“In Memoriam” listings are expanded paid obituaries, phrased as the family requests, and may include enhanced information or photographs that might not fit within free death notices.
Katie Funk Wiebe
Katie Funk Wiebe died Oct. 23, 2016, in Wichita, Kansas, leaving a legacy of faith, storytelling, and an invitation to live by choice, not by default.
Katie was a writer, speaker, preacher, pioneer, prophet, provocateur, feminist, teacher, mentor, and historian. The Mennonite named her in the top 20 Mennonites with “the most powerful influence on life and belief of the . . . Mennonite Church in the 20th century.” She encouraged church institutions toward leadership roles for women to celebrate and use their gifts. She challenged abuse of power and advocated stewardship of language.
Her memory is cherished by daughters, Joanna Wiebe and husband, Tim Baer, and Susan Wiebe; son, James Wiebe and wife, Kathy; seven grandchildren, Bill Smith and wife, Dana BuhlSmith, Dave Monterroso and wife, Jennie McKibben Monterroso, Zach Baer, Matt Harms and wife, Louise Cottingham Harms, Christiana Harms and husband, Abe Regier, Jamie Wiebe, and Jennifer Wiebe; five great-grandchildren, Ella and Miles Monterroso McKibben, Zola BuhlSmith, and Andrew and Maisie Harms; sister, Susan Funk Kruger and husband, Harold; and relatives, friends, students, and readers.
She was preceded in death by husband Walter Wiebe in 1962, daughter Christine Wiebe in 2000, sisters Frieda Schroeder in 2013 and Anne Kruger in 2009, and brother Jack Funk in 2010.
A viewing will be 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28; a memorial service will be Jan. 20, 2017, both at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, 655 S. Lorraine St,. Wichita.
Katie was born Sept. 15, 1924, in Laird, Saskatchewan, to German-Russian Mennonite immigrants from Ukraine, and grew up in Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. A reading of a devotional book “called forth faith on my part to believe that God wanted something of me.” In 1945, she was baptized and entered Bible college, where she met Walter Wiebe. They married Aug. 21, 1947, and were called to Christian journalism.
In 1962, Katie began a column for The Christian Leader; she wrote “Viewpoint” for 30 years. Walter died months after the family moved to Hillsboro, Kansas in 1962. Katie worked at Mennonite Brethren (MB) Publishing House. In 1966, she became an English instructor at Tabor College and in 1981, associate professor. She had a 1968 Bachelor of Arts degree from Tabor, and a 1972 Master of Arts degree from Wichita State University.
Her autobiographical narrative, “Alone: A Search for Joy,” came out in 1976. She wrote stories of women who were often overlooked, not being part of official historical accounts. In 1990, she retired from Tabor as professor emeritus. She moved to Wichita in 1991, eager to serve the wider constituency of the church she loved, to bring meaning to her life through writing and speaking of her own experience of aging and the roles of older adults and women in the church. She taught at LifeVentures, and traveled to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the former Soviet Union, Europe, Central America.
A 2010 “Festschrift” included the release of “The Voice of a Writer: Honoring the Life of Katie Funk Wiebe” by the MB Historical Commission. She wrote more than 2000 articles, columns, and book reviews, wrote/edited 24 books, and had a blog. At 90 Katie published “My Emigrant Father: Jacob J. Funk, 1896-1986.” A new edition of “How to Write Your Personal or Family History” will come out in 2017. In receiving the Word Guild of Canada 2014 Leslie K. Tarr Career Achievement award she was described as “an agent of transformation; a life force that has pushed its way through the firmly packed soil of tradition.”
Katie was a member of First MB Church; later, Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church was her church home.
Donations: Katie Funk Wiebe Research Fund, c/o MB Historical Commission, 1310 Taylor Ave., Winnipeg MB Canada R3M 3Z6; Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Tabor College, 400 S. Jefferson St., Hillsboro KS 67063; Mennonite Central Committee, https://donate.mcc.org.