipating going to seminary, but not to be a pastor. I couldn't see myself preparing 52 sermons a year, plus everything in between. I didn't feel I had the facility within myself to do that, but I felt I could tell Bible stories. Maybe it was the influence of the Boy's Christian League where they told Bible stories and you gathered people around, in informal situations, and you changed people's lives, and I had a sense of adventure, wanting to do something. And foreign mission sounded very interesting. Initially, in fact, before that I thought maybe medical missionary would be the way to go, so I thought briefly about becoming a doctor, and becoming a medical missionary until I tangled with chemistry and chemistry-I, I lost, and thought I'd better look for a different avenue to go.

But anyway, that history. And then I decided to go to seminary. I went to Columbus, Ohio, to what is now Trinity Seminary. It was Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbus at the time. I opted to go there, because, as a young Californian, I didn't want to go to our other Seminary, which was in Dubuque, Iowa; it seemed to me in the middle of a cornfield, so I would go to a state capital anyway, and be there.

Zarbock: But this urge, this attitude towards becoming a pastor, this was not a road to Damascus type thunderbolt that knocked you out of automobile and said, "I'm going..." What was the nature? Was it a slow-evolving-

Lawrence Shoberg: As I have looked back on it and tried to understand it, I was praying about it, and so I was looking for God's will, and was trying to stay open. Talked with my folks and with others, with my pastor about it, but I saw it as doors closed, that shifted me in a different direction. The chemistry thing; if you can't do chemistry and those sciences, you're not going to be a doctor, so that made me look other directions, so it was just doors closing, until I think it's like Jesus is the good shepherd that herds the cattle, and He's putting them in the pen. He was kind of narrowing the options for me until it was obvious that was-

Zarbock: Did anyone discourage you from entering the ministry?

Lawrence Shoberg: Never, never. Nobody ever said, "You won't be happy doing that. That's not a good way to go," or "You shouldn't do that. You'll make me unhappy." My folks, I think, were quite proud that I opted to do that, and I was fortunate in that it gave me my head, if I can change the metaphor from sheep to a horse, to go where I might go and do what I might do. And certainly they were proud. They would put me on either side of the family been to college and I was going to college. We'll pick me up in the seminary, I guess, is where we are. Very fortunate, there. It was a small seminary at the time. And I was a long way from home, in the dormitory, with a roommate who, well, Ron had been a friend of ours. He lives in Saint Joe, Michigan now. So, first year, we were together and we had a small group of friends, which was wonderful, but the thing that changed my life-- another thing that changed my life, another door that opened and one closed was, within our schools, we do an internship.

The normal procedure is that an internship comes between the second year, middler year, and the senior year. And that's what I had anticipated doing until the Dean of the seminary became President. They just changed their titles. It was the same guy. His name was Edward C. Fendt, F-E-N-D-T, called me into his office and he said "Larry, I'd like you to consider going on internship after your first year. We don't have enough middlers to go out, and we have an obligation to congregations, and a person that I wanted to go to this congregation isn't able to do that, and I want you to consider going after your first year." Well, that was kind of a vote of confidence, obviously, after one year to think I was mature enough to go out. I certainly didn't think I was, but even more interesting and frightening was the fact, and I'll let Karen tell you what congregation it was.

Karen Shoberg: Saint.

Lawrence Shoberg: Get her on the tape.

Karen Shoberg: Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Michigan City, Indiana, and Dr. Fendt was a member of that congregation, so he wanted Larry to go to his home congregation in Indiana.

Lawrence Shoberg: Even more significantly...

Karen Shoberg: It was my church. So, aren't you going to finish your part?

Lawrence Shoberg: Well, you can talk about it. But what happened was as a young Seminarian and Seminarians like any other healthy young people, we have raging hormones, as well, and I would sit in front while the senior pastor would preach, and they had the choir in the balcony, and so I could survey those who were in the balcony and sitting in the front row in the balcony as a soprano in the choir was Karen, and one thing let to another, and before we returned to Seminary after that year-internship, we were married, and she came back to Seminary with me. So I brought not only a years' worth of experience; I brought-- it's been almost 48 years now worth of life together-- back from internship. That was formative, and that determined a lot of things, as well. But went back to Seminarian and finished there, and military chaplaincy had always been a deep interest to me, because of my father, and because of the deferments that I experienced. Friends of mine had gone into the military and now Vietnam had come along gone into the various places in Vietnam. I still hadn't been in the military, but when I was ordained, my first church then was in Michigan, in Dearborn. Because we had had chaplain recruiters come to the Seminary, I was on a mailing list for material from the military chaplaincies. Some of it, I saw. I guess I saw all of it, didn't I?

Karen Shoberg: Eventually, because when it came in the mail, it went to the bottom of his reading stack. That didn't sound like a good kind of life for me. I didn't think I would like that, so when those chaplaincy, anything with "chaplaincy" I put it at the bottom of the reading stack. How wrong I was.

Lawrence Shoberg: And in our conversations together, it was quite obvious, well, it wasn't just that. I asked "Could I apply for the chaplaincy?" After the first three years, there's no issue very much because within the Lutheran Church we have to have three years of pastoral experience before we can be endorsed to go into the military chaplaincy. So I was getting my experience of going into the chaplaincy, and we were just in the ministry, I guess, as far as you were concerned.

Karen Shoberg: That's it.

Lawrence Shoberg: Not in preparation for the chaplaincy, but I was there as Associate Pastor for three and a half years, getting good experience. In fact, have to mention the name of Winfred Sund, S-U-N-D, who was my senior pastor, taught me as much as anyone about what it means to be a good pastor, a good administrator, a good scholar, and a human being. And I think his wife, Edna, taught both of us about hospitality.

Karen Shoberg: Yes.

Lawrence Shoberg: And how to welcome people into your home, so that was again, just a wonderful experience. He had been around for a long time. Let me back up. From Seminary, I'd wanted to go to the West Coast because I'd grown up on the West Coast. But in that draft, although I was assigned to the state of Washington, there were no parishes available. And again, we're talking doors opening and doors closing, and Doctor Fendt called me into the office and said, "President of the Washington of North, or district Northwest," used to be a district, I think it was. Said, "That there's no appropriate calls for you out there, right now." And I said, "Well, wait." I had a job. I worked for radio station WCOL in Columbus and I figured that I could hold on. We had a baby by that time, Cynthia. I could hold on until we got a call, because I was working, and you were working for the school at the time. We can hang in. So he said, "Okay." A little more time went by and my classmates were getting letters to be interviewed by congregations. They were getting called.

Zarbock: Now, have you graduated from Seminary?

Lawrence Shoberg: No, I was still a senior.

Zarbock: But you were working part time at a radio station.

Lawrence Shoberg: I did that because she became pregnant.

Karen Shoberg: I became pregnant.

Lawrence Shoberg: Well, Karen went back-- that's another story.

Karen Shoberg: I'll tell that story.

Lawrence Shoberg: Okay, you tell that story right now.

Karen Shoberg: About getting the job?

