Lottie Riekehof and Assemblies of God Ministries to the Deaf

This Week in AG History — July 19, 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 27 August 2020

Lottie Riekehof (1920-2020) was an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, author, and a pioneer in the field of sign language interpreting. She is also remembered for other ministry roles she filled in her almost 100 years of life.

Lottie Louise Riekehof was born in Germany on Aug. 13, 1920. She and her family emigrated to northern New Jersey in 1923 and settled in the town of Elizabeth.

In about 1945 she started working at Calvary Gospel Church in Washington, D.C., as the overseer of a home for Christian women and also assisted the church as a musician. She began learning ASL, a few signs a week, from a deaf woman she met at Calvary Church. She attended Gallaudet College in 1947-1948 and took ASL courses from Dr. Elizabeth Peet, who was considered one of the foremost experts on sign language at that time. This enabled Riekehof to become an interpreter and interpreter educator.

Riekehof earned a B.A. degree in 1951 at Central Bible College (CBC) in Springfield, Missouri, and served as dean of women for 21 years. During this time, she founded the CBC deaf program and trained both deaf college students and interpreters. She received an M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University, where she was engaged in teaching and research at the New York University Center for Research and Training in Deafness.

In 1970 she became dean of women and professor of deaf studies at Gallaudet College. She continued as dean of women at Gallaudet until the college abolished that position in 1974. She became the new coordinator for interpreter training for the American Sign Language program at Gallaudet and later served as department chair until her retirement in 1990.

Riekehof knew that resources for learning sign language were limited, and this led her to write her first book in 1961, called American Sign Language. This book was revised in 1963 with a new title, Talk to the Deaf. Starting in 1978, it was revised again and called The Joy of Signing. Countless hours were spent illustrating and designing the book so that sign language illustrations could help people learn to sign. The book includes a wide range of vocabulary, diagrams, the history of signing, and how to produce signs, etc. That book has sold over two million copies and is still in print. A video version, which includes nine hours of footage, was also produced. Supplemental instruction is also found in two Joy of Signing puzzle books she helped to create.

Much in demand as a seminar speaker and interpreter, Lottie Riekehof conducted workshops on sign language and deaf interpreting in various places in the U.S. as well as in Canada, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and other places. She was also selected as interpreter for special occasion in Washington, D.C., such as President Gerald Ford (in the oval office), Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, Mrs. Richard Nixon, and President Ronald Reagan (at his inauguration).

Riekehof was a long-time resident of Arlington, Virginia. She worked for many years with Linda Martin, an Assemblies of God pastor who is deaf. She and Linda were founding ministers for the Potomac Deaf Church at Arlington Assembly of God in Arlington, Virginia. Linda is the adoptive mother of 29 deaf children adopted from many countries. These children and now grandchildren all considered Lottie Riekehof as their grandmother. Lottie also was a member of Arlington Assembly of God for over 50 years. She served as an organist and pianist and also as a deacon. She passed away on Aug. 6, 2020, just one week short of her 100th birthday.

Riekehof wrote an inspiring report in the Evangel which highlighted Assemblies of God deaf camps in Augusta, Kansas, and Hartford City, Indiana. She described a typical day at camp that included everything from devotions (led by counselors trained in the use of sign language), chapel services, and educational classes to Christian living courses, crafts, and recreation.

The evening worship included “singing” using sign language, with personal testimonies also given in sign language. One lady who attended the camp in Indiana testified, “I learned here that I must be born again!” A woman from Kansas wanted to attend both the Kansas and Indiana camps because, as she put it, “I was afraid I would grow cold again.”

Read “Salvation for all the Camp” on pages 12-13 of the Aug. 29, 1954, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Receive Ye the Holy Ghost,” by J. Roswell Flower

• “Revival in Chile,” by Mrs. John C. Jackson

• “Joshua’s Last Campaign,” by E. S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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