David Philip Rahn
October 10, 1946 – July 17, 2020
David Philip Rahn, beloved husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, mentor, and friend died peacefully July 17 in the Regency Medical Center in Grand Blanc. He was 73.
Dave was born in Elgin, Illinois, the firstborn child of Robert Rahn and Janet Stansell Rahn. After raising their first three children in New Haven, Connecticut, in August 1953, Robert and Janet moved their family to Japan, where they lived and worked as Christian missionaries in Toyonaka as part of Toyonaka Church. Their children attended Canadian Academy, an international school where they would form lifelong friendships. Over their years in Japan, two more children would be born. Dave, the eldest, was six when the family arrived, and quickly took an interest in Japanese language and culture. Dave’s early experiences bridging cultures and surviving a serious illness, combined with his naturally observant character, shaped a lifetime of wry and generous observation and care that would eventually interconnect in ministry, and hospice social work, and mental health counseling.
Returning to the United States as a college student, Dave attended Cornell College in Iowa, where he proved a dedicated, even over-serious student. Several years into pursuing his PhD in Japanese History at the University of Michigan, Dave met Nan (Sawyer) Rahn in 1971 at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Michigan. Dave was quiet and diligent in his studies (“in the books” as Nan explains), while Nan was athletic and outgoing. The two fell in love, marrying June 30 of 1973. Their marriage would last 47 years and bring four children and five grandchildren.
After choosing to abandon his PhD (accepting two Masters degrees, one in East Asian Studies and the other in History), the Rahns traveled to Japan before returning to the U.S., where Dave earned a Master of Divinity degree at the progressive Iliff School of Theology in Colorado. Dave began serving as a United Methodist minister, and the Rahns eventually brought their family to Grand Blanc, Michigan.
In all things, Dave centered his family. When a job interviewer asked Dave about his life goals, he responded immediately: “to raise healthy and happy children,” a story Dave often repeated, demonstrating the way his love of family pervaded all he did. Dave and Nan’s children, Kristen, Nathan, Paul, and Peter were raised by parents who cared for them lovingly and collaboratively, and who supported each other in achieving their professional ambitions. Dave was a loving and devoted father, forever seeking creative and generous ways to demonstrate his love and support of each of his children. All four of the Rahn children attended Albion College and then found fulfillment in their careers and family lives as well as their close bond with each other. As each of the Rahn children undertook career and personal leaps, from joining the Peace Corps to moving to new cities and states, to changing jobs, houses, or cars, Dave was present and generous with his advice and practical support. Offering sound wisdom from his great diversity of expertise and experience, Dave would nonetheless conclude these conversations, “It’s up to you guys. You’ll make the right decision for you,” and sometimes the even more profound advice for couples making life choices together, “What you decide is less important than how you decide it.”
Dave himself made a number of career and personal leaps that required courage and persistence. After observing Nan’s studies and career in Social Work with growing interest, Dave completed a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Michigan, eventually leaving full-time ministry for social work—a career path that enabled him to join his cultural sensitivity, his spiritual knowledge and skill in communication, and his observant and empathetic nature in the service of a great many people. Even while working full-time as a social worker, Dave continued to minister, delivering sermons to rural Michigan congregations on Sunday mornings. As a social worker, Dave’s spiritual training, powers of observation, and profound empathy were perfectly suited to his work. He cared for his patients with warmth and sensitivity, and formed lifelong friendships with his coworkers.
In the last few years, Dave developed his gift for writing into a serious and sustained pursuit, attending numerous writing workshops and conferences nationwide, translating Japanese works with his lifelong friend Professor Komei Kure, writing his memoirs, publishing his prayers on his website reconcilingword.com, and publishing an award-winning essay in The Christian Century. In Dave’s memoirs, he wrote of his family’s surviving a terrifying storm in the winter Pacific en route to Japan in 1959, “The rainbows and calm seas that finally greeted us the morning of the third day were a blessing, a reminder of God’s grace as we face the storms of life. The birds had returned, the color of the sea back to blue, and the sunrise was spectacular. We had all somehow been transformed by living through the storm together.”