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah.

Karen Shoberg: Well, we want to go back to before we got married, we went down to Columbus to, one, look for housing. Two, to just kind of scan the area for a job for me, and I had never been to Capital University or seen the Seminary, so we went down for a weekend, and I, very firmly, said all the way down as we drove, "I will not work for Dr. Fendt." So we had an appointment to see him on Saturday morning, and of course we got to talking. "Well, where are you going to live?" "Well, that's what we're doing. We're looking for an apartment." "Oh, just a minute; when are you getting married? When is that date?" "The 29th of August." "Let me look here. Oh, there's a Seminary apartment that will be available." Well, seminary apartments were right across the street from the seminary. How perfect could you get? So we said thank you, we would take that seminary apartment, and then he said "And Karen, what do you plan to do?" And I said, "I've got to find a job." And he said, "Oh! I need a secretary!" And I said, "Dr. Fendt, I don't take shorthand." "I don't need anybody that takes shorthand," he said. "I don't have time during the day to dictate. I use a belt machine, and I'll do that at night, and you can transcribe it the next morning," and I just wanted to faint right there, because the young man that had been working for him part-time was graduating seminary, and then he had another lady, a professor's wife who worked part-time, but he wanted a full time. So I suddenly had a job. I was working for Dr. Fendt, who I had vowed all the way from Michigan City, Indiana to Columbus, Ohio that I would not work for, because in addition to Dr. Fendt, on the staff of the seminary was Professor Paul Moiser.

Lawrence Shoberg: Became President.

Karen Shoberg: He eventually became President of the seminary, but he had been an intern at my own congregation so I knew him, he knew me as a youngster. Also, Professor Stanley Schneider had been my pastor who had confirmed me, and now he was what, Homiletics professor at the seminary. This was like all these people who had known me as a child growing up.

Zarbock: Is it Snyder, S-N-Y-D-E-R?

Karen Shoberg: S-C-

Lawrence Shoberg: S-C-H-N-E-I-D-E-R.

Karen Shoberg: All of these people who had seen me grow up were all there. It was like, "Oh, my gosh," but I got the job, and managed to get Larry graduated.

Lawrence Shoberg: Anyway, the thing that changed our life again, was that she became pregnant with our first child, and had to tell Dr. Fendt that she wouldn't be available as much so she cut back, got another job with the seminary but--

Karen Shoberg: Yeah, part time.

Lawrence Shoberg: Because now I was going to be a father, not just a husband. In my, I guess it was half-way through my middler year, I got a job with WCOL. That was a radio station, in the news department, and I was writing news. I wasn't doing any air work or anything of that sort, but that gave me an opportunity again to do some things that were very interesting. I was given the police beat. I had a desk at the police department next to the reporter from the local newspaper, and had to write the murders and the plane crashes, and the crime that was going on in Columbus, and had to write for the five-minute news program that came around every hour, and they always wanted some new leaders on something that was going on, also an opportunity to cover the State Department. Do things like that that the capitol, I should say, the state capitol there in Columbus, so those were all good experiences for me and for us. But what I wanted to say, and I'll say it here, part of the reason I believe, and I'm going to speak for Karen.

Karen Shoberg: Okay, you go right ahead.

Lawrence Shoberg: That she wasn't interested in the chaplaincy, is that she grew up in a very closed community. Nobody until Karen came along had really left the community of her family. They were all pretty close around there, and very tight family. Karen depended a lot on family and trusted family and didn't have-- she didn't feel comfortable that she could work independently of family. So this was a gradual breaking away and she didn't have a lot of self-confidence. And all of these experiences, she gained self-confidence there at Seminary then as a pastor's wife with Edna kind of helping along.

Karen Shoberg: Oh yeah. She was--

Lawrence Shoberg: After three years, and I'm going to zip along with the story here lest we get water-logged and never get into the chaplaincy.

Karen Shoberg: Yes.

Lawrence Shoberg: After three years there I was--

Karen Shoberg: In Dearborn.

Lawrence Shoberg: In Dearborn, yeah, good. After three years in Dearborn the Division of American Missions of the ALC approached me about starting a new congregation and new work in Roswell, New Mexico. That was a soul-searching sort of thing. We met and talked about it. A number of stories there that we won't go into now, but the senior pastor told me he was ready to retire, I should stick around there and had a future in Michigan and maybe not New Mexico. But that became the first of several decisions that we made that our lives changed, and with every change it seemed initially we became poorer.

Karen Shoberg: Yes. Yes.

Lawrence Shoberg: And as an Associate Pastor in a well-to-do congregation, we were being well taken care of, going to New Mexico into a, well, nobody there, and American Missions isn't going to give you a whole lot of money. They're going to get you out there. So it was--

Karen Shoberg: The cost of living was higher.

Lawrence Shoberg: So it was a step down. But she said, "Okay," and we went, and we got halfway there and our son-- and we got as far as Saint Louis and he developed, by that time we had our son, David, and she was pregnant with our third child in 1964?

Karen Shoberg: She was born in March of 65.

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah, at the end of 64. We got as far as Saint Louis. David had pneumonia and put him in a hospital. And we're traveling. Out stuff is being sent down there and here we are with a kid in the hospital. We're just learning to make do with what we got. We come into town.

Karen Shoberg: It wasn't Saint Louis. It was Springfield, Illinois.

Lawrence Shoberg: Springfield, you're right.

Karen Shoberg: Springfield, Illinois.

Zarbock: It wasn't winter time? Or some other-

Karen Shoberg: It was Thanksgiving weekend. We had been at my folks in Michigan City and left there and got as far as Springfield, when David, just this fever, I mean this child was just burning up, and had we lived in Springfield they would have sent him home with antibiotics, but because we were going to be in a motel, the doctor said the constant change every time you open that door the room cooled down, and that was not good. He had bilateral viral pneumonia, so we had to leave him. He was so sick, he didn't even care the first night.

Zarbock: What hospital was he in?

Karen Shoberg: I haven't a clue. Forty-some years ago, I don't remember.

Zarbock: Do you remember if it was a very large hospital?

Karen Shoberg: Oh, it was a very large hospital.

Zarbock: My aunt was Director of Nursing Services at that hospital, at the time.

Lawrence Shoberg: Really, in Springfield?

Karen Shoberg: In Springfield. Well, they took very good care of him. The first night, he just laid there; he didn't care whether we left.

Zarbock: How old was he?

Karen Shoberg: Two. Two years old.

Lawrence Shoberg: Just barely 2.

Karen Shoberg: Yeah, he had been 2 in September. The second night, they had to tie him down with a net.

Lawrence Shoberg: They didn't tie him down.

Karen Shoberg: Well, they put a net over the bed because he wanted to crawl out because now he's getting better. And I had gone back to the hospital that night to see him alone, because Cindy and Larry both had colds, so that wasn't a good idea. And I just went back to the car and sat in the car and cried. I was six months pregnant with the third one, and I just thought the world was coming to an end.

