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Memories of Hiebert Family Life
by siblings of J.N.C. Hiebert

Back row: Sam, Eldo Kunkel & Marie, John
Middle row: Annie, Nicholas, Susie, Clyde, Alma
Front row: Lando, Alvin, Rosella, Waldo


I do recall that four of us graduated from Willamette University, Salem, Oregon: John, Lando, Anne and I. I believe that was in 1938. I remember one incident I had with John. We were both history majors at Willamette. We had to face a senior oral exam. Since we both had the same majors, they took the two of us together for the orals. When they gathered that John was a missionary from India, they got very interested in his knowledge and experience in India, so most of our time was spent on India. I was asked only two short questions, and passed the oral--thanks to my brother John!


I well remember my brother John. He was the best! Good in whatever he did--great minister. I still remember his sermons. He also was my pal at Willamette "U"--where he got his degree on his furlough. Do you remember the days in Salem, Oregon? We played Soa (sp?), a ball game, at your home after having dinner with you. I was "nursing" my way through the "U" at that time.


Harry was saved on one of John's evangelistic meetings in Montana in his early teens. I recall more of Clyde and Sam's days at home. Will be great to meet them all again in Heaven.


I was only 7 when John left for Bible School so my memories of him were the few short visits. He would come walking home on Fridays from the train station, carrying his suitcase of laundry. Many times he brought us younger kids little gifts. I remember a strand of pearls that he'd bought at a pawn shop and I was told by grown-ups that they were real pearls. I remember his cheerfulness. On Sundays he would carry his suitcase, now full of clean, ironed clothes, and a large sack of toasted zwieback back to the train station and go back to school.

I thought maybe he experienced much of what I experienced while growing up in Mt. Lake, so for what it's worth I'm sending a copy of what I've written for a booklet for our children.

Home From India and More About Dad

As dad and mother settled in Mt. Lake, their family increased in number. About every two years another son or daughter arrived. Their first son, Albert, drowned at age six or seven, and another sad funeral. After three more sons, John, Nick (Clyde), and Sam, a set of twin girls were born, Anna and Alma. Another two years later a set of twin boys, Londo and Waldo, joined the family. The banker in Mt. Lake, who was aware of dad's desperate financial state, offered to buy one of the boys, but was firmly rejected. I came next and two years later the baby boy, Alvin. That stopped the pregnancies and we were now a family of ten living children.

Dad now provided for his large family with three occupations. He was pastoring the Mennonite Brethren Church, which was done without pay. He taught in the Christian grade school, Germany language during the forenoon and English in the afternoon. Dairy farming was probably the means of support for us during the years in Mt. Lake. He also traveled widely for the M.B. Conference. His messages were basic bible studies and always contained sharing his burden for the lost people he had left in India. As a result, many young missionaries were sent out to many other countries. In this way his mission work was multiplied many times over. Reading from his personal yearly diary, he often took part of the family and his "Dear Susie" on these trips. I know. I went on quite a few of these. On one such trip, seven of us crammed into a two-door Model T Ford. Three each could sit on the seats and Alvin and I took turns sitting in a box that was pushed inside the right door after everyone else was in. We went to South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, etc. Dad was an inquisitive man and managed to stop at all the unusual sights. We saw parks, factories, museums, orphanages, the Nabisco Cookie Company, Nebergall's Meat Packing Company, and much more. While traveling we were fed day-old bakery products, bologna and coffee from a cafe. Dad would buy two cups of real coffee and have it poured into a one gallon syrup bucket and then had it filled with hot water. We'd stop at a park, anywhere under a shade tree, on a school house porch and one time on top of an ant hill (the only shady place we could find). We soon retreated to the safety of the hot car.

Who will ever know how many people dad touched and helped by his many travels, meeting in small out of the way churches and visits to isolated poor families who had homesteaded far from neighbors and churches. These people had no one to visit with and fellowship with. I remember two such families. One lived in the forests of northern Minnesota and one near the Colorado Rockies. We would drive twenty to thirty miles on dirt roads, stay for the meager evening meal and sleep on floors, but the evening was spent in bible study and prayer, encouraging and just showing love. We saw many tears.

Since this is about dad and his years before the move to Kansas, let's also look in on his garden. It contained an orchard of about twenty kinds of apples, plums, cherries, grapes, raspberries, currents, strawberries, ground cherries, carrots, potatoes, peas and more. He ever tried to grow peanuts. I remember riding the horse that pulled the plow with dad, walking along behind to steady the one sheath plow. We all hoed, pulled weeds, picked potato bugs off the plants for one cent for one hundred bugs. He believed in hard work and we all learned to work.

The dairy farm alone was a full time job. He kept about twenty-plus cows, taking milk from Jerseys, Guernseys and Holsteins. All were milked by hand. We mixed it in our basement milk room to get an even fat content. We girls washed the bottles and filled them, capped them and put them into carriers for the boys to carry to the car and deliver all across town. A fond memory is the winter deliveries on the bob-sled. The streets were solid ice and we would hook our little sleds onto the runners of the bob-sled and get all the free rides we could between the house deliveries.

For family fun we also had the Minnesota lakes all around us. We would go for a whole day of fishing, often with cousins. Our mothers would fix the picnic lunch and also fry fresh fish. The bigger boys would often take the car and load us all in for an evening trip to the lake to swim.

I've given you a positive picture of life in Minnesota. But I must also give you a picture of the dark side that all of us as dad's children have carried with us all our lives. Dad had a way of making us all feel guilty, inadequate and sad. I'm very angry at times as I struggle to be O.K. I've come to believe that dad loved us, was very proud of us and did not know he was doing this to us. In some of his writings, a sort of diary, he states that in Heaven he will be able to love us in perfection which he could not do on earth.