Beloved journalist dies in accident

Hit-and-run crash claims life of Laurie Oswald Robinson

Laurie Oswald Robinson Laurie Oswald Robinson

Laurie Oswald Robinson, 64, a Mennonite/Catholic journalist who wrote and edited for Mennonite publications and church agencies for 26 years, died April 8 in a hit-and-run crash in Newton, Kan.

She was struck by a car while on a morning walk on a rural road southeast of Newton as she trained for the Kansas Camino Walk.

That evening, police arrested Samara Maple, 23, of Hutchinson, on preliminary charges of failure to stop at the scene of a fatal accident.

Beginning in 1998 and until her death, Robinson’s work appeared frequently in Mennonite publications, including Anabaptist World and its predecessors.

Her articles often explored themes such as forgiveness, reconciliation and community-building within the context of Mennonite faith and values.

“Laurie was a passionate journalist who excelled at stories of all kinds, especially personal profiles,” said Paul Schrag, AW editor. “Her impact on the national church as a storyteller and reporter was immense. Her intense faith, enthusiasm and kindness touched countless lives.”

Linda Shelly, a colleague at Mennonite Mission Network, said: “Laurie was genuinely interested in people and had a keen sense of curiosity, which contributed to her skill in asking questions that led to deep conversations, whether with friends or with people she interviewed for articles.

“As a reporter and journalist, she loved writing human-interest stories, sharing about people, their lives and ministry. She was guided by her own deep faith in God and helped strengthen the faith of others through her stories for Mennonite Mission Network and many other entities.”

Robinson entered the world of Mennonite journalism in 1998 as assistant editor of Mennonite Weekly Review. She moved from New York City to Newton to join the MWR staff.

In 2002 she became news service director for Mennonite Church USA. Her assignments included covering the 2003 Mennonite World Conference assembly in Zimbabwe. From 2005 to 2008 she was editor for Mennonite Women USA, including editing the organization’s magazine, Timbrel.

She continued freelance writing and photography for MC USA’s magazine The Mennonite, the independent newspaper MWR and, after the publications merged, Anabaptist World. She returned to church agency staff work as editor for MMN from 2019 to 2021, including editing the mission agency’s magazine Beyond.

She wrote numerous cover and front-page stories for TM and MWR and was working on a story for AW at the time of her death.

Marisa Smucker, MMN executive director, whom Robinson profiled for an AW cover story in 2023, remembered Robinson as a wonderful writer and friend.

“She was eager to help and use her gifts in a variety of ways and was always up for an adventure,” Smucker said.

Born July 14, 1959, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, she graduated from Goshen College in 1983. After college, she worked for two Kansas newspapers, the Junction City Union and Salina Journal, and was a contributing editor for With, a Mennonite youth magazine. In New York City, she was director of public affairs for Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

She wrote in MWR that during her 12 years in New York she “came back to God as a prodigal daughter who’d been searching in the far country.” She returned to her Mennonite roots at Redeeming Grace Fellowship, a Mennonite congregation on Staten Island.

After returning to Kansas in 1998, in addition to writing for periodicals, she wrote and edited books and took on other projects, including Bible study guides for Mennonite Women USA.

In her 2010 book, Forever Family, Robinson told of her and her husband Al’s experience of becoming foster-to-adopt parents, an arrangement that ended in heartache when the child’s biological family reclaimed the child.

She co-authored Now It Springs Up, a devotional book, with Carol Duerksen and Michele Hershberger; and The “Ideal” Couple: the Shadow Side of a Marriage, with Marilyn J. Winter Wolgemuth and Carl Wolgemuth.

She led writing workshops and founded a business, Tales of the Times, specializing in helping people write their life stories. She had just completed a book for her own family and had begun freelancing for Harvey County Now, a local newspaper.

She was a class facilitator for Harvey County Circle of Hope, an initiative to improve people’s financial health and well-being. She was a substitute teacher in Newton schools.

A member of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Catholic parish in Newton, she became a devout Catholic, writing educational articles, teaching classes and serving as a cantor.

In a 2001 editorial marking her transition from MWR to MC USA, she wrote of the inspiration she took from interviewing people and sharing their stories.

“When journeys took painful turns into suffering and conflict, most often people chose to walk ahead . . . [and] the desire to follow Jesus faithfully rose above the maelstrom,” she wrote. “I hope to take that spirit with me into my new role. . . . I pray that our love for God and each other will grow with each passing hour on the journey ahead.”

She is survived by her husband, Al, whom she married in 2005; and siblings Jane Lambert (Vaughn) of Salina, Kan., Neil Oswald (Kathy) of Manson, Iowa, and Brian Oswald (Patty) of Chicago. She was preceded in death by her father, Paul; mother, Dorothy; and a sister, Paula.

Visitation will be from 5 to 9 p.m. April 18 at Peterson Funeral Home, with a celebration of life at 10 a.m. April 19 at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Newton. Memorial funds can go to Peace Connections or the Altar Society at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Mission Network contributed to this report.

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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