The descendants of John H. and Katie Ensz Friesen made Bethel the location for their 12th reunion this past June, with 77 family members attending from 12 different states.
Duane Friesen ’62, professor emeritus of Bible and religion, holder of the Edmund G. Kauffman ‘16 Endowed Chair in Religion, and one of John and Katie’s descendants, noted that Bethel was a fitting site for the reunion.
“We have had a remarkable connection to Bethel College over the years,” he said.
Six of John and Katie’s eight children attended or graduated from Bethel. One of that generation remains —Ruby Friesen ’48, Mount Angel, Oregon, who was present at the reunion along with the spouses of two of her siblings, LeVern Tieszen and Laura Friesen. There are endowed scholarships at Bethel in the names of John and Katie Friesen and two of their sons, Waldo H. ’34 and Orlando J. ’50.
Seventeen of John and Katie’s 18 grandchildren—who include Duane and his brother Larry ’67, professor emeritus of social work—and seven spouses are also Bethel alumni, as are 13 of the great-grandchildren and seven spouses. A number of Friesen descendants and spouses have served on the Bethel board or on the Bethel faculty or staff.
One of the weekend’s activities was a dramatic reenactment by several family members of stories from their ancestors’ diaries about leaving Ukraine and coming to Kansas. The performance took place in the Kauffman Museum auditorium.
The group also visited family sites around Hillsboro and Lehigh, enjoyed a “Russian Mennonite” meal of verenike, sausage, cherry moos and zwiebach, and had a Sunday morning worship service in the Ad Building chapel, with Karen Unruh ’83, Goessel, playing the organ for them. “We did that because [an ancestor] mentioned in his diary being in the chapel and hearing the original organ,” Duane Friesen said.
The family photo, taken on the steps of the Ad Building, shows at least four generations of John and Katie’s descendants. Sitting in front, from left, are Laura Friesen, LeVern Tieszen and Ruby Friesen.