Marilee Risser
Marilee Risser

Marilee Risser, an ordained Foursquare minister and the wife of former Foursquare President Paul Risser, went to be with the Lord yesterday. She was 88 years old. A noted teacher, speaker and pivotal figure in the denomination, she played a key role in her late husband’s presidency from 1998 to 2004.

Marilee Risser was a shining example of faithfulness, always turning to prayer to guide her actions and decisions and to intercede for others,” recalls President Randy Remington. “Her compassion knew no bounds, as she tirelessly cared for others, offering a helping hand and a listening ear to those in need. Her legacy will be one of love and selflessness, reminding us all of the power of kindness and the importance of being there for one another.”

Marilee was the daughter of longtime pastors and denominational leaders Dr. and Mrs. Craig Bigg. Her father served as supervisor of the former South Central District from 1957 to 1974.

Born on Jan. 3, 1935, Marilee was a graduate of Topeka High School in Topeka, Kan., and LIFE Bible College (now called Life Pacific University) in Southern California. She later attended classes at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

Marilee met Paul Risser at LIFE and became his lifelong partner in marriage and ministry. The couple had three sons, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

After they married and graduated from LIFE in 1959, Marilee and Paul moved to Lynwood, Calif., where he was appointed minister of youth at Lynwood Foursquare Church. In 1962,  the Rissers moved to Brownfield, Texas, after accepting the call to pastor Brownfield Foursquare Church. They spent a decade there and led the West Texas congregation through a notable growth phase.

“For as long as I’ve known Paul and Marilee Risser, they have been hosting international guests,” adds Ted Vail, D.I.S., senior vice president of global operations. “Marilee was so adept and engaging to people from all over the world. She picked up on things quickly and loved people from everywhere. This went beyond a gift that she had to an actual grace and anointing on her life. Everyone felt special around her.”

Next, the couple returned to Southern California to pastor Florence Avenue Foursquare Church in Santa Fe Springs from 1972 to 1998. The church grew from 200 to 2,000 during their tenure. When Paul left the pulpit to take the reins of the Foursquare presidency for six years, their son, Terry, replaced him. However, they remained active in the church, with Marilee continuing to teach a Sunday school class at Florence Avenue for many years.

“Debbie and I loved Marilee Risser,” says former Foursquare President Glenn Burris Jr. “She had a pure heart, an infectious smile and a godly demeanor. She was a woman who had a deep well of character and compassion. She was a sweet soul that exuded the love of Jesus to everyone she encountered.”

She also played an active role during her husband’s presidency, maintaining an office at Foursquare’s central office in Los Angeles. That continued a practice that originated with Doris Holland, the spouse of former President John Holland.

“Marilee was very active in every church they served as a teacher, pastor’s wife and vocal supporter of the work,” says Sterling Brackett, Foursquare’s former vice president of corporate affairs. “If you try to give her a title for what she did here during Paul’s presidency, it almost sounds mundane, but it was pivotal and very much contributed to his service of the denomination. She was a woman of grace, and she loved the church.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Foursquare Missions Press in honor of Marilee Risser.

is a freelance writer and book editor in Huntington, W.Va.