OBITUARY: Carl David Thieszen

Carl David Thieszen was born July 21, 1929, on the family farm in rural Henderson, Neb. He was the second of six children of Daniel and Marie J. (Epp) Thieszen.

He died Dec. 2, 2020, at Presbyterian Manor, Newton, with his loving wife, Louise and daughter, Sharon at his side.  

Carl’s family farmed and engaged in the land leveling business in Nebraska. Their family was the first of three families to begin irrigation in the Henderson community. His early school experience was in rural School District 73 East. After attending a one-room school for eight years, Carl attended Bible School for a year before attending Henderson High School.  During his high school years, Carl participated in basketball, softball, track, student council, including president, glee club, boys’ octet, dramatics and helped lead other student organizations.  He graduated in 1948.  After high school, he worked on the family farm and helped with the land leveling business. 

Carl attended Freeman Junior College for one year before serving in the alternative Selective Service 1W Program for 27 months at the Wiltwyck School for Boys in Esopus, N.Y. At this agency, he worked with delinquent boys between the ages of eight and 12.  Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) had a long history with this agency, which did not use physical force to discipline.  After his service, Carl attended Bethel College, graduating with his Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies in 1957.  Carl was active in student leadership and council.  He also volunteered drilling water wells in Mexico.  

Following graduation, he taught elementary and secondary students in Walton.  While teaching at Walton, Carl met Louise Dick of Ruthven, Ontario, while she was completing her BS degree in social science at Bethel College.  Carl and Louise were married on Aug. 11, 1962, at the North Leamington United Mennonite Church, Leamington, Ontario, Canada.  Their first home together was in Ransom.  Carl attended Fort Hays State University and completed his Master’s Degree in Education and certificate in school administration.  During 17 years in western Kansas, Carl served the schools in Brownell, Arnold and Ransom as teacher, coach, principal and superintendent.  Carl was an active member in the First Mennonite Church of Ransom, local Lions Club and Chess and Pinochle groups.  He enjoyed the outdoors, taking his family on hiking trips to the scenic Castle Rock in the Badlands of western Kansas. 

In 1976, Carl and his family moved to Little River, where Carl was superintendent of USD-444 for 15 years.  In addition to leading the school district, Carl was active in the local Lions Club, volunteered with Mennonite Disaster Service and MCC annual relief sale. He was active with his children’s 4-H, science fair projects, sporting and extracurricular events.  During his time in Little River, Carl was an active member of the First Mennonite Church in McPherson.  In his spare time, Carl enjoyed woodworking, landscaping and beekeeping.  

In 1991, Carl and Louise retired and moved to North Newton, where they built their current home on Bluestem Court.  After a year in retirement, Carl accepted the call to serve as the principal and superintendent for the schools in Goessel for two years.  Carl’s career as an educator and facilitator of learning encompassed many changes, including school unification, full inclusion of women (Title IX) and children with disabilities (EHA; IDEA).  

During retirement, Carl gave generously of his time and talents with organizations such as Bethel College Mennonite Church, Tenth Man (now called JoinHands church building program), MCC House against Hunger, Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program, M2 Prison Visitation and local homeless shelter.  Carl’s passion for education led him to serve as a docent at Kauffman Museum and as a tour director for Prudent Tours.  Carl enjoyed biking and spending time with immediate and extended family.  Beginning in 2002 at age 73, he completed his first Biking Across Kansas ride; he continued to participate until age 83.

Carl exemplified servant leadership. Throughout his life, Carl shared his belief of redemption, mercy and grace through his actions and deeds.  While ordered and intentional, Carl addressed disciplinary issues with dialogue, teaching and kindness.  He also never stopped seeking new knowledge and greater understanding, reading, studying, listening and growing throughout his life.   

Carl’s faith was important to him, which he shared with his family through daily devotions and weekly church and Sunday School.  He would often recite Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” He enjoyed hymnal music and singing, often breaking out in song.  A few of his favorites were Shall We Gather at the RiverAmazing Grace and Praise God, from whom all blessings flow (Hymn 606).

Carl is survived by his wife, Louise (Dick) Thieszen of North Newton; son, Robert Thieszen (JoAn Waltner) of Newton and granddaughter, Maura of Overland Park; daughter, Carol Thieszen-Culp and grandsons, Jordan and Carter Culp of Sheboygan, Wis.; and daughter, Sharon Thieszen of Sheboygan, Wis.  He is also survived by his siblings, Harold (Esther) Thieszen, Rosella (John) Schwartz, Edna Galle, Marvin Thieszen and sister-in-law, Erna Thieszen.  

He is preceded in death by his infant son, Roger Thieszen; his parents; brother, Aldon Thieszen; brother-in-law, Karma Galle and sister-in-law, Shirley Thieszen.  

The family would like to give a special thank you to the staff of Presbyterian Manor and Heart and Soul Hospice for their loving and compassionate care given to Carl, a beloved husband, father and grandfather.

Carl will be interred at Bethel College Mennonite Church. A private memorial service will be held.  Plans to celebrate Carl’s life will be announced at a later date.   

Memorials in Carl’s name may be made to Mennonite Central Committee or Bethel College, in care of Petersen Funeral Home, 215 N. Main, Newton, Kan., 67114 or

As a way of continuing Carl’s legacy of care, leadership and volunteerism, we encourage everyone to find ways to continue to be more compassionate, love one another and embrace the challenge to be servant leaders in our communities.

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