Welcome to the memorial page for

Reverend Dr. Emmanuel Tabelisma

July 29, 1945 ~ August 3, 2017 (age 72)

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August 6, 2017

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
O'Leary Celebration of Life Center ~ Funeral & Cremation Services
1020 Main Street
Norwalk, Iowa 50211

Prayer Service
August 6, 2017

5:00 PM
O'Leary Celebration of Life Center ~ Funeral & Cremation Services
1020 Main Street
Norwalk, Iowa 50211

Celebration of Life
August 7, 2017

10:00 AM
Norwalk United Methodist Church
1801 Sunset Drive
Norwalk, Iowa 50211

Reverend Dr. Emmanuel Alipio Tabelisma, age 72, of Norwalk, entered into rest Thursday, August 3, 2017. He was an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, serving many churches in both the Philippines and Iowa, most recently Valley UMC and Maple Grove UMC. He was District Superintendent for eight years in the Mason City district.

Visitation will begin at 3 p.m. and conclude with a prayer service at 5 p.m. Sunday, August 6th at O’Leary Funeral Services in Norwalk.  A celebration of life service will be at 10 a.m. Monday, August 7th at the Norwalk United Methodist Church.  Burial will be in the Norwalk Cemetery.  Memorials, to be designated by the family, will be accepted.

To order flowers for the service (using O'Leary's Flowers in Norwalk - no delivery fees) click the "send flowers" tab below, go to or call (515) 981-0700.


Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Tabelisma's Life Story

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Alipio Tabelisma, age 72, of Norwalk, entered into rest Aug. 3, 2017. He was born on July 29, 1945 to Jesus and Eugenia Tabelisma in Santor, Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. He was the eldest of six siblings: a strong-willed child, and a good “Kuya” (eldest brother). One sister, Ruth, died as a child, in his arms after he carried her to another village seeking medical care.

Emmanuel’s parents were committed to their children’s academic and spiritual education. At the age of seventeen, he began his career in ministry. He started in small congregations, sometimes receiving his salary in the form of chicken, rice, and vegetables. After high school, he continued to Wesleyan University in Cabanatuan City, earning his B.A. cum laude in History.

In 1969, Emmanuel was ordained a Deacon in The United Methodist Church. He attended Union Theological Seminary in Dasmariñas, Cavite, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree, magna cum laude. While a pastor at Bocaue UMC during seminary, he fell in love with Lucy Palileo. They married on Dec. 20, 1972.

In 1976, Emmanuel was ordained an Elder, then attended Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. He was awarded a full scholarship but arrived in the U.S. with twenty dollars to his name. He earned money by washing dishes and waiting tables. After seven months, he had enough to pay for Lucy’s transportation. They began their life together in America.

He earned a Master of Theology from Princeton in 1978, then worked as a hospital chaplain in St. Joseph, Missouri, where their daughter Emmylou was born in 1978.

In 1979, the Tabelismas came to Iowa. Over thirty five years, Emmanuel served the churches of Menlo-Jefferson Center, Bedford-Gravity, Dunlap-Dow City, Audubon, Montezuma, West Des Moines Valley, Ottumwa, Grimes, Norwalk, Maple Grove, and District Superintendent in the “Promised Land” of Mason City. In 1987, he earned his Doctorate of Ministry from St. Paul School of Theology.

Many people were touched by Emmanuel’s wise leadership, generosity, and unfailingly positive encouragement. Emmanuel treated each person he met as “the most wonderful person in the world”.

As a grandfather, a Lolo, he lavished attention, food, and gifts on his two granddaughters, Anyssa and Aidyn. He loved to gather with friends and family to share food, laughter, and stories. Fishing, gardening, and travel were favorite pastimes.

The first of his family to emigrate to the U.S., Emmanuel eventually brought all his siblings to Iowa. Though he only visited the Philippines twice since leaving, his support of extended family there changed the course of many lives.

He was a loving pastor, husband, father, Kuya, and Lolo. He embraced life, but after a long battle with cancer, he told his family he was “ready to go home and see what the Lord had in store for him next.”

Emmanuel was preceded in death by his father Jesus, his mother Eugenia, and his sister Ruth. He is survived by his wife Lucy; daughter Emmylou (Courtney) Ball; granddaughters Anyssa and Aidyn Ball; and siblings: Levi (Victorio, Jr.) Noveras, Nathanael (Rebecca) Tabelisma, Exequiel (Rose) Tabelisma, and Abel (Larry) Mendoza. He also leaves behind many nieces and nephews.

He will be missed and remembered with love by many friends, family, and colleagues in ministry.  

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