Zarbock: Could-could-would you be comfortable saying this was a moment of extreme stress?

Lawrence Shoberg: Extreme stress. I'm not sure I knew about extreme stress at the time, but that was extreme stress.

Zarbock: I may have won a prize in master of understatement.

Karen Shoberg: Yeah, I think so. But, go ahead.

Lawrence Shoberg: Maybe you were going to tell this story. The parents of, a young couple that had become members of our congregation in Dearborn lived there, and we met them when they visited and we called and they graciously opened their home to us, so that we weren't there without friends. In the middle of nowhere, a place we'd never been, yet a phone call and we found a home that took us in.

Karen Shoberg: They took us in.

Lawrence Shoberg: Hospitality, just marvelous. But it got more interesting on the way there. We got in the middle of an ice storm in Oklahoma, and weren't sure we were going to get there and we got there, and nobody to meet us and just-- they bought a home for us, so we had a house to move into.

Karen Shoberg: And we got the realtor to open the house up to have the furniture delivered, because there was nobody down there at all for us to call, and the truck was on the way, so when we spent five days in Springfield with David in the hospital, why, the truck kept on going, and so we could have called the realtor and said, "Can you get in touch with the moving company? Because they're-- our stuff is about to arrive." [Audio skips.] -- arrive when we got there to see what was in what room. But it was all in the house.

Lawrence Shoberg: But you know, I started the ministry there and again, I think it's very, very important. Roswell is important now because of aliens, and we were aliens I guess coming in there. And we were aliens in more ways than one. That was a town of about 40,000. There was already a Lutheran Church in Missouri in the middle of town. There was already a Lutheran Church in America Congregation on the north side of town, and they wanted to start this mission on the south side of town, which was close to a SAC command base that no longer exists, Walker Air Force Base, because they wanted to develop a ministry that would serve the military. Kind of interesting, with my interest in that. That wasn't known by anybody, but certainly it was of interest to me as we were going down there. And well, I'll make this part of the story short, to say simply I may hold the record for a pastor who opened a new work and closed a new work in just barely three and a half years. I started a congregation that grew to around 158 people, and then closed it down and left town, and went into the Navy Chaplaincy. But that was because Robert McNamara was the--

Karen Shoberg: Secretary of Defense.

Lawrence Shoberg: Secretary of Defense at the time, and they were doing a lot of base closing. SAC Walker Air Force Base closed, and the whole population base which our mission was based, was going to be leaving town. So the decision that as a congregation and the congregation council had to arrive at, was whether, with two other Lutheran Churches in town that were struggling, because New Mexico knew what Roman Catholics were, they knew what Baptists were, they knew what Church of Christ was, but when you said you were Lutheran, they didn't have a clue what that was. With two other struggling Lutheran churches, would it be doing the Lord's work to continue with this newest church in town, or to disperse our people into the other congregations? And eventually, that was the decision. Our little congregation in Roswell is now a Baptist church. They have the church building that we built with our hands. It's now a Baptist congregation. But anyway, during that time, contact with military chaplaincy, and Karen's contact with people in the military. Families, we had a widow of a B52 pilot on one side, and a fellow that was in the Air Force on the other side where we lived, and his wife's-- I can't remember where he was; I think maybe the uncle or might have been the cousin, was a military chaplain himself. So we had lots of contact, and Karen had lots of contact with military folks and saw that they--

Karen Shoberg: The congregation.

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah, the whole congregation was military, practically. So, when the time came that the decision had been made to close the congregation, it was time for us to have a conversation about what we do next. And I said "military chaplaincy?" And you said?

Karen Shoberg: "Okay." [Laughter.]

Zarbock: How old were you at that time?

Lawrence Shoberg: At that time I would have been, well, that was 1968, so I would have been 32, 33.

Zarbock: Father of three.

Lawrence Shoberg: Father of three kids.

Zarbock: The husband of one.

Lawrence Shoberg: The husband of one. Poor as church mice. Karen still tells stories about, we didn't like credit cards, but even to buy underwear for our kids-

Karen Shoberg: We had to charge it at Sears.

Lawrence Shoberg: We had to charge it.

Karen Shoberg: You paid the $10 a month plus-- yeah, but it wasn't 18 percent.

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah, during those years we lived on casseroles. Macaroni and spaghetti and one thing and another, but we learned early that a jug of cheap wine with any casserole makes a wonderful meal, so we had wine with our supper. But anyway, as soon as she gave me the go ahead, I picked up the telephone and called the Air Force recruiting office, the Association of the Air Force. I had no feel one way or another what service I would go into. I called the Air Force recruiter in 1968, end of 67, early 68. We knew that Vietnam was really getting hot in those years. So I called the Air Force, and the Air Force recruiter simply said, "We have so many people who want to be chaplains in the Air Force. No, we can't take you on active duty. Would you like to be in the Reserves?" I wanted to be on active duty. I had to leave that church there. I don't want to go into the Reserves. So I'm sitting at the church, was like, "Well, let's try the Navy. See what happens." So I called the Navy--

Karen Shoberg: You got on your bicycle and rode down to his office.

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah, I did. We had a little local Navy recruiter in town, and I made a lot of my home calls and visits on bicycle, so I rode my bicycle down to this recruiter. It was a Chief Petty Officer who didn't have an idea or a clue about officer recruiting, so he gave me the telephone number of the officer recruiting section in Albuquerque. Came back, I telephoned him. The guy says "Hang up; I'm going to call you back so it doesn't cost you anything." So that was the first interest. This guy, it turns out, didn't have a clue about recruiting chaplains, but he knew he had a quota to recruit officers, and I was an officer and he was going to recruit me or else, and started the process. In fact, set a date for me to come up, fill out paperwork, take my physical.

We went up to Albuquerque. Took the physical with that whole thing that's going on, and as I recall, he's looking at this and, it says on the form that if you're going to be a chaplain you're going to need an endorsement, and I said, "What's an endorsement?" and he said, "I don't know, but it says your church has to endorse you." That's how innocent we were. We didn't have a clue what was going on. So, came back to the office and one of the other things that needed to do was talk with the Navy. The chaplain recruiter for the Navy, and called the Chief Chaplain's office and he gave me the recruiter who it turned out to be a guy named Jim Seim, S-E-I-M, and Jim was a Navy Captain at the time. Jim Seim also was--

Karen Shoberg: An intern at my home congregation. I had him for first year confirmation which he made me promise later on never to tell anyone, because that would say how old he was.

