He was born in a small harbor town in the Netherlands, served as an officer in the Dutch resistance movement, worked as a farmhand in Canada and finally arrived in the America of his childhood dreams to attend seminary school in Providence, R. I., where he met his Swiss wife, Margrit. He’s been mentor to the Ixan people in Guatemala, where he has traveled regularly. Still, retired Baptist minister Gerrit Buining continues to give where he lives, embracing a swirl of activities and friends of all ethnicities.

He has been happily ensconced in the rhythms and riches of St. Louis since his six daughters encouraged him into active retirement following his ministry in Des Moines, Iowa. Self-described as an ‘encourager’ and champion against loneliness, Buining turns a bright eye to the future. “It’s our nature to help others,” he says. He is a fixture at the Crown Center, where he has donated months to organizing and cataloguing its burgeoning library. “There is a great need here,” he says, mentioning his own love of reading. “And I go to lots of meetings. At first, it was to meet people; now, it’s to help others. People appreciate volunteers. It makes good relationships.”

Buining loves woodworking and keeps a scroll saw at daughter Joanna’s. He paints his animal creations…cows, zebras, dogs, lambs, in eye-popping detail and donates them to Shriners Hospital. He writes and publishes brochures on “the nature of things.” He has written a 400-page memoir intended for his family, though friends and colleagues have encouraged him to publish excerpts.

Every morning at 6 a.m. Buining rises and begins the first of the day’s three 45-minute walks. If he needs something at the store, he hikes off to Schnucks to get it. “Always, even in my ministry, I emphasized fitness,” he says. He loves the outdoors and the many cultural aspects of St. Louis, a town that has offered him all kinds of wonderful people.

His six daughters, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren keep him busy, and he speaks with his ‘girls’ every night, he reports. “I still feel I’m in my golden years.”