Willie (William or Bill) Regehr was born near Inman on Jan. 11, 1930, son of Jacob and Mary Regehr. He died Thursday, May 26, 2022, at Kidron Bethel, North Newton.
In 1936, the family of five traveled to California to visit family in a Model T Ford. Bill gained a life-long sense of adventure. As a boy he joined brothers Ted and Eldo to work the farm and watched Mom bake zwiebach. He graduated from Inman High School in 1948 and Bethel College in 1958.
During the Korean war Bill entered alternative service, becoming a Mennonite Voluntary Service worker. He was the unit leader of hospital aides in Portland, Maine.
He married Lora Maurine Voth on July 26, 1955, Bethel Church (Inman); her parents were in China at the time. They marked 66 years married last summer. They spent a year in NewFoundland, Canada; Bill taught in a one-room school. Other schools included Welcome School (Inman), Washington School (Newton), Pleasant Acres and Suncrest Schools east of Newton.
In 1959, they moved southwest to teach for the Indian Service at Berego Pass, New Mexico ( Navajo) and Oraibi (now Kykotsmovi) Arizona (Hopi) for 4 years. California and Boston were summer coursework destinations.
In 1966, the family moved to Academy Street in Hesston. He and Maurine raised their family there. Bill put a big garden in the backyard and built a shop. He worked at Hesston College starting in 1974 as director of custodial service.
Bill had a spirit of adventure, taking trips including touring with Kansas Mennonite Men’s Chorus, fruit-drying in California, and a big trip to South Korea, China, Tokyo, and Hong Kong in 1987. He visited the Old Colony Mennonites in Mexico, and went with his brother Dave to Paraguay.
As a creative person, he enjoyed several forms of art: drawing, photography, and ceramics. His pottery instructors were Paul Friesen and John Blosser at Hesston College. He came to combine this love of craft with a love of his mother tongue, Plautdietsch and its sayings, particularly funny insults. Many of Bill’s mugs with Low German sayings were sold at the Kansas MCC sale.
Bill cared deeply for people and experienced empathetic hurt when he heard of the pain of others. He brought moments of connection to all, grocery clerks and family alike.
Bill’s ideas about the Gospel constantly arose in conversation. He wanted to go deep. He latched onto the term “leveling” to describe how the unconditional love of God should lift up the lowly and bring the mighty down from their thrones. Bill sought to share God’s love by pulling anyone he met into conversations that brought a lift. He exhibited characteristics of the evangelist, carrying printed cards to distribute: poems, song lyrics, or “the three kinds of love” from Biblical Greek. Bill’s politics also shifted to support candidates who advocated for the poor and disenfranchised rather than a demand that everyone pull on their own bootstraps. This included a growing recognition of his privilege (educated, financially comfortable white male).
Bill and Maurine moved to Kidron Bethel in 2015 and joined Faith Mennonite Church.
Preceding him in death: parents Jacob T. and Marie (Regier) Regehr, adult siblings Eldo Regehr, Lilly Ann Neufeld, and Ted Regehr, and siblings who died in childhood Wilber, Leo James, and Mary Jane.
Survivors: wife Maurine (Voth) Regehr, children Lowell Peter Regehr (Carol Sisson), Mark David Regehr (Darlene Blair), Kristine Kay Regehr, and Paul “Jack” Lamar Regehr (Judy Naillon), and siblings Evelyn Peters and David Regehr. Six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. July 4 at Faith Mennonite Church.
Memorial gifts: Kidron Bethel Benevolent Fund, Faith Mennonite Church, and Mennonite Central Committee.