Lawrence Shoberg: If you could see the pattern, why I say doors closing and doors opening. It just seemed like God was directing me to the Navy Chaplaincy. The preparation, the experiences we'd both had and so forth. And Jim said, "Well, we don't have a lot of openings. In fact, there is a line of people who want to get in from the Lutheran church, but you say the guy, you've already taken the oath and you're ready to go. If you can get the church to endorse you, we'll take you in." In April of 1968, and the church was going to close in April of 1968. And I said, "Let me call." And so we called. I can't remember the name of the guy who was the endorser at the time. Been a Navy chaplain for a long time. But anyway, I called him up and said I want to be a Navy Chaplain, and he says words to the effect, "You know, Larry, there are a lot of Lutheran pastors who want to be Navy Chaplains. You've got to get in line." I said, "Just a minute. I've already been sworn into the Navy and I already have a promise of a place in the April class. And he said, "But you have to get my endorsement," and I said, "That's why I'm calling you." He said, "What about the other guys?" I said, "I don't know about the other guys." He said, "I don't even know you." I said, "Well, should we meet?" He said, "Yeah, where do you live?" And I said, "Well, we live in Roswell," and they were back in Minnesota, in Minneapolis at the time. And he was going around the country and said, "I've got to go to the West Coast, and next week I've got to go out there, but what I can do is fly into Dallas, you fly over to Dallas. We'll meet over at the airport and I'll do my interview there." So I flew from Roswell. He flew in from Minneapolis. We met at the airport, he said, "Yeah, your credentials look okay. I'll endorse you." And I was endorsed.

Zarbock: How long was the interview?

Lawrence Shoberg: Couldn't have been more than an hour or an hour and-a-half.

Zarbock: At that point your life changed 180 degrees.

Lawrence Shoberg: Well, it was changing, yeah. But ratcheting that direction, but it did. Yeah. That was how we got into it. So that's the background.

Zarbock: Karen, how about you?

Karen Shoberg: I'm that little gal who grew up in a Lutheran Church in Michigan City, Indiana.

Zarbock: And what was your maiden name?

Karen Shoberg: Rieck, R-I-E-C-K, of German background. Parents were active in the congregation. I can't remember a time when I wasn't in Sunday school, church, choirs, sang in both the youth choir and the senior choir at the same time. Then this intern came to town. I thought he was a confirmed old bachelor, and I was trying to work to set him up with one of the school teachers in the parochial school. And it backfired, or it turned around in my favor, it really did, because one thing led to another and there was a little chitter-chatter around the church about the amount of time that the intern was spending at the Rieck's household. And so on August the 29th of 1959, we were married. Now, I can't--

Lawrence Shoberg: May I inject this story?

Karen Shoberg: Yes, you have permission to tell the story.

Lawrence Shoberg: Because you asked for funny things. Well, this is funny. We laugh at it. Maybe everybody doesn't laugh, but at the time I came to Michigan City, Karen was engaged to be married to a young man whose name was Larry, who at that time was a sailor in the Navy away from town. She had to break that engagement in order for me to pursue what I wanted to pursue.

Karen Shoberg: I went and talked with the chaplain. He doesn't remember that, but I was very confused, because I was thinking that I wanted to break off this engagement. I had known this--

Lawrence Shoberg: Before you met me.

Karen Shoberg: Yeah, before I ever met Larry. So he came out to the house, he would come to choir and sing with the choir, rehearse, and then my mother would invite him out for coffee and cookies or cake or whatever. And oftentimes I would end up driving him back downtown to the church, and I just found this nice gentleman, this nice intern to talk to, because I was rather confused about whether I should stay engaged and get married, because I was rather young when I met this young man. He doesn't remember that side of it, but so, I, yes, I was engaged to a Larry when I met Larry Shoberg.

Lawrence Shoberg: Obviously, my counseling was effective.

Karen Shoberg: It certainly was.

Lawrence Shoberg: The interesting side of it, is that one of the situations that frequently came up as a Navy Chaplain were young men who had received "Dear John" letters from girlfriends and fiances and wives at home, and at that point they would come in and they would be in tears, and here I am who is the, well, maybe not the one who instigated on the other side of it, but I would simply counsel.

Zarbock: You were somewhat experienced in this process.

Karen Shoberg: That's right.

Lawrence Shoberg: Experienced, yeah. So my advice was "Well, just have faith. It will probably turn out okay." But anyway, kind of an interesting aside to your story.

Karen Shoberg: So, Larry talked about our years at seminary, the two years at seminary. Cindy was born while we were there, and three and a half years in Dearborn, Michigan. I'll do one of his backtrack things. He didn't have anybody who tried to talk him out of going into the ministry. I had people who tried to talk me out of marrying a minister. My mother for one, thought that it would be a very difficult life. That it would be very hard. All the demands on the pastor and on the pastor's wife and family and so on and so forth, to the point that they enlisted the help of the daughter of former pastor at Saint Paul in Michigan City. This gentleman had died years before. This lady was a very good friend of the family, and they enlisted her to talk to me about the difficulties of parish life. "Do you really know what you're getting into?" And I said, "Of course. Here I've been dating him for a year while he's on internship. I know he's got meetings at night and all this kind of stuff." I didn't really think that through very clearly. I was still back in my hometown. As Larry said, the support of my family. I was still living at home. I had a job. I had outside activities in addition to my church affiliation. So, once we got to Dearborn and I sat home at night alone with this child, and he was off busy, busy, busy with meetings and calls and all this kind of stuff, I said "Hm, those people kind of knew what they were talking about." Our son, David, was born while we were in Dearborn. This was a fabulous congregation. They were so helpful and so kind. I mean it really was-- it was like, again, like leaving family when Larry took the call to go to Roswell. This was again like breaking away from family. And of course, our trek to Roswell with David and his pneumonia and the ice storm sliding into Oklahoma City, and then having to go south off of Route 66 and down back roads across Texas to get to Roswell, so we'd stay out of that ice.

And I kept saying, "Dear Lord, are You really sure this is what You want us to do?" We arrived in Roswell and it was snowing. I didn't think they got much snow there, but it was snowing that night, and of course Larry had brought along the Michigan snow shovel, and of course I think we got maybe a quarter of an inch or something. He got out the next morning the first thing, and ran that up and down the sidewalk and down the driveway, and the neighbors told us later how they laughed, because by 9:00, there wasn't snow anywhere. But there again, we bonded with these people in Roswell, because a small community, and Larry said, we built the church. The contractors put up the building.

And there were a couple of times when we kind of blew the whistle and said "Should we go any further with the building?" They had the slab board and they closed down the missile silos, or were those done before we ever got there? Anyhow, you could see what was happening, and Larry kept saying "Yes, we're going to go forward." So, the congregation--

Lawrence Shoberg: That wasn't the congregation, by the way. That was the church body that was sponsoring the American Missions Division.

Karen Shoberg: Yeah.

Lawrence Shoberg: We saw things coming down the line and said, "Yeah, we're not going to [inaudible] because of the base. Keep going. Keep going."

