OBITUARY: Keith Sprunger

Keith Sprunger, 87, of North Newton died on April 24, 2022, at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita following a winter of declining physical health.

Keith LaVerne Sprunger was born March 16, 1935, in Berne, Ind., to Arley and Lillian (Mettler) Sprunger. Upon confession of faith, he was baptized as a member of First Mennonite Church of Berne.

He was educated at Wheaton College (Illinois) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning a Ph.D. in history in 1963.

In 1959, Keith married Aldine Mary Slagell, and they had three children, all of whom became college professors.

He taught history at Bethel College (North Newton) for 38 years, earning multiple national and institutional awards for his teaching and scholarship. Thousands of students took his History of Civilization classes, featuring lively lectures illustrated from an extensive personal slide library. His travel seminars to the Soviet Union and European capitals brought history alive for many students regardless of major. He retired from full-time teaching in 2001.

A prolific scholar, he published five books and more than 25 scholarly articles. His academic interests centered on English Puritans in the Netherlands, printing history, church architecture and Mennonite studies. During his last weeks at home, he was completing final revisions on yet another publication.

Dedicated to local history, he was active in organizations that promoted history to wider audiences, including the Harvey County Historical Society and Kauffman Museum. He wrote institutional histories of Bethel College and Bethel College Mennonite Church. Wanting to know his community from the inside out, he and Aldine systematically walked every block of every street in Newton and North Newton, not once but almost three times.

Keith and Aldine also enjoyed travelling. Exploring the small roads and towns of Kansas was an annual tradition. They traveled extensively in Europe—most recently to Sicily in 2017—and also enjoyed trips to Hong Kong and Morocco. On sabbaticals from Keith’s teaching, the family lived in Amsterdam and London. Other hobbies included collecting books, reading, gardening and socializing with friends.

He is survived by Aldine, his wife of almost 63 years; three children; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandson. Childrenare David (Charlotte Siemens) Sprunger, North Newton; Mary (Rachid Nouri) Sprunger, Harrisonburg, Va.; and Philip (Elizabeth Yoder) Sprunger, Williamsport, Pa. Grandchildren are Samuel (Elise) Sprunger, Maple Grove, Minn.; Jacob (Alžběta Lutzká) Sprunger, Hustopeče, Czech Republic; Anna Sprunger, Middleton, Wis.; Abraham Nouri, New York, N.Y; Emma Nouri, Chicago, Ill.; Sophia Sprunger, Williamsport; and Benjamin Sprunger, Williamsport. Great-grandson is Harvey Sprunger, Maple Grove.

He was predeceased by his parents and siblings: Ardus Gene (Lauren) Sprunger and Hugh David (Janet) Sprunger.

Visitation will be from 5 to 9 p.m. May 6 at Petersen Funeral Home in Newton. A memorial service will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 7, at Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton, with a live streaming option. Interment will be at Greenwood Cemetery in a private ceremony prior to the memorial service.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to Bethel College or Bethel College Mennonite Church.




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