OBITUARY: Louise Irene (Duerksen) Koehn

Louise Irene (Duerksen) Koehn was born May 26, 1921, near Inman to David Rose Duerksen and Marie Wiens Duerksen. She died Aug. 31, 2021 in health care at the Kidron-Bethel retirement community in North Newton. She was 100 years old. Louise married Earl Dwain Koehn, originally from Pawnee Rock, in the Bethel College Mennonite Church in 1950. Earl died in 2007. They designed and built a family home in North Newton in 1953. They resided there until 1995, when they moved into an apartment at Kidron-Bethel.

Louise and Earl have three sons. Dennis lives in Chicago, Ill., David in Fort Bragg, Calif., and Brent in Elkhart, Ind. She will also be missed by three grandchildren, Rosabeth Koehn, St. Louis, Mo., Emily Koehn, Petaluma, Calif., and Timothy Koehn, Oakland, Calif. Louise was preceded in death by her three younger sisters, Viola Ediger (2015), Elda Duerksen (1953), and Darlene Goertz (2015).

For many years, Louise was an active member of the Bethel College Mennonite Church. She served as the congregation’s first female deacon. She also had a love of classical music, being inspired by a grade school teacher. One of Louise’s roles in the Duerksen family was seamstress; she had a life-long love of sewing.

Louise graduated from Bethel College in 1944 and returned to the college in 1947 to serve as Director of Food Service. She fed thousands at the Mennonite World Conference hosted by the college in 1947. Louise was a decisive administrator, purchasing 400 wooden chairs at one dollar apiece for the college dining hall from the Newton Ripley Hotel. In 1952, she resigned from Bethel to devote herself to raising her sons. She became their chief taxi driver using a Chevy station wagon. Around 1954, Louise renegotiated parenting responsibilities with Earl. She joined a home economics club, a reading club and a child study club. In 1963, she began training to become a librarian. She served in that profession at Walton Grade School for four years and then for 21 years at Bethel College, where she retired in 1986.

Louise and Earl enjoyed international travel. They visited Japan, India, South America, Africa and Europe. Family vacations are a memorable part of the Koehn family history, especially a six-week camping trip to Alaska in 1965. The family had a Christmas vacation in Hawaii in 1985, where David was employed with an insurance company. Louise and Earl spent time in their first decade of retirement driving on road trips to visit family in Indiana, California and Texas. Earl and Louise celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a family cruise off the west coast of Mexico in 2000.

The memorial service for Louise Koehn will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at Bethel College Mennonite Church.

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