Karen Shoberg: So the members of the congregation, I mean Larry, they built the altar, the baptismal font themselves, this big cross that hung out in front. I mean, everybody worked together and it was really wonderful. So we had-- and then all of this stuff with chaplains. Larry is out there with the chaplains at the base all the time, and then he comes home and we know the church is going to close, and I said, "Fine, if you want to go to Vietnam, go ahead! Sign up! Become a chaplain. Be my guest." I wasn't sure he was going to take me up on it, really, but he did. And one, two, three, he was off to Rhode Island. I stayed in New Mexico with the kids, because Cindy and David were in school, and so I had never driven on any long trips by myself, and now I had to get from Roswell, New Mexico-- the plan was to go to Denver, where his sister lived, and visit her. And then drive from Denver to Michigan City, Indiana. Not only had I never driven, but now I've got three children and a dog. And once again, the Lord was with us. I planned out. You make your reservation the night before, and you know that you're going to have a room. If it broke down, I still had a room at 9:00, regardless. He called a motel in Nebraska. He didn't get-- you know, I didn't answer the phone and he was rather panicky, and that's because the kids and I were down at the pool.

(Tape Change)

Zarbock: 23 of July, 2007, interviewer Zarbock, place Wilmington, uh, Williamsburg, Virginia. Take it away.

Lawrence Shoberg: Well, do you want to start with the question about military chaplaincy?

Zarbock: Yes.

Lawrence Shoberg: Let me just give you a rundown of my history in the chaplaincy and we'll see where we go with that, and what you want to do with that.

Zarbock: Wonderful.

Lawrence Shoberg: Bust in and ask any questions that you have. Chaplain school is always an interesting experience. I was in Newport, Rhode Island, eight weeks as I recall, making people who had been pastors and independent, into something resembling military officers, is always a real challenge for doctors and lawyers and dentists and chaplains and other professions that come in. But, of course, we'd come in acknowledging our professional status, so instead of coming in as ensigns, we'd come in as Lieutenant JG, backdated dates of rank, and that compensates for the extra education, I think is the reason that they did that. So we ran around as lieutenant JGs. Anyplace else, they would expect JGs would know what's going on, and we didn't have a clue what was happening. The story goes, probably apocryphal, but in the Navy, a lieutenant JG insignia on the arm is a wide band and a narrow gold band on the uniform, and the story in chaplain school is that there was a young chaplain who showed up, and he wanted to have the wide band and the narrow band because he was a JG, but when he went in, he got a wide band and a narrow band which made him a rear admiral. And he put on his coat, everybody was saluting him, and he didn't understand why, because he had the wide band and narrow band instead of a narrow wide band. Neither here nor there. Good experience in chaplain school. I was assigned to Norfolk.

Zarbock: Let me take you back. You had never worn a military uniform?

Lawrence Shoberg: Oh, never, never. I had no idea.

Zarbock: You didn't know how to salute?

Lawrence Shoberg: Well I knew it was the right hand and you brought your hand up.

Zarbock: But who taught you these primitives? Who helped you with the entry into the military, how to wear a uniform, how to salute, what to call things?

Lawrence Shoberg: They were some of the first classes we had at chaplain school. I think they eventually at chaplain school got a Marine gunny sergeant, which was a good person to teach military, but when I was there, we had a naval line officer, Howie something or other, and his job was to take us guys, and we'd line up for inspection every morning and told us about having to shine our shoes and making sure our buttons were shined and how to wear, just how to be squared away, and so we practiced.

Zarbock: What about close order drill was that required?

Lawrence Shoberg: I think later on, when they got a Marine gunny sergeant but I could do an about-face and fall on my face. No, we didn't do much of anything like that. The only thing they worked with us on was PT, because we did have to pass the physical training tests that came along, but it was how to work together, how the Navy system worked, and how to do ministry in an ecumenical, and not just ecumenical, but in an interfaith situation.

Zarbock: Was that difficult for certain chaplains?

Lawrence Shoberg: Yes.

Zarbock: What happened? How was that worked? Chaplain X said, "Wait a minute, I don't want to mob up with these others."

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah. Let me go way ahead to a young chaplain I had when I was senior chaplain on the Independence, who thought that all ministry was defined by his church and what his church taught. And part of the challenge of ministry in the military is how to be all things to all people, and not be unfaithful to your church, but that doesn't mean you can be only what your church wants you to be. And so, on Navy ships, the custom was then, I'm not sure what they're doing now, the custom then was at 9:55, 21:55, if there's a chaplain onboard and many ships where there wasn't a chaplain, it was called an evening prayer and there was a prayer said over the ship's intercom system. That goes way back in Navy tradition. Put the boys to sleep. At ten o'clock is Taps, 22:00 is Taps, but we would have Navy prayer and well, most of the time I was at sea, we had some form of evening prayer just before taps. Well, this young chaplain was enthusiastic about that and was good at writing the prayers, except he didn't feel that he could offer a prayer unless he did it in the name of Jesus and onboard our ships we had all kinds of people, Jewish, certainly, and others that in the name of Jesus, just--

Zarbock: Insensitive.

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah; very, very insensitive. As I counseled him on how to offer those prayers, he became very indignant in accusing me of trying to change his faith, trying to limit his ministry, doing things that I wasn't supposed to do. The interesting thing is the young man stayed in and himself became an O6, a Navy captain. I talked with him recently, and he said, "I didn't really understand what the counseling was all about until I got involved in it, and I know where you were coming from and why it was necessary to do that, because I'm having to do the same thing for other people." So that's what happens as you help people along the way. But there are those that do come from backgrounds it's very difficult to compromise, because they are the right religion, the only religion. But Navy chaplaincy is about making ministry and worship possible for all people, not about just doing worship yourself. So within the Navy chaplaincy when I couldn't provide ministry, I saw to it that ministry would be provided, and sometimes that's in lay leader programs, developed, for instance the Latter Day Saints, Mormon lay leaders who would conduct services underway.

Zarbock: What about Catholic?

Lawrence Shoberg: Catholics had a very extensive program. In fact, they had given up to Eucharistic ministers who would become lay leaders, and Catholic chaplains or others ashore would bless the hosts that Catholic lay Eucharistic ministers would be able to take on cruises, so that they would be able to receive the sacrament each week when they would lead a lay led service, but with pre-blessed elements of, at that time it was just the bread. So, accommodating people is a lot of what we did as military chaplains, seeing to it that ministry was able to take place and people were able to worship in ways that were meaningful for them. When I was with the submarine force and I was force chaplain for the submarine force Atlantic we had an interesting situation in which we had a group of Wiccans at New London, at Groton, that wanted to have a place on the base that they could gather together and do their Wicca thing. The submarine force commander, who was an admiral at the time on whose staff I was, received the request from his base commander there and said, "I don't know what to do with these Wiccans, these witches, want to meet on the base. I don't know if we should have witches-- " is the word he was using, not "Wiccans" "-- meet on the base or not. What should I do?" And the force commander, the admiral who was a conservative Christian himself, said back to his base commander, "No, way! We're not having Wiccans meet on a naval submarine base in Groton. That's not going to happen." And then he called me in and told me about his decision. I had to say, "Well, Admiral, your responsibility is to see to it that everybody has an opportunity. We need probably to find some way to accommodate them, even if what they do isn't something we understand or even approve of."

