Obituary: Edwin "Ed" C. Carlson / Presbyterian pastor taught literacy in Pakistan

May 21, 1933 - June 22, 2013

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Edwin "Ed" C. Carlson, a Presbyterian pastor who spent 35 years in Pakistan teaching literacy and publishing reading material and founded the Prison AdultCare Ministry (PAC-Min) in Butler, died on Saturday. He was 80.

Mr. Carlson was born in Johnstown and went to college at Muskingum University from 1951-1956 and then attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary from 1959-1962. In between his higher education, Mr. Carlson's passion for missionary work took him to Sudan for three years to teach English at a boys school.

After Mr. Carlson returned from Sudan he enrolled in asix-month course at Missionary Orientation Center, Stony Point, NY., which was mandatory preparation for his upcoming missionary work overseas. There he met his wife of 50 years, Audrey Carlson of Butler.

At the end of training, the couple were approached and asked to go to Pakistan to publish reading material. Embracing the trip as God's will, they accepted the mission.

While in Pakistan, Mr. Carlson quickly realized that the publishing work he had traveled halfway across the world to do had a serious roadblock --the majority of the population was illiterate. Instead of abandoning his mission, Mr. Carlson took to educating Pakistani people in their native language, Urdu, which he did not speak before moving to Pakistan.

"He was always looking for solutions to problems," said Kurt Carlson, his son. "He was not a man of excuses."

Mr. Carlson taught many women to read, because educated women taught the entire family to be literate, Kurt Carlson said. While Kurt Carlson is unsure exactly how many people his father educated, he said it must have been thousands over the years.

In addition to tutoring, Mr. Carlson organized a half-hour literacy show five days a week on the only television station in Pakistan. His wife said that in the first year of the show 200,000 learners were said to have become literate by watching the television program. Mr. Carlson also completed his publishing mission and helped print religious materials, health-related information and educational books.

While in Pakistan, Mr. and Mrs. Carlson had three children: Kurt Carlson, Keith Carlson and Kathleen Carlson Ludwig. In 1998, Mr. Carlson decided to return to Butler, where his enthusiasm for service continued. Mr. Carlson founded Prison AfterCare Ministry, where he mentored prisoners and helped them make the transition back into society after they had been released.

Robert Tatsch was an inmate who Mr. Carlson helped after his release from prison. Mr. Tatsch said that without Mr. Carlson's help paying for rent, a bicycle and a phone, he would most likely have ended up back in prison.

"For a man who never met me to have the faith and trust in me and help me the way he did, he was like a father figure to me," Mr. Tatsch said. Mr. Tatsch said that he now has a job at the Butler Eagle's printing press and has decided to join PAC-Min.

Mr. Carlson also served as an interim pastor in 10 different local churches after returing to Butler.

"He was enthusiastic, outgoing," said the Rev. Mary Kitchen, pastor of both North and East Butler Presbyterian churches and PAC-Min's secretary. "He was a visionary. He dreamed big dreams."

He is survived by his wife, two sons and daughter and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at at 3 p.m. July 18 at Covenant Presbyterian church, 230 E. Jefferson St., Butler, with the Rev. James Swanson officiating.

Memorial donations may be made to the PAC-MIN Inc., P.O. Box 484, Lyndora, PA 16045.

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