Kathleen Foster Friesen was born Kathleen Karen Murray on July 27, 1959 in Goshen, Indiana, the oldest child and only daughter of John and Marilyn Stauffer Murray. She was a midwesterner, born to a New York born father and a Nebraska born mother and into a family immersed in the Mennonite Church. The family soon moved to Kouts, Indiana where her brother John was born adding her one sibling to the family. Kathleen, early in life, cultivated a passion for learning. She read voraciously as a child and maintained that pattern into her adult years. The walls of her home are a witness to a lifetime of reading with books on a myriad of topics filling the shelves. As a testament to her appetite for learning, when Kouts replaced the bookmobile with a city library she joined with a friend to read through the fiction section of the library. The family engaged in gardening and Kathleen and her brother tended to the plantings by biking the roads to the garden through the summer. Her parents described her as an imaginative child, one who could create a world of intrigue. One important point in her growing up years came when her Stauffer grandparents moved to Kouts. Kathleen spent many days and evenings with them playing what were appropriate card games for a Mennonite family and, with her grandmother, working on quilts till she could master stitches that did not need to be removed for being too long or uneven. This pattern of close and loving family relationships was to follow her through life.
After finishing high school Kathleen moved back to Goshen, IN and entered Goshen College as a biology major. She again immersed herself in learning; not only learning within her chosen major but also in a host of topics including religion and literature. An eventual move to South Bend to attend graduate school led to further educational work in cellular histology but more importantly to an introduction to John Foster, her future husband. Following a move to Grand Rapids, MI she returned to Indiana to marry John on April 9, 1983 and began an adventure that included moves to MIssouri, Utah, Texas, and Arkansas. John’s work allowed for much travel and Kathleen and John did not waste the opportunities to see and explore a list of places they found interesting. Kathleen’s work included a wide variety of places and disciplines. She worked with the University of Missouri Kansas City dental school where she assisted in research work, taught at William Jewell College north of Kansas City and began a business that was an overt beginning to a life of helping people learn to change and adapt to the world around them; both in terms of relationships with others and relationships with technology. Kathleen’s business was eventually acquired by Stauffer Company in Goshen, IN where she focused on both processes and technology. Sadly, John Foster died in 2002 leaving behind a legacy of bringing about change that found a strong hold in Kathleen.
Following John’s death Kathleen frequently visited her brother John and his wife Krista and their children in Hesston, KS. She was eventually introduced to Jon Friesen and the two were married in 2003. Her marriage to Jon reflected a lifelong pattern of growth where both partners were enriched by mutual encouragement and love. They enjoyed traveling and, like in her earlier marriage, met a world of interests with a passion both shared for art, the outdoors and wonderful relationships with friends and family. Kathleen and Jon together returned to school at Friends University graduating with Masters degrees in Organizational Development. Kathleen was chief operating officer at Legasus Group in Wichita, before starting her own consulting and coaching company, Friesen Group. She worked with the continued theme of, in her words, inviting people to go where they would not go on their own. She held a passionate belief that people could change; that answers often found a seat not in technology but in the capacity of people to bring about change, be it in relationships with others or in relationships with technology. Many were touched by her encouragement and her optimistic view of people as being capable of engaging their worlds in a positive way.
Kathleen embraced her role as an aunt with a passion. She built strong, nurturing relationships with John Nathan, Joel and Meghana along with Elizabeth, Lane and Grant Miller (children of her close friends). She dedicated no less energy to her step children Blake and Jaecy. In her marriages, she was an engaging and supportive member of the family group. She is remembered for an unending faith in one’s capacity to grow, for a strong sense of dedication to and support of those close to her, and for an even temperament. Kathleen had a compassionate spirit and a lived a life of enjoyable learning that knew little bounds. She will be missed by her husband Jon and step children Blake and Jaecy, by her parents John and Marilyn Murray, her brother John and his wife Krista, their children John Nathan and his wife Denay, Joel and Meghana, and by a host of Foster and Friesen in-laws who have come to love her as a wonderful addition to their family. As noted above, she is held close by Elizabeth, Lane and Grant Miller. Count also a myriad of friends and others who, because of their contact with Kathleen, have found their lives to be enriched and have been led to believe that they could, in her words, “accept an invitation to explore and grow.”
Kathleen died November, 12, 2017 at home surrounded by family. Her final resting place is Eastlawn Cemetery in rural Harvey County, KS. Her legacy lives in those who knew and loved her.
A memorial service for Kathleen will be held at 3:00 PM November 18, 2017 at Hesston Mennonite Church in Hesston, KS with visitation with the family prior to the service from 1:00 PM till 3:00 PM. Interment will follow the service. Memorials can be sent to Peterson Funeral Home in Newton KS for the Hesston College Aviation Program or Menno Clinic India Endowment Fund.