Zarbock: Let me pause and put a name around this. Now, on the one hand, you've got the congressional authorization to be a commissioned officer and give commands and these commands are to be obeyed. And on the other hand, you also have, as I understand, Congressional authorization and a requirement that says all people in the military service are entitled to access to their religious beliefs. Now when those two forces collide, as they are right now, in the incident you're reporting, I'm sure the opportunity for mishandling these two gigantic and perhaps opposing, in this case, opposing forces, the opportunity to mishandle them must be enormous.

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah, it would be nice to have the wisdom of Solomon at those moments to know exactly what to do. Part of the thing to remember, is that chaplains belong to the staff corps as opposed to the line. The line are the ones with the ultimate order giving authority, so that the chaplain had no right to tell a line officer base commander what to do. My responsibility to the admiral was to advise him and to point out to him the way it should be, but he could make any decision he wanted to make, no matter what my advice was. So that was ultimately on him to make sure that there was provision for ministry for everybody.

Zarbock: But as in any decision, any decision has got consequences so certainly the line officer could say no way.

Lawrence Shoberg: Oh, sure.

Zarbock: But there could be. There would be...

Lawrence Shoberg: Repercussions, then, would come from that, and a good staff officer would let him know what the repercussions would be.

Zarbock: And part of the difficult that may loom for a line officer, is a remark or a series of remarks made on his efficiency report.

Lawrence Shoberg: That's the ultimate, obviously, and I think for some people that winds up being a very, very difficult decision because there are chaplains, it's human nature to want people's approval and being promoted. I mean, going through school, you don't want to be left behind as a lieutenant commander when others are becoming commanders. You don't want to be left behind as a commander when others are becoming captains. So there's always the temptation to not be prophetic, but to be kind of in sync with them that goes along with in sync with people.

Zarbock: Wasn't one Roswell enough?

Lawrence Shoberg: That's right. That's right. You've got to speak up, and I don't see myself as being particularly prophetic in my ministry at all. I try to be honest as much as I could.

Zarbock: But back to the specific incident. So you say it was the base commander who said, "No way, I'm not going to have Wiccans?"

Lawrence Shoberg: Well my admiral said "No way" to the base commander, and then I got some telephone calls from the chaplain at the base down there, who had been giving his base commander the same kind of advice I was giving the admiral, and the admiral said, "Well, go down and work that out." So we went down and eventually a place was found where the Wiccans could meet, and they agreed on what kind of advertising kind of thing they could do and how it would happen, but it was accommodated eventually.

Zarbock: Did they require any special foods, beverages, accommodations?

Lawrence Shoberg: They were just looking for a place that they could get together and do their thing. Once they got their thing, they kind of went away. There was only four or five of them and they weren't stirring up trouble anymore because they were able to do what they wanted to do, so it turns out to be not nearly as much of an issue when you can accommodate somebody as when you're telling them, "No, under no circumstances can you do it."

Zarbock: But all you have to do is say, "Don't put beans up in your nose," and you know what's going to happen.

Lawrence Shoberg: They're going to start sticking them beans in there.

Zarbock: You can't mean it, by George.

Lawrence Shoberg: Absolutely. I don't how we got down that path but that's the sort of things you face in the chaplaincy.

Zarbock: And only in the chaplaincy. If you were in the parish ministry this would not be an issue at any time.

Lawrence Shoberg: I wouldn't have to do it because I'm dealing with people who are all of the same flavor, by and large, even if we don't all agree, we at least have the same general agreement.

Zarbock: And again, in an oral history, these are the attributes which researchers and scholars are looking for. What happens when these roles collide, if you wouldn't mind? Would you continue?

Lawrence Shoberg: Well, that happens. That happened, not often, but over and over again, onboard ships for instance. Commanding officers need to know what's going on, and in a couple of instances we discovered small cells of fundamental cells, maybe not a good word, small groups of fundamentalists that were meeting, which was fine. You can get together and have a Bible study, but there's literature and so on that back in our day was comic book kind of things that some faiths were producing, or some faiths that were non-faiths but were espousing a particular fundamental kind of position that were accusing, for instance, the Roman Catholics of being evil and if you're a Roman Catholic and they were distributing these, then aboard the ship we had to say, "You folks can't distribute that kind of stuff. It isn't for morale. If you want to go into town and do it, you're free to do whatever you want, but onboard this command, this base, this ship, you can't do. You don't have the kind of freedom to do what you do someplace else." So we talk to the folks that are responsible, and try to back off. We had again, I'm thinking of the USS Independence had a young man come aboard who was, I don't know, self-proclaimed, I don't remember anymore, minister of a church, but he was very enthusiastic and evangelistic in recruiting people for his faith. Part of what his faith was, if you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then at that moment, you need to be baptized and you needed to be baptized by immersion. Well, we don't authorize just any Tom, Dick, or Harry along the way to baptize when we're underway, because he says that he's a minister of a particular church. And I became aware of it when the doctor came to me and said, "Do you know that So-and-So wants to use one of our whirlpools because he wants to do an immersion baptism?" And I said, "What do you mean, 'wants to do an immersion baptism'?" And so I looked the guy up, and he said, "Yeah, So-and-So has accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and if he isn't baptized immediately, then his eternal soul is in jeopardy." And I had to say, I said, I had to inform the executive officer and the captain obviously, and told him that he had no authority to do that onboard, and told him that in a few days we'd be in a port, and if he went off with this guy and did something someplace, we had no control over what he did there, but not onboard the ship.

Well there's just myriads of stories like that, that come up. I had a Roman Catholic priest who came up to me one time when we were underway and said he wanted to have a burial at sea that he'd had a seaman approach him for a burial at sea, and the seaman had brought aboard, I think it was his grandfather's ashes in his sea bag, and after we were underway, he wanted to have a burial at sea. Well, burial at sea is a very formal ceremony, and there are avenues to go through to request it, and the requests are made and the cremains are assigned to ships as they get underway and the ships go through a particular rigmarole, and the ship has to come to a stop and we get honor guards out and the flag and all of the stuff that goes with it, but this guy just brought his grandfather's ashes onboard. He said, he was a Roman Catholic, he said, "Father, will you bless these ashes? Because we have a burial at sea." And I had to say to this young chaplain who had already promised that he would do that, I said, "You can't do that, and I'm going to have to tell the executive officer what's going on here." And so I went to the exec and told him what was going on, and the exec said, "Well what's your advice, chaplain?" And I said, "Well, it occurs to me that the best thing that we might do, is to advise the priest to tell this young man that there are a lot of things that happen in the dark that no one is aware of, and if the ashes go over, and some prayers are said and nobody knows anything about it except the two of them, that probably won't make any difference," and he concurred. So I assumed, I didn't ask after that, but I assumed that Grandpa didn't go back into another port-- that he was buried at sea as he wanted. Those are the more interesting. Life generally is more mundane than those kinds of things, but they come up.

Zarbock: What about?

