Kenneth Richard Baumhoff was born on May 14, 1933, in New York City, the son of Joseph and Elli Schllig Baumhoff. His father was the superintendant of an apartment building. Kenneth earned a B.A. degree from Wagner College on Staten Island in 1955, then relocated to Berkeley, California, where he earned his B.D. degree in 1959 from the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.
During his undergraduate days at Wagner College, he met Louisa Helen Cirillo, and they were married on June 29, 1957 in New York City. Louisa was a teacher. The couple had three children: Steven, born in 1960; Eric, born in 1962; and Krista, born in 1964.
Pastor Baumhoff was ordained in the spring of 1959, and spent the summer of that year in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at the Napa State Mental Hospital. In the fall of 1959, he assumed the position of assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran, Phoenix, Arizona. In 1962, the Baumhoff family moved back to California where Pastor Baumhoff served the Church of the Cross in Rialto. In 1969, he took charge of St. John Lutheran in Oakland, an inner-city congregation with about 200 members.
It was from Oakland that First Lutheran, Palo Alto, called Pastor Baumhoff. The congregation was interested in his experience with an inner-city congregation, and had thoughts of establishing a church in East Palo Alto. The Baumhoff family arrived in Palo Alto in the fall of 1980.
In his biographical statement, sent to the First Lutheran Call committee, Kenneth Baumhoff outlined his experiences and interests. He had founded and/or been active in several community organizations in Oakland. He described himself as a person who liked to be out and about, directing organizations and liaisons. He enjoyed teaching and interpreting the Christian faith as it applied to current problems. He was equipped to intervene in crises. Prayer was important and he invited members of the congregation to contribute their creativity to Sunday worship. He was glad to know that First Lutheran had a functioning Stephen Ministry program.
Along with the list of things he felt most interested in, he listed the things he was not good at: administrative details, writing reports, dealing with maintenance issues.
Baumhoff suffered from diabetes, and that may have been one of the reasons he asked for a three-month sick leave in the fall of 1981. It’s also possible that his preference for innovation, crisis intervention, and involvement in community problems were at odds with the First Lutheran leadership and the needs of a congregation that did not embrace dramatic change.
In the spring of 1982, Pastor Baumhoff announced his retirement, effective July 1. He hoped to find a part-time pastorate. But the state of his health apparently limited that hope. He and his wife, Louisa, were divorced in November 1984, and Kenneth Baumhooff married for the second time to Joan Arnold, a widow, artist, and peace activist. They had five years together before Kenneth Richard Baumhoff died on June 15, 1991, in Napa, California.