NEWTON—Clara Unruh Penner, 95, died Nov. 29, 2020, at Bethesda Home, Goessel.
Clara was born Oct. 17, 1925, the 16th child of Cornelius and Adena (Becker) Unruh, Halstead. A child had died in infancy earlier in the family, and the 17th child born to the family died in infancy, leaving Clara the youngest of 15 living children. She grew up on the family farm near Halstead. Her parents died in 1941 and 1942. In her younger years, Clara worked cleaning houses until she got a job with Boeing in Wichita. She traveled to Wichita every day with a couple of her sisters to work at Boeing as sort of “Rosy the Riveters.” At the end of World War II, she left Boeing and worked at a dry cleaner and as a waitress. It was waiting tables where she met her husband, Benjamin F. Penner. They married Feb. 1, 1948, at First Mennonite Church in Newton. They had one daughter, Monica.
Clara and Ben worked hard, and eventually they established their own pest-control business. Clara helped with the business with scheduling jobs and taking care of the books. She balanced this work with raising Monica, of course, but also tending to a big garden. Clara and Ben both came from big families, and their social lives included visits and vacations with family members.
Clara was a member of Grace Hill Mennonite Church, Whitewater. She and Ben spent many years on the Grace Hill Social Committee, serving at numerous weddings and funerals.
Ben died May 6, 2000. Clara was working at the time as a cook in a local restaurant, going to work early in the morning. Ben always took her to work because Clara had never learned to drive. She decided at age 75 that she should learn to drive and buy a car. For the next 15 years, she found that she loved to drive and loved the independence it gave her. For 2-1/2 years, she worked with her grandson, Ben Lichti, in a restaurant in Newton that Ben owned. After the restaurant closed, Clara went to work as a baker for Prairie Harvest (now Prairy) in Newton.
Clara was not formally educated, but she was meticulous in all aspects of her life, and she lived a rich, full life.
She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Ben; and all her siblings and their spouses, Susie (Sam) Smith; Abraham (Alice) Unruh; Adolph (died in infancy); David (Lena) Unruh; Lydia (Ben) Schmidt; Malinda (Lewis) Koehn; Jacob (Caroline) Unruh; Elizabeth (Irvin) Schmidt; Nina (Elmer) Unruh; Inez (Clifford) Friesen; Marcus (Eva) Unruh; Pearl (Albert) Kater; Cornelius (Alice) Unruh; Sarah (Fred) Croy; Raymond (Eunice) Unruh; Vernon (died in infancy).
She leaves her daughter, Monica Lichti, and Monica’s husband Marlin; her granddaughter, Suzanne Burch, and her husband Brad; her grandson, Benjamin Lichti; granddaughters Lucy and Faith Burch; and many nieces and nephews.
Clara was a resident at Bethesda Home only the last five days. Until then, she had lived in her own home. We thank Bethesda Home for the kind attention they gave her during her last five days. Thank you also to Newton Home Health Care Services, Meals on Wheels and Good Shepherd Hospice for all the kindness shown to my mom, Clara.
A private burial service with just the family present will be at Grace Hill Mennonite Church Cemetery.
Memorials are suggested for Meals on Wheels and Good Shepherd Hospice, contributions may be sent to Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, 120 E. Broadway, Newton, KS, 67114.
At her passing, a prayer was read at Bethesda Home, titled, “We Remember You” by Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer, from a Hebrew book of prayer. The last lines are: “So long as we live; You too shall live; For you are a part of us; and we remember you.”
Condolences may be left at www.broadwaycolonialfh.com.
Arrangements are by Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, Newton.