Jesuit Father Louis L. Renner died March 24, 2015, at the Jesuit infirmary in Spokane, Washington. He was 88. A priest, professor and a dedicated historian, Fr. Renner was noted for his depth of knowledge, gentle spirit and love of the outdoors.
The second of five siblings, Fr. Renner was born on April 25, 1926, in Bismarck, North Dakota, to John J. and Rosa (Gustin) Renner. The family moved to Tacoma, Washington, in 1937. He graduated from Bellarmine Preparatory in 1944, and entered the Jesuit novitiate in Sheridan, Oregon. He followed the regular course of Jesuit formation studies and teaching experiences. Fr. Renner was ordained a priest June 15, 1957, in Spokane.
Showing great promise and desire for advanced studies, Fr. Renner attended the Sorbonne in Paris, France, and completed a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Munich, Germany, in 1965. He embarked on a teaching career at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks from 1965 to 1980. Retiring with the status of Professor of German Emeritus, Fr. Renner shifted his energies to writing and pastoral duties: he was editor and chief writer of the “Alaskan Shepherd,” the major newsletter of the Diocese of Fairbanks, and served as the visiting priest for the Koyukon Athabaskan Indian villages of Ruby and Tanana.
In 2002, Fr. Renner was missioned to write a comprehensive history of the Catholic Church in Alaska; this was published in 2005 as “Alaskana Catholica” and was his fifth published book. In October 2002 Fr. Renner was honored by Tony Knowles, governor of Alaska, with the “2002 Governor’s Award for Friend of the Humanities.” That same year Fr. Renner relocated to Spokane and became a “writer in residence” at the Gonzaga University Jesuit Community.
In addition to his writing, he ably assisted the staff of the Archives and Special Collections with his vast knowledge of people, places and events in the Pacific Northwest. Fr. Renner’s sixth book, “A Kindly Providence: An Alaskan Missionary’s Story” was his autobiography and was published in 2008.
Fr. Renner is survived by his brothers William, Leonard and Albert, and his sisters Julie McMillan and Della Carlin. He was preceded in death by his younger brother Richard. There are several nieces, nephews, and cousins as well. He will be deeply missed by his many friends, former students, colleagues, parishioners and brother Jesuits of the Oregon Province.