Lawrence Shoberg: That reminds me, if I can tell a story. Again, this is back at preparation. When I was an intern in Michigan City, the intern pastor was gone, and I was holding down the fort and I got a telephone call. Karen's hometown has railroad tracks that split the town in half, and freight trains from time to time, would find themselves stopped in town and every crossing from one side of town to the other was blocked. And sometimes, unwisely, people would climb between the cars and the train would start up. It happened to a member of the congregation, an old man, and I got a call as an intern, and you have to remember I was about 20 years old, maybe 19, 20 years old. One year in seminary was all I had, and the family said, "So-and-So is in Memorial Hospital. He's been run over by the train. He's not doing very well." The guy survived, by the way. But they had to amputate a leg, and the question was, the hospital asked us what to do with the leg, and should we bury a leg and have a burial service or what should we do with the leg? And here I am no background, no experience, and suddenly to make a decision there on the phone. I can picture them there holding the leg, waiting to do something with it. I said, "Will the hospital dispose of the leg?" And they said, "Yes, they offered to dispose of it." I said, "I recommend that we do that, because in our faith, in the resurrection, the miracle of God will bring us together as whole beings, so we'll just let them dispose of the leg." I think that was, again, preparation for some of the things I was going to face as a Navy chaplain.

Zarbock: During your entire military career-- the question I've asked all of the chaplain-- during your entire military career, was there any time when you were ordered, hinted, nudged, either directly or in any elliptical way suggesting that you should do something that you felt was against your personal ethic and religious beliefs?

Lawrence Shoberg: Not that I can remember. No, I would have to say no. I would say the only times there were any problems at all, would have been from within the chaplain community where things, decisions were made as to things that were important that I didn't think were important. For instance, when I was on the USS Austin, which is a LPD, a ship that carries Marines and is able to put them ashore even from helicopters off of the helicopter deck, or it has a well deck from which it is able to launch landing craft. And I joined that ship in Baltimore. It was in the shipyard being overhauled there. The situation was such that the shipyard went on strike and there wasn't a whole lot going on, and the crew, which was home ported in Norfolk, was in Baltimore, but most of the families were in Norfolk, and so the commander of the ship said, "Since nothing is going on here, we're going to start every weekend on Friday morning, and then we'll give everybody a chance to drive down to Norfolk, be with their families for the weekend, and be here by noon on Monday," so it was a long weekend and everybody could be home, which was wise. He just kept a duty section there. He had to keep a duty section there, but that rotated so that every third or fourth ever- we have a four or five section duties you had to stay there.

And so, the decision that I had to make as the one who is providing ministry onboard, is when to have worship services. I talked with the captain and said, "I think we ought to do it as a ship on Thursday night before everybody leaves." What happens with the duty section, is that most of them are either on watch or they're speaking, because they've been on watch or are doing something. It's a very, very small duty section. It was in the shipyard. And for me to provide services every Sunday, there are a lot of Sundays I wouldn't get anybody and I would be here. However, the fleet chaplain at the time-- and I don't recall who it was-- but the decision was that the chaplain should be doing services on a Sunday, and so the very strong recommendation to me was that, "You should be there and do services on Sunday." My commanding officer told him that, and he said, "I like Thursdays. You do what you feel best." And so I went against the strong recommendation of the fleet chaplain, and did what seemed to be best for the ship and for the people on the ship and for the morale of the ship.

Zarbock: Having services on Sunday reminds me of the parallel remark of, "Wake up, it's time to take your sleeping pill."

Lawrence Shoberg: Yeah we have traditional times for worship services and it doesn't always work out to be the best time. Some of the best chaplains when ships are in port, find that worship services Sunday night after everybody comes back onboard are good times, or before they go away, creative times that will get people there better than the 11:00 Sunday morning after the cows are milked; that is very traditional.

Zarbock: What was your experience with the Marines? How were the Marines different if, in fact, they were different from other military groupings?

Lawrence Shoberg: A wonderful experience with the Marines. I think Karen will agree with it. My second tour was with Marine air at Cherry Point, North Carolina, and I had no association with Marines prior to that except my uncle had been a Marine in the 1930s in Hawaii, and he told me some Marine stories, but it was completely different from my experience. Apropos, before I get too far into that, a Marine story reminds me of a senior chaplain, wonderful Roman Catholic at Cherry Point named Gene Kapulchinsky. Don't ask me to spell Kapulchinsky after all these years. But again, we were still very poor with a big family, and I was still a JG when I went down there. In order to get around, we needed a second car and I bought a 1953 Plymouth. It had its original paint job. It had been blue, but it has oxidized and weathered so much that it was powder blue because there wasn't anything. I decided that we needed to do something and that was in 1970-- 1970, I guess. And so, was it your idea?

Karen Shoberg: Before you went down--

Lawrence Shoberg: That's right.

Karen Shoberg: While we were still in Norfolk that you were with Service Squadron, there were big spots of rust on this car, and the kids and I decided that we would decorate Daddy's car, so we went out. I'm sure we talked it over with Larry. We went out and bought the flower shapes of the decals that you can put in your bathtub, tear off the back and stick it.

Lawrence Shoberg: Yellow daisies.

Karen Shoberg: Yellow, pink, orange and we decorated his car. We covered up the rust spots with these stick on flowers, Flower Power. I mean, it was very popular then.

Lawrence Shoberg: Well, I hadn't been at Cherry Point very long before the senior chaplain invited me into his office and told me that my car was inappropriate on a Marine Corps base, that having a chaplain, a needy chaplain around the Marine Corps base with this blue car with the big flowers all over it just wasn't appropriate. I should take them off.

Karen Shoberg: So, you did.

Lawrence Shoberg: Well, yeah. That didn't seem to be an issue to go to the stake for, so I was happy to do that; however, I had never washed the car and so I pulled the flowers off and the imprint of the adhesive continued and we just didn't have colored flowers, but we had dirty flowers all over the car the whole time I was there.

Karen Shoberg: That wasn't too long.

Lawrence Shoberg: In terms of industry, it was a wonderful experience. I reported there. Two things were good. The first thing, is that there was a large chaplain community, a couple of Roman Catholic priests, several Protestant chaplains, people assigned to the Marine Corps base, and then there were a bunch of us assigned to the various squadrons and to the group. I was assigned to MAG 14, Marine Corps Group 14, which was made up of six-five or six squadrons of different kinds of aircraft, a wonderful opportunity to work with other chaplains in the base chapel and to work with the Marines in the squadrons and at the MAG. I was fortunate, in that my first two commanding officers, number one was my chief of staff with the service force where I was, who understood and I understood that the best thing for me to do was to be with people in their environment with a service force which was my first duty station, duty assignment.

There were 22 different ships, oilers, refrigerator ships, ammunition ships and that sort of thing, that were going all over the place all the time. I wanted to be in the Navy. I wanted to be underway, and he told me, my chief of staff, Bob Comet, that I could be away a third of the time. The staff would support my travel. The staff would fund my travel and let me be out there if I was in two-thirds of the time because I was also advisor as a JG advisor to the commodore. But that was okay. So I got a lot of time underway in the service force. A lot of trips were catching a ship that would go over to the Mediterranean and I'd be ten days with that ship going into Rota, Spain and pick up the ship coming back or I'd go down to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they'd be there, for refresher training or I'd swing around through the Mediterranean on ships. That was a good experience.

