Story Gallery

Lutherhaven Receives a Quarter Million Dollar Bequest from Bruce & Marilyn Sweeny

Lutherhaven Story Gallery

Bruce and Marilyn Sweeney shared their good fortune in life with a variety of charitable causes, including Lutherhaven Ministries.

Over the years the Sweeney’s contributed both financially to the annual fund and to capital projects, plus with gifts-in-kind of lumber and other building materials for many camp building projects. There’s hardly a new building on camp that doesn’t include a Sweeney 2-by-6 in the framing!

In addition to their financial and volunteer support through their lives (Bruce served on the ministry’s Board of Directors for two terms,) the Sweeney’s were also camp Legacy Partners, leaving over $260,000 to Lutherhaven Ministries through their estate plan.

Marilyn passed away in January, 2009 and Bruce followed her to heaven’s home that August. Lutherhaven is extremely grateful to Bruce and Marilyn for their faithful generosity to camp as they forever linked their blessed past to Lutherhaven’s vibrant future!

Since his days as a youngster, Bruce Sweeney was a runner, both figuratively and literally. Beginning with his school years in Lewiston, Idaho, Bruce was a standout track and field athlete. After setting numerous records in high school, he continued his athletic endeavors at the University of Idaho, specializing in high and low hurdles, high jump and long jump.

He was perhaps most proud of the fact that no one from WSU ever beat him in the hurdles!

Bruce graduated in marketing from the University of Idaho in 1954, then was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U. S. Air Force through the ROTC program and went on to become a jet pilot. Despite the rigors of pilot training and regular flight duty, Bruce found time to be a track competitor for the Air Force, and was a finalist for the U. S. Olympic track team in 1956 in the 400-meter hurdles.

Bruce continued to run in fun-runs and other events throughout his life, saying, “At my age, it gets easier all the time to win a medal because the competition has thinned out!” From 1976 to 2003, he was a regular race starter at the Idaho state high school track meet in Boise, missing only one year in that 28-year span. In 1992, he was honored as an inductee into the Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame for track and field.

Music was another big love of Bruce’s. He was actively involved in Vandaleers during his entire college career, was choir director at his fraternity and later, was choir director at Trinity Lutheran in Lewiston. Politics and public service also played a role in the Sweeney household. He served extended terms in both the Idaho House of Representatives and the state Senate, retiring in 1998, and served on innumerable local and state commissions, boards and committees, and was a commissioner on the Idaho State Board of Transportation.

Bruce and his wife, Marilyn, who received a UI degree in home economics in 1954, raised three children. The Sweeney’s operated Sweeney Supply Company in Lewiston, selling it to Pay ‘n Pak in 1973. Bruce was also associated with Craft Wall of Oregon, Inc., was a partner in Craftin Management of Lewiston, and was owner/partner in a number of multi-unit apartment complexes in the Northwest, particularly those for the elderly and disabled.

Lutherhaven and the University of Idaho were Bruce and Marilyn’s two big passions, and their will benefited both equally. The Sweeney’s didn’t forget their own children and grandchildren by these bequests. Instead, they essentially made Lutherhaven and the U of I a part of their family.

Bruce once said, “One of our goals is to minimize estate taxes. But even if the estate tax is totally repealed, we will still make substantial provisions for Lutherhaven and these other charities.”

Marilyn added, “Our times at Lutherhaven were among the most memorable of our lives. We feel it’s only right to give back to the place that’s meant so much to us.”


 Meet the Jurvelins

Lutherhaven Story Gallery

Generations of Jurvelins have hiked the forested trails of Lutherhaven.

From Castaway Fair (for 24 years, Lutherhaven’s mother of all yard sale fundraisers) to 2009’s emergency water system project to Wild Women retreats at Shoshone Creek Ranch, the Jurvelin family has invested their time, talent and treasure into the ministry of Lutherhaven.

Over the past two decades Dick and Jill have raked beaches as volunteers, participated in faith-renewing programming, hosted a family reunion and invested in the growth of Lutherhaven. Their kids and grand kids have explored every acre, taking in the sights and sounds of nature at camp, discovering as much about themselves and their faith as they did the natural world.

You’re sending another round of grand kids to camp…

Dick: It’s a great Christian camp with a lot of good activities. They make friends. Camping is a good experience.

Jill: For our grandson, it was a really great environment during a disappointing time that left him not knowing what he was going to do with life. As a summer camp staff he had a great support group he stays in regular contact with. He’ll be back on staff this summer. Out of that came direction: he wants to go to Concordia, maybe study business, maybe serve children. At camp he got along really well with kids with disabilities. “Maybe I’ll go into special education.” He said. Oh! I thought, That’s good!

What’s your favorite spot in camp?

Dick: The Mess Hall; it’s just a great, cool place.

Jill: I love the tree branches inside the dining hall … they’re so cool!

Dick: Not a bad place to have to eat!

Jill: The Retreat Center and the beach. We created a family tree of photos during a family reunion in the Retreat Center. It’s a special place.

Favorite Programs?

Jill: Dick’s Aunt comes to Golden Agers day out. She’s 90, and coming to the Women’s Retreat this year! Dick has volunteered at work weekends. Our youngest granddaughters went to Ranch Camp and had a ball. If their parents would’ve let them, they would’ve stayed all summer.

The Wild Women camp hooked me and my friends because of [Program Director] Rebecca Smith’s philosophy: “If you’re a mom of 5 kids who are running around all the time and bein’ wild for you means laying on a bunk all day reading a book, then be wild. If bein’ wild means rock climbing or zip lining or whitewater rafting, great, be wild that way. Whatever is wild and refreshing for you.” It’s that kind of hospitality and the variety of opportunities to get in touch with yourself and God. It’s more than back to nature, it’s back to God.

Why do you support camp and encourage others to do the same?

Jill: It’s a great place to have fun and connect with God in a real-world way. The staff really, really helps you do that. Kids … adults … everyone who goes there does that in a real way, everyday.

Dick: You learn how to work with people and play. Climb the rock wall and give everyone a clap when they get to the top. Celebrate successes. There are just very few places you can do that these days. It’s a good, healthy environment.

Jill: We want people keep having a chance for that.

Dick: You’ve got to be able to share God’s creation with others, it doesn’t matter who they are.

Jill: It would be really hard to find another place to that, where such a broad spectrum of people get the chance to touch base with God and nature and each other, are encouraged to do all three. Lutherhaven’s a special place for that. That’s key, really—that cooperative, let’s do it together, appreciate each other thing.

Dick: It’s our pleasure, our honor to be able to help and be a part of that.

Jill: We’re really fortunate to have had visionary people here who were in tune with opportunities and God. Lutherhaven’s been really fortunate to have donors come along in a big way at various need times. To build an endowment to ensure a future for sustainability… that’s key.

Dick: It’s a good place.

Jill: I agree.