Category Archives: Tributes in Memoriam

Tribute to Orville Schmidt

From those energizing days in the European Pax office at Mennoniten Haus,  Kaiserslautern, Germany, both of us trying to keep up with new ideas and initiatives of Director Dwight Wiebe, to a later summer toiling together on the Schmidt family farm near Freeman, SD, while rooting for the ol’ Brooklyn Dodgers; then, after exchanging/sharing the role of wedding attendant,  those decades of his insistent plans to help keep Pax “alive”– with the Pax Program Committee, the 50th Anniversary Reunion, the ’03 European tour, etc. — he kept pulling me in.  His love of music included playing the piano, but who knew?  He continued contact with everyone via real mail — email “isn’t personal.”   And I’ll close with the fact that  I never knew anyone daring to challenge Orv in a typing race!                                                  –Arlo Kasper   [Please add comment below, or send to akasper@bethelks.edu for adding here.]

Obituary for Orville D. Schmidt

Orville D. Schmidt, 86, Wakarusa, IN, formerly of Freeman, South Dakota, died 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020 at his home. He was born May 25, 1933, to Sam J. & Marie P. (Tieszen) Schmidt. On Aug. 18, 1963, he married Sandra (Kroeker) Schmidt.
Surviving are his wife, Sandra, Wakarusa, children, Larissa Hunsberger, Lincoln, Nebraska, Catherine (Jeff) Krehbiel, Rose Hill, Kansas, 2 grandchildren, Erica & Ian Hunsberger, siblings, Allen (Mary) Schmidt, Freeman, South Dakota, Fyrne (Robert) Schlenker, South Dakota and sister-in-law, Diena Schmidt, Henderson, Nebraska.
Preceding him in death are his parents and a brother, Gordon Schmidt.
Orville was a farmer and taught history in Henderson, Nebraska and Metuchen, New Jersey. He was a member of Evangelical Mennonite Brethren, South Dakota and a member of the Pax Program Committee.
Orville spent his younger years on a farm near Freeman, South Dakota. He graduated from Freeman Academy and attended Freeman Junior College where he received his AA degree transferring to Bethel College in Kansas to finish his Bachelor’s Degree. Orville often spoke of teachers at the Freeman schools and Bethel College who had an impact on his life. A very major influence was his time spent in Europe as a “Paxman” from 1955-1957 and the following year as a student in Wuppertal, Germany. A trip to Moscow to participate in the  7th International Youth Festival was also very inspirational. These experiences changed his Life View dramatically. The Pax experience was so strong that he organized with others a pax tour reunion in 2003. A video of the history of the program was made during that reunion.
He returned to the states and began studies at the University of Chicago in Renaissance History. He took a job at Henderson High School teaching History and English and directing the school plays. There he met his future wife Sandra. After marriage the couple moved to New Jersey where Orville taught a course in Western Civilization at Metuchen High School while Sandra finished her MM degree. Together, they spend 3 years in Austria studying, traveling, learning German and enjoying new cultural experiences.
After 3 years in Europe the couple returned to Chicago and Orville once more enrolled at the University of Chicago and began studies in Medieval history and architecture. During these years two daughters were born – Larissa and Catherine. A move to Wakarusa, Indiana closed the Chicago studies phase.
Orville was attracted to farming by his brother, Gordon, and land was purchased in the Tilden Nebraska area. A close relationship developed between Orville and the farm manager, Randy Score. Together they planned and implemented the operation until Randy’s unexpected death. Orville did not feel he wanted to work with anyone else so the land was sold.
Orville was an interesting mix of interests – farmer as well as intellectual pursuits – and he retained an avid interest in both areas for most of his life.
In his last years he returned to his reading and writing interests until his health no longer allowed him to continue. His mind remained active and his love of music helped him weather the final days of disability.
Funeral services will be 1:30 p.m. February 8, 20020 at Walter Funeral Home, Freeman, South Dakota. Burial will be in Schartner Mennonite Cemetery, Rural Marion, South Dakota. Memorial donations may be directed to Mennonite Central Committee.
Online condolences may be sent at www.rrefh.com

 

Tribute to David Kulp

by Henry Fast

It must be 53 years ago since I last met David Kulp; that would be in 1962. We were part of a group on tour of the Holy Lands including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel, with Italy and Greece tacked on for good measure. We were all volunteers of the Pax program working in Europe under Mennonite Central Committee.

When I heard from another Pax man friend this past August that Dave had asked about me, I sent him a short note asking what he had done in the ensuing years and telling him a bit about my life. Dave then called me by phone, since because of his macular degeneration, he found it easier to talk than to type on the computer. We had a nice chat. He requested a copy of my book which I happily sent him and which was read to him by his wife, Ruth Ann.  (Where the Pavement Ends: (Mis)Adventures in International Rural Development, Henry Fast, 2013.)

Besides failing eyesight, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer on April 20th, 2015. After fighting the cancer with chemotherapy, Dave passed away on October 11, just one month ago at the age of 75. He had three sisters, two sons, one daughter and seven grandchildren, of whom one 12-year-old granddaughter died three years ago after surgery to correct chronic epilepsy. Dave and his wife resided in Pottstown, PA, about 60 kms. northwest of Philadelphia.

I didn’t get to know him that well having spent only a few weeks together in the same place along with other guys—firstly for two weeks at orientation in Akron, PA, then onboard the ship crossing the Atlantic, at the work unit in Salzburg, Austria for ten days before I left for Greece and, finally, on the Holy Land tour. I just remember him as a tall lanky guy who was always out-going and who loved to joke around. For some reason one little incident has stuck in my mind which I thought was rather funny. It was during orientation in Akron that also included several young ladies preparing for various kinds of volunteer assignments. It seems to me us guys were housed on the second floor of the dormitory. Dave was standing at the window looking out when he saw some of those women walking nearby. He opened wide his arms and exclaimed, “Here I am you lucky girls!” Of course, they couldn’t hear him and I doubt they even noticed him in the window, but there was Dave just being himself.

A couple of weeks ago, Dave’s sister Rachel contacted me saying that she had borrowed my book from her brother and now would like to buy one for herself. She, too, has macular degeneration. Both she and Dave’s wife Ruth Ann commented that Dave had been so impressed with my international work that, as a long-haul truck driver all his life, he now questioned whether he had done anything of value with his life. He said, “what did I do to make a difference in the world.”   His wife said she tried to assure him that, besides providing well for his family, he had impacted a host of friends in the community, in church and among his truck-driving colleagues. He loved attending reunions with his former Pax friends whenever possible.

I responded in an email saying that I was sorry that my book had caused Dave to question his own life’s work. Besides his positive affect on family and friends, I wrote that one legacy they could all be proud of (including his children & grandchildren) is that Dave declared himself as a conscientious objector and chose PAX as an alternative avenue of service to military conscription. I’m sure the houses and community infrastructure he helped build was much appreciated by the victims of war and that it was also a life-changing experience for him personally, as it was for all other Pax men.

I find it interesting that former Pax men still feel some kind of bond with each other all these years later. For example, a good number of Pax men from as far away as Ontario attended Dave’s memorial service. And at the end of August last, a few of us organized a one-day reunion of all Manitoba “Pax boys”, as we were affectionately known, to hear each other’s stories. Fifteen guys, now grey-haired or bald, and their spouses showed up for the event.

On this Remembrance Day, it is fitting that we remember and honour our war veterans. As a Pax man, I like to think of ourselves as peace veterans. MCC’s Remembrance Day button says, “to remember is to work for peace.”