Then, when I got with the Marines, I had the same sort of thing, MAG group commander Bill Nowatnik called me into his office, a wonderful man of faith, wonderful man, but called me in and said, "Chaplain, you're going to be chaplain to a group of Marine aviators. You need, if you're going to be chaplain, you need to know the environment in which we operate and to make that possible for you, I'm going to send you over and you're going to get a log book. You're going to get a flight suit, and I'm going to give you permission, and I want you to fly, from time to time, with those people, as well as doing the ministry, so that you understand what's going on." And so I was able to have some experiences, flying on the bombing range in A-6s when they were down in Key West, it wasn't Key West. What was the name of the base down there at the end of the Keys? But anyway, down there with them and flew and F-14 down there with the pilots.

Zarbock: What did that feel like?

Lawrence Shoberg: Scary, wonderful, all of those things, but to experience, I went cross country in a A-4 with a guy, but to understand what it was to pull Gs, to understand what it was to go through some of the things. I don't delude, I never did delude myself that that's what it was all about, but I knew what they were doing and what they were going through. Then they were very supportive of my ministry, what I could do with them, deployed or not deployed. They were heading to Vietnam, many of those squadrons. At that point they were deploying squadron-by-squadron, not group-by-group, and we had a couple of squadrons preparing to go, so it was dealing with families as they prepared to go to Vietnam with the men as they were preparing to go, and as they came back and through the decompression coming back, all of that, very good ministry.

Zarbock: Karen, could I ask you to relate a little bit? When you started off in your marriage, your husband was away frequently in the evenings for meetings and conferences and what have you. You now find yourself married to a Naval officer who is not at a meeting. He's gone.

Karen Shoberg: When the ship is out, he's gone but when the ships were in, it was a 7 to 5 day. He'd go to work and he'd come home and he'd be home in the evening. We had dinner together. We wouldn't have to hurry. It was more of a family life than we had in the barracks.

Zarbock: What about-- but when he's gone, you're Mr. Mom?

Karen Shoberg: Yes, then you are it. You have the whole bucket of bolts, the car that won't work or the plumbing, the toilet that doesn't flush, yeah. You hauled it all, and for me, that was this very big change. It was that young mom at 26, 29, I guess, what was I, 29, 28, 29, when I left New Mexico to drive across to Indiana? That was the start. And--

Zarbock: Start of what?

Karen Shoberg: This change that had to come that had to be made in me to become more independent. It wasn't easy. It wasn't always easy.

Zarbock: Did it lead to resentment?

Karen Shoberg: No, I don't think so. Initially, when Larry first went away to chaplain school and I was in New Mexico, of course, I sat in a chair and cried, played some good tear-jerking music and sat in the dark living room and cried, "How could you do this to me?" Because the longest he had probably ever been gone, was like, three days. That's all we'd ever been separated during the time we had been married.

Lawrence Shoberg: Seven years, eight, nine.

Karen Shoberg: Oh, yeah, nine years, the longest we were ever separated was when he would go away to convention and, of course, every time he went away to convention, the kids got the flu so, of course, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, my kids are going to be sick from day one." No, it really wasn't. Of course, I called his deployments, I heard him use the word "cruise" a little while ago, and that made me laugh, because he said they weren't cruises. We now go on cruises. I always called his deployments "cruises". Oh, yeah. You're going to go away. You're going to go to Barcelona and have dinner outdoors and here I sit in Norfolk again, yet, still. Yeah, there was some of that. There was a lot of tension between us just before the ship would leave. And I said, of all times when you look back on things, of all times when you should have togetherness, no, because okay have you got everything in line? Yeah, the car has been checked, and this has been done, and that has been done, and everything's been taken care of, and everything should run smoothly while I'm gone.

In Larry's time in the Navy, he only had three six-month deployments, right? Four, I guess, two with the Austin. The one deployment with the Austin, it must have been the first one, was that it? We got a new executive officer just before the ship pulled out of port so there was no wife, so this would be a senior officer's wife. She wasn't there. And we got a new commanding officer on the ship after they got over to the Mediterranean so that wife, the commanding officer's wife, was still up in D.C. So that left the ship without the two leading females to take care of the rest of us wives there, so that suddenly fell upon a couple of us.

I had the telephone glued to my ear, because there were a lot of things going on. We weren't getting mail regularly. This meant that a lot of the enlisted wives depended on their husbands to mail money to them. They didn't trust the wives to have the money automatically put in the bank or come to them. So when the mail didn't come, there were these telephone calls. "Mrs. Shoberg, what do I do? I don't have any money, and I don't have diapers," you know. And so my kids would come home from school and I'd be with the telephone doing this kind of stuff. No wonder you're so tired. You're always on the telephone. So that was a real experience. That was another growing experience: Suddenly having to do things that I had never done before.

But it was a good life. We met some wonderful people. Larry talked about his commanding officer at Cherry Point, who we are still in connection, contact with him. Larry married their daughter, baptized one of their kids, married one of his grandkids and all of this. I mean, there are these kinds of things that we still have contact with these people.

Zarbock: So the connections are made in depth.

Lawrence Shoberg: Made very quickly.

Karen Shoberg: Made very quickly, and I must say for myself, probably, not in the depth that a lot of people do. I tend not. I made friends but I knew that we weren't going to be there long, and again with this family thing of mine, I always was a little hesitant, because you get so attached and then you know in three years, you're going to be gone. So there's a good and a bad but our kids didn't seem, our children didn't seem to be harmed by the moving. We were very fortunate. Larry's changes of duty station usually came during the summer so that we were able to move, let the children finish school. Sometimes I stayed on longer, or we had to sell the house or something, so that we didn't have to uproot the children during the school year, which a lot of people have to do. But I loved the time in the Navy.

Zarbock: I'm going to ask both of you, start with you, Karen, please, what credo have you developed for yourself? How would you say, "You know what I really believe in?" I--

Karen Shoberg: Talking with Larry about this, I said, "I don't have a credo." But he said, "You live one." And I guess it's to be with people, to assist people; that's it. I guess that's it, short and sweet.

Zarbock: And Larry?

Lawrence Shoberg: To try to understand God's will, which is always, his will is good and perfect, but I don't understand it perfectly and hopefully-- and ready to change. Part of my credo is to believe with all my heart what has been revealed to me, through Scripture and through those that I revere as true to work hard, very hard, to use my time and my talents in ways that will accomplish the ends that God wants to honor and use my money in the same way. We started out poor. We're financially very, very healthy right now, but we believe in giving back. We anticipate that our influence will go beyond our deaths. We've set up the estate in such a way that our estate will be tithed to the church. Our kids don't get everything, but we're tithing ten percent to our church. To work hard and to enjoy life, because God gave it to us to enjoy. That's not short.

Zarbock: I have really enjoyed, truly enjoyed, meeting both of you.

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