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Dr. Walter Lewis Liefeld died quite peacefully in Elmhurst, IL, on November 13, 2023 at the age of 96. Walter was born in Brooklyn, NY on March 13, 1927 and grew up in Jamaica, NY, the only child of Helen and Herbert Liefeld, a physician. His life was shaped by his decision as a child to commit his life to God. He desired to understand the Bible deeply and apply what he learned in his life. He did so faithfully throughout, loving and serving God, caring for others, and loving his family. He did this alongside his wife of 64 years, Olive Ainslie Fleming Liefeld. Together, they raised three children and enjoyed seven grandchildren, and he had the joy of learning that his first great-grandchild was on the way.
Dr. Liefeld studied at New York University, received his Bachelor of Theology in Bible from Shelton College, Master of Arts in Greek and Latin from Columbia University and Doctor of Philosophy degree in Hellenistic Religions from Columbia and Union Theological Seminary.
He and Olive moved to Deerfield, IL in 1963 where Walter was one of the first three full-time faculty members at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He served as Professor of New Testament until retiring in 1994, and then receiving the honorary title of distinguished professor emeritus. A highlight was in 1970, when he took a sabbatical leave and the family moved to Germany where he did post-doctoral research at the University of Tübingen and worked on the NIV translation of the Bible as a member of the International Bible Society Committee on Bible Translation. He was the author of several books and Bible commentaries and numerous articles.
While a student at NYU, he started their first InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) student chapter, and then served on IVCF staff and was later a Trustee. He and Olive were involved in church work together, including helping to start Arlington Countryside Chapel (now Pathway Church) over 50 years ago. He also served as pastor and interim pastor of several churches in New York and Illinois over the years, his final being as Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Lake Forest, IL. He was a visiting professor at Tyndale Theological Seminary in the Netherlands where he also served as Interim President in 2000-2002.
Among his many abilities, he was a talented musician, playing piano and organ, but he especially loved singing and listening to Bach. He was skilled in languages, studying Hebrew, Latin, French, German and teaching Greek. He was a gifted preacher, and even as a young man, preaching on the streets under the elevated train in New York City. He communicated with clarity, especially about his faith, whether preaching, teaching, writing, or holding a Bible Study wherever he lived. He was a beloved mentor and caring professor to the many students he encountered at Trinity.
While Walter Liefeld had many accomplishments, he was most known for his kind and gentle manner, his encouragement and humility, his interest in each person he encountered, and his deep and joyful faith in Jesus, his Lord and Savior. He loved to travel, especially to visit former students throughout the world. His family remembers him for all those things and also that he was joyful and positive, spoke well of everyone, and had a hearty laugh. They will remember him as a gracious teacher who desired to serve and help others. He was a caring husband, actively demonstrating his love for his wife Olive in many ways, including taking up skiing and skating just to be with her. He was a caring father and gentle grandfather who listened attentively and provided wise counsel. He engaged with great interest in his family’s lives supporting their diverse endeavors. And he will be remembered as an avid learner and lover of books -- and desserts.
He is survived by his wife Olive, his three children David (Robin), Beverly Hancock (Jonathan) and Holly Nunn (Mike) and his seven grandchildren, Kris (Katy), Kayla Fuka (Zach), and Liberty Liefeld; Elizabeth Dekker (Marty) and Abigail Hancock; Connor and Courtney Nunn.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made either to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School or to The Liefeld Scholarship which was established by ScholarLeaders International where Walter had been a board member for 15 years. It honors his service in training Christian leaders, especially students from China.
A celebration of life will be held on December 12th at 2pm at Christ Church of Lake Forest, IL. The service will be live-streamed. Details to follow.