On February 26, 1932, the congregation of First Lutheran assembled in a special meeting for the purpose of calling a new pastor and voted unanimously to call N. Everett Hedeen. This was an unusual call because Mr. Hedeen was still a student at the Augustana seminary in Rock Island, Illinois, and had not yet graduated or been ordained. A copy of the call was sent as usual to the president of the California Conference, Rev. Carl G. Anderson. He replied, “I received the call and was surprised to see whom the congregation called. I didn’t know he was available.”
What had led the people of First Lutheran to call an apparently unknown and inexperienced student? Everett Hedeen was the son of Pastor Eric Hedeen who had served Bethany Lutheran in Berkeley during 1924-1928. The young Hedeen had been a student at the University of California Berkeley at this time, and had been involved in an outreach project to children in East Oakland. So it’s clear that the Hedeen family was known and respected in the Bay Area.
Nathan Everett Hedeen was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 6, 1906. His father, Pastor Eric Hedeen, was a native of Karlskoga, Värmland, and his mother was Ida Louise Larson. Everett grew up in Minnesota. He attended the University of California Berkeley 1925–1927, and Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, 1927–1929, where he received his A.B. degree. Three years of seminary instruction in Rock Island, led to a B.D. degree in 1932.
The summer of 1932 was a busy one for Everett Hedeen. He graduated from the seminary on May 31, was ordained on June 12 at the Augustana Synodical Conference in Fargo, North Dakota, and on June 22, he married Esther M. Holm whom he had met when both were students at Gustavus Adolphus. The newly married couple apparently took a few weeks for a honeymoon trip by car to Palo Alto, where they arrived on August 9. A newspaper article from the Palo Alto Daily, dated August 13, adds that the new pastor couple had settled at 570 University Avenue in Palo Alto.
Since Pastor Heurlin had left Palo Alto in April, and Pastor Hedeen was not due to arrive until August 14, the congregation had engaged J. A. Elson, a professor from Gustavus Adolphus who was studying at the University of California Berkeley. He agreed to preach one service each Sunday morning for three months, beginning May 1.
Pastor Hedeen preached his first sermon at First Lutheran on August 17, and that afternoon the congregation gave a reception for the new pastor and his wife. Pastor Hedeen was officially installed at First Lutheran on October 19, 1932.
There are several brief mentions of Pastor Hedeen in the Bay Area Swedish-language newspaper, Vestkusten. During his pastorate at First Lutheran, Pastor Hedeen served as the president of the California Conference Luther League, and he presided at Luther League conferences, and rallies, where he sometimes led Bible studies. He was also interested in missions, particularly home missions, and spoke on this subject at Women’s Missionary Society meetings and conferences.
Pastor Hedeen wrote lengthy reports for the annual congregational meetings at First Lutheran. From these we learn that in addition to the usual Sunday morning service, he instituted a Sunday evening service that included Bible study and a time of fellowship with refreshments. Later, when the fellowship element was eliminated, attendance dropped. During the summer this evening service was discontinued, but the congregation participated in an evening Palo Alto Union service. Communion was offered four times a year. The congregation grew at a moderate rate.
Two new groups were established at First Lutheran: the Lutheran Brotherhood, and the Dorcas Society, an offshoot for younger women of the Missionary Society. The latter group must have gotten to work shortly after they were organized, and came up with the idea of making a quilt for the young pastor couple who were furnishing their first home. The Dorcas women designed a quilt of alternating squares, half of them featuring a patchwork fan, and the other half embroidered with the signatures and names of the congregation’s members. The quilt is dated 1933. Through a succession of owners and some serendipity, that quilt eventually made its way from Palo Alto to Kansas, and back to Palo Alto where it now rests in the archive of First Lutheran.
In addition to the two new organizations, the Pastor’s reports discussed the Board of Deacons, who were concerned with the spiritual aspects of the congregation; also the Board of Trustees who managed financial affairs and maintained the property. The Sunday School, including an adult Bible study, was active, and the choir — which apparently wore robes for the first time — made an important contribution to Sunday worship. The Women’s Missionary League and the Luther League met regularly, and there was a basketball team for the boys. Pastor Hedeen wrote, “What would we do without the Ladies Aid?” This group not only cleaned the church, arranged flowers for the altar, visited the sick, organized fellowship events in members’ homes, and had also taken the responsibility for paying the interest on the bank mortgage.
The “debt problem” had loomed over the congregation since the construction of the church building in 1925-26. It seemed that only a few hundred dollars were available each year to pay down the principal on the mortgage — the Great Depression had begun. In 1936, the bank mortgage of $5800 was renewed and a three-year program was initiated to pay it off. At the same time, the congregation voted to ask the California Conference of the Augustana Synod to cancel the $1500 note it held.
There is no mention in the congregational meeting records during Pastor Hedeen’s tenure of the Swedish language. The Vestkusten article about Pastor Hedeen’s installation, October 1932, referred to the church as “The First English Lutheran Church, Palo Alto.” But in the spring of 1933, there was an article in Vestkusten about Palo Alto and the Swedish presence in the city.
“(Palo Alto) which at the last census had 13,652 inhabitants, has comparatively few Swedish folks, around 380 people, with second generation included. The total of Swedish-born stands at 148. . . The Swedish Lutheran Church, that is located on Homer Avenue and Webster Street, numbers more than 100 members, and their church building, built in the old Mission Style, has won the reputation for being the most appealing in the city. The pastor, since last August, is N. Everett Hedeen, a very sympathetic young man, who was ordained at the synodical meeting in Fargo last year. . . The Sunday worship service is held at 11:00 a.m. and Pastor Hedeen wishes through this news item to invite Swedes from other places in Northern and Central California to make a trip here sometime and attend the worship service.”
In 1935, during Pastor Hedeen’s tenure, the congregation observed its 15th anniversary at the same time as the Northern District of the California Conference held their annual gathering at First Lutheran. The celebration included confirmation and a confirmation reunion on Sunday morning, together with services on Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening, followed by the meetings of the District.
When Pastor Hedeen submitted his resignation on January 19, 1936, it was accepted with regret. He presided at a special meeting on March 17, 1936, when the congregation met to call a vice-pastor (interim pastor), and a permanent pastor.
The Hedeen family left Palo Alto in the spring 1936 with their first child, Everett Nathan, born February 23, 1935. Pastor Hedeen subsequently served parishes in Iowa and Missouri and two more children were added to the family: Mary Louise, born August 3, 1937, and John Erik, born November 14, 1944. Hedeen served on several boards of national Augustana institutions, and during World War II, he was a service pastor and wrote tracts for distribution to service personnel. Everett Hedeen retired in 1973, and died on December 17, 1981. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Topeka, Kansas.