LAWTON — A former longtime legislator was remembered Monday as a man of character and faith who won't be forgotten at the state Capitol.
Abe Deutschendorf, of Lawton, died Sunday while preparing a meal for several homeless people and families at Trinity Baptist Church in Lawton, where he served as a deacon. He was 77.
Deutschendorf also was known as being the uncle of the late singer/songwriter John Denver, whose birth name was Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.
“He was always proud of that,” said Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs.
Deutschendorf, a Democrat, was elected to the House District 62 seat in 1994. He served until 2006, when he couldn't seek re-election because of legislative term limits.
“Rep. Deutschendorf was one public servant who was as known for his faith and character as well as for his legislative accomplishments,” said House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, who succeeded him in the House District 62 post. “Abe was a shining example of a servant leader. His faith, character and devotion to his wife, Sammy, until her passing, continue to be revered in the halls of the Capitol and will be remembered for generations to come. It was an honor for me to succeed Rep. Deutschendorf as representative for District 62.”
Dorman served in the Legislature with Deutschendorf during his final term. Before that Dorman worked for him for several years as a member of the House staff.
“He was the kindest, gentlest man that I've ever seen go through that building,” Dorman said. “He constantly was going on mission trips with his church. He cared for his wife who was ill until she passed away a couple years ago.”
Deutschendorf was a member of the House Democratic caucus ethics committee “and he was always that guiding person that would keep us on the right track,” Dorman said. “He was always a voice in our caucus that people trusted completely.”
Deutschendorf served when the Democrats controlled the Legislature and he had a good working relationship with Republicans, Dorman said.
“He was one of the members that everybody felt at ease working with on issues,” he said. “I have never heard a single person ever say a bad word about him.”
Before being elected to the Legislature, Deutschendorf served for more than 25 years as principal of Eisenhower Junior High School in Lawton. He earlier worked as a teacher, coach, counselor and assistant principal.
He was an active member of Trinity Baptist Church, where beginning in the early 1970s he led mission trips every year to Mexico. He also was a lay minister and spoke at a number of funerals.
Deutschendorf's funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday in the Worship Center East at First Assembly of God in Lawton. Burial will be in Highland Cemetery under the direction of the Becker Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Lawton.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Sammy, and two sisters and five brothers.
Survivors include his son, Jerry Deutschendorf, and his wife, Cindy both of Tuttle; his daughter, Terri Sherman, and her husband, Ernie, both of Lawton; and four brothers, several grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.