Dave was loved by all who knew him, including those who worked alongside him, those who sat in the pews of his churches, the servers he and Nan cherished seeing each week at the Redwood Lodge, those he mentored in his professional life, and deeply by his family. His calm and reassuring presence and his wonderful wit combined in a unique and purposeful spark that is simply beyond description.
Indeed words can’t capture how joyously, how cleverly, how thoughtfully and patiently and graciously and with what calm and clarity of purpose Dave lived and loved all of us along the way. He loved to go on cruises. He was known to fall asleep in the sun. He rarely passed up a chance to eat ice cream. He relished summers on Bear Lake, where he and Nan bought a cottage in the early 1980s that has become a treasured family retreat. Dave was so many things to so many people, but he was loving in all things, and he was fully and joyfully loved.
At the end of his life Dave was cared for by many generous and kind people, including hospice workers who he worked alongside as a social worker. His family is deeply grateful for the wonderful care Dave received at the Genesys Hurley Cancer Center, at Regency of Grand Blanc, and from the dedicated Ascension At Home Hospice team.
Dave is survived by Nan, his loving wife of 47 years; his four children and their spouses: Kristen Rahn Thrall (Matthew), Nathan (Kristin), Paul (Jayme Boucher), and Peter (Amy); he is survived by his five grandchildren: Jorga and Henry Thrall, and Emma, Matthew, and Sophia Rahn; and by his siblings: Ted (Pat), Elizabeth Rahn Minahan (Brian), Cynthia Rahn Spears (Monroe), and Bill (Keiko). He was predeceased by both his parents, Robert and Janet (Stansell) Rahn.
A memorial service for Dave Rahn will be held when possible at Grand Blanc United Methodist Church. Donations may be made to Grand Blanc United Methodist Church and Ascension At Home Hospice. Memories of Dave are welcome on this page.
- Grand Blanc United Methodist Church
- Ascension Hospice
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
David Philip Rahn
July 31, 2020
My heart is absolutely broken to hear that Dave is gone, and I want to send my most heartfelt condolences to Nan and the rest of the Rahn family. Dave was one of the most gentle, caring, and truly funny people I ever met. He was my co-worker at Community Mental Health in Flint for several years, and his humor and wisdom kept me laughing and grounded through a lot of stressful times. He loved his family so much and spoke of them frequently. His eyes would light up whenever I inquired about them, and he'd always say "Thanks for asking!" with a big smile on his face. Then he'd tell me how they all were doing.
He also officiated at my husband's and my wedding, which gives him a really special and permanent place in our hearts. Dave was someone you could count on, and his door was always open. The world has lost a really fine human being. His life was a gift to so many, and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to know him. RIP Dave.
July 30, 2020
Dave will be greatly missed. We always had fun joking around or having a laugh with some silly thing while at work.
July 28, 2020
I worked with Dave for several years at Genesys Hospice and we had many conversations regarding our spiritual beliefs, faith, and purpose of living. I so appreciated his wisdom, sharing and quiet wit. I know he will be missed by many and remembered by many- including me!
July 26, 2020
What a lovely statement you have written for Dave - truly a wise, kind, modest, grace filled man. Fond memories of him during my time at Grand Blanc.
July 25, 2020
I was Dave’s home care nurse before I retired. He left with me a memory of how strong one can be when fighting a horrible disease. He was a great guy. My condolences to his family.
July 23, 2020
Dave was such a caring and gentle soul. I really enjoyed speaking with him at different parties celebrating his grandchildren’s birthday’s. He was also so kind and patient. My thoughts and prayers are with his son Nathan and his entire family. May he Rest In Peace!
July 23, 2020
I first met Dave at Grand Blanc UMC four years ago when I moved back to Michigan after having lived in upstate NY for the last 35 years. He was an active member of the congregation and always had wonderful things to say about my handbell choir and about my solos for the services. His sermons, when he subbed for the pastor, were always spot on and timely and showed great thought and love for his topics. He was always such a kind soul and will be greatly missed. It was my honor to meet him and know him. Big hugs to the family.
July 21, 2020
So sorry for the loss of our good friend Dave. I worked with Dave in hospice for several years. He always made me laugh when he said he was going upnorth on a visit, when he was going to Clio. I lived in Clio, so that wasn't upnorth to me. Rest in Peace my friend.