ABERDEEN, S.D. — Funeral services will be Wednesday, Dec. 23, for the down-home, longtime pastor who has been preaching on more than 100 television stations around the region and the world each Sunday morning.
The funeral for Pastor Harold Salem will be at 10:30 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Aberdeen, S.D., and livestreamed on the Christian Worship Hour web page (www.christianworshiphour.com) and its Facebook page.
He died Friday, Dec. 18, in Aberdeen at age 99 surrounded by his family.
Despite Salem's passing, Christian Worship Hour President Bill Edwards said it won't be the end of the ministry as they plan to continue to show previously recorded sermons by Salem for as long as people desire.
"A lot of viewers are distraught, especially in the region," Edwards said. "But we want people to celebrate pastor's life. I don't think you could have scripted a better life for a man."
Carried on 13 television stations throughout North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, the Christian Worship Hour service and also a half-hour show were produced from studios in Aberdeen.
Salem was known for his selfless spirit, kind words, sense of humor, impeccable memory, sharp mind and boundless energy.
"Pastor had this magnetism about him. Everybody loved him and he loved everybody," Edwards said. "He had such a simple, understandable way of presenting the Gospel. He often described himself as a simple farm boy. But his mind was amazing, as he could remember names, faces and people."
Salem first joined the ministry at the age of 23 at First Baptist Church in Belle Fourche, S.D., in the Black Hills, his home church, where he served for about 13 years.
He then moved to Aberdeen, where he preached for 52 years as pastor at First Baptist Church starting in 1958.
In 2010, he resigned from the Aberdeen church to commit full time to the Christian Worship Hour, which he originally founded in 1979 and started on a single TV station, KABY-TV in Aberdeen.
Salem was the author of three books and the subject of one documentary, "Heart of a Shepherd," produced in 2018 to document his life.
He said in a 2018 interview with Forum News Service that he would retire “three days before his funeral.”
Edwards said he was pretty close to that number as he went into the hospital on Dec. 3, was talking about plans to his staff on Dec. 8 and was feeling pretty good. He died 10 days later.
The pastor joked in the interview that he wanted to preach until three days before his funeral "to give people a little time to get ready."
The hourlong weekly program, which simply includes a sermon by Salem and a few worship songs, had been recorded every other Saturday morning at the KABY-TV station in Aberdeen, where the barebones background set is found.
Edwards said they had been recording two programs at a time about six weeks in advance. Salem also did two half-hour shows on the other Saturdays that other television and radio stations want.
The program reaches homes across the world via TV, radio and the internet. In addition, Salem reaches remote parts of the world — or 90% of it, as he said — through a shortwave radio that allows people in those areas to hear his sermons.
Salem is survived by two daughters, two sons, three brothers and one sister. He has 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Beulah, who died on Christmas Eve in 2005.