OBITUARY: Howard Christian Birky

Howard Christian Birky, 81, passed away Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, at Schowalter Villa, Hesston.

Howard was born to Harvey Christian and Prudence (Habegger) Birky on Jan. 27, 1941, in Goshen, Ind. His sister, Grace (Birky) Busenitz, was his only sibling, born three years earlier. Howard’s childhood years were spent living in Illinois and Indiana, and then Florida and Alabama where his parents served with the Children’s Bible Mission. During these years, Howard realized his need for forgiveness of sin and trusted Jesus as his Savior.

Howard attended high school at Ben Lippen, a Christian boarding school in Asheville, N.C., and graduated from Bethany Christian High School, Goshen, Indiana, in 1959.  Howard attended Goshen College for three years and then transferred to Grace University, Omaha, Neb., graduating with a B.A. degree in 1965.

Howard and Anna Beth (Unruh) were married June 25, 1966, in Hesston. Immediately they entered Mennonite Voluntary Service where they served 18 months in Marlboro, Alberta, Canada, supporting the local church program in a Metis Indian village and were active in community development.  After completing their voluntary service assignment in Corpus Christi, Texas, they studied at the Spanish language school in Edinburg, Texas, and assumed leadership responsibilities in a Spanish mission church in Premont, Texas. During this time, their daughter Mary was born.

In early 1973, Howard entered training with Provident Bookstore in Lancaster, Pa., for seven months, and their daughter Elisabeth was born. Howard worked at Provident Bookstore in Goshen, Ind., and later as a graphic arts buyer at Scripture Press in Wheaton, Ill., an organization producing Christian curriculum materials. During this time, Sara, Hannah and John joined the family.

In the early 1980s, Howard and Anna Beth moved to central Kansas to be closer to relatives.  The Birky family lived in Hesston  for six years. Howard taught two years at Newton Bible Christian School, and then worked at King Construction and later AGCO, from which he retired in 2010. During his early retirement, he had several surgeries. He recovered to the extent that he could still do outdoor work, which he enjoyed so much. Howard’s dream to have “a place in the country” came true when the family purchased and moved into the Unruh family home place near Goessel. He thoroughly enjoyed working outside on the three acres. He has left his imprint on the home place, lived in for more than 33 years.

Howard enjoyed other interests as well, encouraging and facilitating men’s ministry activities in the churches attended. He also thoroughly enjoyed serving as a board member of Goessel’s Mennonite Heritage & Agricultural Museum for a number of years. Howard was faithful to his family, his church and his Lord Jesus.

Preceding Howard in death were his parents, Harvey and Prudence Birky; sister, Grace Busenitz; and brothers-in-law, Bob and Jim Unruh.

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