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Louise Irene (Duerksen) Koehn was born on May 26, 1921 in Inman, Kansas to David Rose Duerksen and Marie Wiens Duerksen. She died on August 31, 2021 in Health Care at the Kidron-Bethel retirement community in North Newton, Kansas, at the age of 100. She married Earl Dwain Koehn, originally from Pawnee Rock, Kansas, in the Bethel College Mennonite Church in 1950. Earl died in 2007. They designed and built a family home in North Newton in 1953, where they resided until 1995, when they moved into an apartment at Kidron-Bethel.
Louise and Earl had three sons: Dennis living in Chicago; David in Fr. Bragg, California; and Brent in Elkhart, Indiana. She will be missed by friends and family, including three grandchildren: Rosabeth Koehn, St. Louise, MO; Emily Koehn, Petaluma, CA; and Timothy Koehn, San Francisco, CA. She was preceded in death by three younger sisters: Viola Ediger, Elda Duerksen, and Darlene Goertz.
For many decades Louise was an active member of the Bethel College Mennonite Church, where she served as the congregation’s first female deacon. She had a love of classical music, giving credit to the inspiration of a grade school teacher in Inman. One of Louise’s roles in the Duerksen family was seamstress; she had a life-long love of sewing and created fine wedding dresses for the Duerksen sisters.
Louise graduated from Bethel College in 1944 and returned to the college in 1947 to serve as Director of Food Service for the college and feed thousands at the Mennonite World Conference hosted by the college. In 1952 she resigned from Bethel to devote herself to raising her sons and became their chief taxi driver in a 1959 Chevy station wagon. Louise was an early feminist around 1954, when she renegotiated parenting responsibilities with Earl, and joined a home-economics club, a reading club, and a child-study club. In the early 1960s she began training to become a librarian, and served in that profession at the Walton Grade School for four years and then twenty-one years at Bethel College, where she retired in 1986.
In 2020 Louise reflected on the 1947 challenge of feeding thousands of persons at a Mennonite World Conference. She said: “I am a Wiens. . . Wienes have good ideas and they act on them.” In addition to being a warm and caring person, Louise was a decisive administrator, purchasing 400 beautiful wooden chairs at one dollar apiece for the college dining hall from the Newton Ripley Hotel that was going out of business
Louise and Earl enjoyed international travel: visiting Japan, South Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe. Family vacations are a memorable part of the Koehn family history, especially a six-week camping trip to Alaska in 1965. Louise and Earl spent part of their first decade of retirement on road trips to visit family in Indiana, California, and Texas. They used part of her Duerksen family inheritance to finance a family Christmas vacation to Hawaii in 1985, where David was employed by an insurance company. Earl and Louise celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a memorable family cruise off the west coast of Mexico in 2000. Louise is now on another journey. . . of hope, joy, and peace.
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