The Rev. Mark Weber is shepherding a grieving flock.
People in Cedar Bluffs are stunned by the death of a woman described as sweet, kind and caring.
Tammy S. Sukstorf, 52, of rural Cedar Bluffs was last seen at about 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Her vehicle was found a few miles from home with her personal belongings inside and the Saunders County Sheriff’s Office asked for help to find the missing woman.
The sheriff’s department, Cedar Bluffs Fire Department, Nebraska State Patrol helicopter and Civil Air Patrol conducted searches of the area. Family members organized a group to search local fields. Dogs from a nonprofit search group were brought in as well.
Her body was found Sunday night in rural Saunders County.
People who knew the friendly, second-grade teacher are mourning.
That includes those who are part of St. Matthew’s, where Sukstorf has long been a member.
“You just feel for the family — the pain they have. You never expect something like this,” said Weber, pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Cedar Bluffs.
Yet amid the deep heartache, Weber sees hope and says the church will rally around the family, which includes Sukstorf’s husband, Chad, and their children, Maverick and Kalley.
Weber has good memories of the local woman.
“She was a warm, caring person and involved in things here (at the church),” he said. “I had her kids in confirmation class, great kids. She was a very good mother to them. She taught school here at Cedar Bluffs and was a loved teacher. The kids loved her and she loved her kids.”
Weber recalled her upbeat attitude.
“She always had a sunny disposition, always cheery and bright,” he said.
Tom Kruse, the church council president, grew up not far from where the Sukstorf family lives.
“I’ve known the family my entire life,” Kruse said. “You couldn’t ask for better people.”
Kruse speaks highly of the area woman.
“She was a sweet, sweet lady,” he said. “Everything she did, she did right. She was that type of person — if you needed a friend, she was there.”
Information on the Cedar Bluffs Public Schools website states that Sukstorf had taught at the elementary school there since 1994.
“The kids loved her and the teachers loved her and the aides loved her and, as a former member of the board, we loved her, too, because she did her job and she did it very well,” Kruse said.
Kruse recalled when he heard the heart-wrenching news that Sukstorf was missing.
He’d hoped for a much different outcome.
Weber first heard of Sukstorf’s disappearance when a church member came to him with the news on Saturday afternoon.
“Right away, we started praying for her — that she could be found and be united with her family,” he said.
Weber said he heard that 300 people were searching for Sukstorf.
“It really showed how much the community cared,” he said.
Church members prayed for Sukstorf on Sunday morning.
“I think most everybody in the congregation knew about it by then,” Weber said.
Weber needed to be at two ordination-installation services that afternoon, one at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Wahoo and the other at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in North Bend.
When he returned home, Weber learned Sukstorf’s body had been found.
“Your heart just breaks for the family, because they’ve had a lot of tragedies in the past,” he said.
Chad’s father, Ronald L. Sukstorf, 76, died in June. He was a member and elder at St. Matthew. Tribune archives also record that one of Chad’s brothers, Cole, was 21 years old when he died in October 2006 from a motor vehicle accident.
Weber was scheduled to meet with family on Monday afternoon to make funeral arrangements for Tammy Sukstorf.
In the days ahead, Weber will be with the family.
How does a church respond to such a loss?
“We respond with prayer and being there for the family and being encouraging and comforting,” Weber said. “We look to the Lord first for our comfort, but second comes church and family and a church family.”
Weber said the church will do what it can to help the family.
Kruse expressed similar thoughts.
“The church will be there for them no matter what they need. Everybody’s always really good about stepping up,” Kruse said.
Weber said a funeral for Sukstorf will take place at the church. People will come to provide their support. He believes people will provide food and spend time with family members.
“You don’t have to really talk or say much, if you just sit with them and show that you care. It’s those little things you do that mean a lot,” Weber said.
He noted that congregants are good about praying and giving comfort and many are related, which adds to the sense of family.
Weber will continue to guide his flock toward God.
“Put your trust in the Lord; Look to him in all things, because that’s where true comfort and peace come from — God will bring that comfort to you,” Weber said. “It may take a while and it will be hard, but in Christ we have hope. We have that hope and the fact that Tammy’s in heaven eases that sting of death.”