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Laverne Rutschman

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Laverne Rutschman

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Laverne Rutschman, 98, retired Mennonite Mission worker and theology professor, died March 21, 2018. He was born on March 31, 1919, in Newton, Kan., and was brought up on a farm near Elbing, Kan. He graduated from Whitewater (Kan.) High School in 1936. On May 31, 1937, two brothers, Orrin and Pete, lost their lives in an automobile accident while en route to sing for a college commencement service in Tennessee. Because of this loss, he felt the call of God to prepare for Christian service, an effort to continue their work. 

He graduated from The Bible Institute of Los Angeles in 1941, followed by one year at Bethel College. While at Wheaton College from 1942 to 1944, he discovered the richness of his Anabaptist heritage and decided to work with the Mennonite Church. He graduated from Wheaton with a B.A. in anthropology in January of 1944, spent a term at the University of Chicago, a year at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and two years at Bethany Seminary in Chicago, graduating with an M.R.E. in 1946 and a B.D. in 1947.

He married Harriet Fischbach in 1946. They worked in the Comins Mennonite Church in Michigan for one year before beginning their lifework under the Board of Missions (Commission on Overseas Mission). Their first assignment took them to the recently established Mennonite Mission in Colombia from 1948 to 1955. During this time they had five children: David, Robert, Thomas, Ruth and Richard (twins). In 1955  they joined Mennonite Theological Seminary in Montevideo, Uruguay, where Laverne taught theology and Old Testament and served as dean.

Four years later he enrolled in the Southern California School of Theology in Claremont, earning a doctorate in 1962. During the last year of their stay in California, he was part time interim pastor of the First Mennonite Church of Upland.

After returning to the Uruguayan assignment in January of 1969 the family of seven purchased a 1930 Model A Ford in Argentina which they drove to the States, arriving in Newton after a trip that lasted nearly 10 weeks. The following five years they taught at the Freeman (S.D.) Junior College and Academy. In the fall of 1974, they returned to South America to work with the Mennonite Churches in Bolivia. They also taught in the Baptist Seminary in Cochabamba and the Latin American Biblical Seminary.

In 1983 they returned to Colombia working with the Presbyterian seminary and local churches. Their final two years in Latin America, 1986 and 1987, found them in the Biblical Seminary in Costa Rica.  After retirement in the fall of 1987, Harriet and Laverne became charter members of the Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kan., and enjoyed riding their tandem bicycle daily for many years.

He will be greatly missed by his children and their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His children and spouses are: David Rutschman and Marj Byler, Robert Rutschman and Elise Renault, Tom and Disa Rutschman, Richard Rutschman and Peg Dublin, Ruth Rutschman Holliday and Robert Holliday.

Laverne was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Harriet (Fischbach), as well as his parents Elise (Zuercher) and David Henry Rutschman, his siblings and their spouses: Evelyn (Fred Langenegger), Waldo (Vera Stuart), Orrin (Helen Evelyn Peterson), Henry (Frances Stuart), Pete, and Jeannette (Frank Isaac) and one granddaughter, Christy Rutschman.

A graveside service was held Saturday, March 31, at the Swiss Mennonite Church Cemetery near Whitewater followed by a memorial service at the Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kan.