Jeremy Fuerst (Northwest Washington Synod)

Jeremy Fuerst (Northwest Washington Synod)

Everett mountaineer, pastor ‘meant so much to so many people’

Jeremy Fuerst died while climbing in Colorado. Friends described him as “one-of-a-kind.”

EVERETT — As a pastor, Jeremy Fuerst didn’t get Sundays off.

But he did get Fridays to himself. So on Thursday nights, he’d often drive east of the Cascade Range to go on hikes before returning to Central Lutheran Church in Everett to give his sermons, his friend Theo Roe said this week.

The outdoors were his passion. In a 2019 interview with the Mountaineers, Fuerst, 44, was asked where his happy place was.

“Atop a prominent peak on a clear day overlooking crevassed glaciers,” he said.

Emergency responders spotted Fuerst around 1 p.m. Sept. 11 about 300 feet below two mountain summits in Colorado, the Custer County Search and Rescue team said on Facebook. The team said the climber appeared to have fallen and died. His body was recovered Sunday.

Custer County Search and Rescue said he was prepared with a satellite phone and was an experienced climber. It wasn’t clear how he fell. His frequent climbing partner, Jeremy Benezra, said the hike was well within his ability.

Friends described Fuerst as a man with a big personality who could make a stranger feel like a close friend. Joel Langholz went to seminary with Fuerst in Berkeley, California, where they became close over a decade ago.

Now a Lutheran pastor in Bellingham, Langholz said sometimes they wouldn’t see each other as much as he would’ve liked. But when they did reconnect at Lutheran gatherings, it was like they were picking up right where they left off.

“He was an easy friend to pick up with,” he said, calling Fuerst funny, passionate and “fiercely loyal.”

Langholz described him as “one-of-a-kind.”

Benezra met him through the Mountaineers about 3½ years ago. They became climbing partners. Benezra said Fuerst quickly became as good a friend as those he’d had for 20 years. He thought they would be close when they were old.

Fuerst was naturally curious, said Bishop Shelley Bryan Wee, who had known him since 2017. He would go to Whidbey Island, for example, and come back with facts about the island no one knew.

“He found nooks and crannies that were really fascinating,” she said.

Fuerst started taking videos while he was climbing to share facts about the areas he was hiking, Benezra noted.

In May, the two climbed Kawaikini in Hawaii. Fuerst’s 3,000-word report, which starts with a fun fact, chronicled three days of hiking despite mud, bushwhacking and dehydration.

“I trusted my life to him and he trusted his life to me,” Benezra said.

Despite their shared name and interests, it was an odd pairing: a Lutheran pastor and a Jew. They didn’t always see eye to eye, Benezra said, but Fuerst was always willing to listen when he wasn’t throwing out movie quotes and light ribbing.

He said his climbing partner had big goals. For example, several friends noted Fuerst’s intention to climb to the highest points in every county in the state. He had one of the 39 ascents left, according to a log he kept. He was planning to climb the last peak, Mount Buckner in the North Cascades, in just a few weeks, Benezra said.

Fuerst was also close to climbing to the highest point of every state in the country. He harbored hopes of soon summiting Mount Denali in Alaska, by far the highest peak in the country at over 20,000 feet. He was waiting to cross off Arizona last, so he could climb it with friends and family, Benezra said.

His top peaks included Kilimanjaro, Mauna Kea in Hawaii and over a half-dozen mountains over 14,000 feet in Colorado. Fuerst’s last summit logged was Gannett Peak in Wyoming.

He would often use stories about the wilderness and connect it to scripture in his sermons, Wee said.

His friend Theo Roe, a member of the Faith Lutheran Church in Seattle where Fuerst’s wife Shannyn was pastor, first met Fuerst five years ago. But they got closer in the past couple years as Roe dealt with a divorce. During the pandemic, he invited Roe over to his Seattle home to have beers on his porch and talk. Fuerst was a strong listener.

“He helped me be more confident in my faith,” Roe said.

And he loved his beer. He was a Certified Beer Judge.

Between that and his adventures in the outdoors, the Pacific Northwest was bound to be a good fit for Fuerst, Langholz noted. Before coming to Central Lutheran, he served as associate pastor at a church in Omaha, Nebraska, and as a youth minister in Utah.

A Nebraska Cornhuskers faithful, college football was another of Fuerst’s passions. He ran a low-stakes betting pool for his friends and would send lengthy emails with updates on the pool filled with memes, movie references and jokes. Benezra called them a highlight of the season.

Benezra last saw Fuerst about a month ago. That day, he told him he was one of his best friends. Thinking back on it, he was happy he told him that before he died.

“He meant so much to so many people,” Benezra said. “It’s just a giant hole.”

A memorial service is being planned for early October, according to the Northwest Washington Synod. Condolences can be sent to Shannyn Fuerst at Faith Lutheran Church at 8208 18th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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