OBITUARY: Gladys Ruth (Heppner) Thiessen

Gladys Ruth (Heppner) Thiessen was born June 3, 1928, and died Aug. 30, 2023.

In her own words:

“I was born near Lostwood, North Dakota, and raised in the Alsen/Munich, North Dakota, area. My family farmed near Lostwood, not far from the Canadian border in the northwestern part of the state, and moved to the northeastern part of the state near Alsen while a young girl. The winters were very cold and harsh, but we had beautiful summers.

“I was told mine was a home birth. I arrived on a Sunday morning at 11 a.m. June 3, 1928. My mother’s brother and his bride had chosen June 3, 1928, for their wedding day. Weddings in those days were performed with the morning church service. I can only imagine my grandmother helping with my birth in the morning and with the wedding festivities in the afternoon and evening—a very full day for her.

“When I was 9 years old, our family moved eastward about 150 miles to the Alsen/Munich area, where I attended the local schools and the Salem Mennonite Church. It was just understood that we would never marry someone outside of our social and church fellowship. Some of our friends were also from a German background, either from the German Lutheran Church or the Norwegian Lutheran Church.

“My parents enjoyed listening to the Charles Fuller radio program. One evening, while I was in bed, I heard the radio music playing “Just As I Am I Come to Thee,” and I prayed, “Lord, I’m coming.” I had a born-again experience and began reading my Bible. I attended Grace Bible Institute for one year, and then married the love of my life, James, when I was 19 years old.

“We felt called into the ministry and served the Lord for almost 13 years with the Go Ye Mission in the eastern part of Oklahoma. Then, in 1966, we felt called to Berean Academy in Elbing, Kansas, and served there for 28 years.

“We have five children, and with their spouses makes 10 children. We also have 10 grandchildren, and most are married. They say one plus one equals two, but we are now 45 individuals, including me (at the time of this writing). Each one is so precious and capable.

“My prayer for all of us is to put Jesus first in our lives and give Him all the glory. (Matthew 6:33) ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.'”

Gladys leaves behind five children and their spouses, Karen and Irv Busenitz of Valencia, Calif., Kerwin (KT) and Julie Thiessen of Bel Aire, Korrene and Michael Keenan of Houston, Keith and Deb Thiessen of Papillion, Neb., and Ken and Marchel Thiessen of Valley Center; 10 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; two sisters: June (Heppner) Janzen of Rapid City, S.D., and Bernice (Heppner) Janzen of Littleton, Colo.; and one brother: Arnold Heppner of Alsen, N.D.

Gladys was preceded in death by her husband, James; parents, David and Sarah Heppner; an infant sister, Delores; brothers-in-law, Arnold Janzen and Orval Janzen; and sister-in-law, Leona (Janzen) Heppner.

Special thanks to all the wonderful caregivers at Kidron Bethel Village who have given their love and compassion to our parents, James & Gladys, in their final years, and to the many friends at Berean Academy and Whitewater Community Church since 1966.

Visitation was from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3, at Petersen Funeral Home. Memorial contributions in Gladys’s name may be made to Berean Academy or Kidron Bethel Village and left in care of Petersen Funeral Home.


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