John Willems, 89, of Albany, Ore., died Sept. 13, 2022, at Samaritan Evergreen Hospice. He was born May 8, 1933, to Abraham F. and Anna (Isaac) Willems on a farm near Greensburg, Kan.
His first eight years of school were in a one-room country school. After high school he attended Hesston College in Kansas.
He married Dora Schrock on July 21, 1955, at Albany Mennonite Church. They were the first couple to be married at the church.
He came to Oregon in 1952 for alternative peace service at Lebanon Community Hospital for two years, later returning to the hospital for training as a radiological technologist and worked there for 12 years. He felt the call to become a pastor, and in 1964 returned to school in the Hesston College Pastoral Ministry Program and other higher education schools later in life.
He began to serve as pastor of Beth-El Mennonite Church, Milford, Neb., in 1966. In 1973 he became pastor of Salem Mennonite Church and then pastor of Bethany Mennonite in Albany, beginning in 1985 and retiring in 1998.
From the late 1950s through 2006, he served in church conferences wherever his church was located at the time, serving as conference moderator four times. He was a rare pastor who enjoyed administrative responsibility. He also served in community organizations, churchwide and inter-Mennonite committees, as well as the Mennonite Village Council. In retirement he also served with Oregon Mennonite Residential Services, which relates to people with developmental disabilities. He enjoyed serving as a pastor, and his greatest joy was seeing people committing or recommitting their lives to Jesus Christ and becoming part of a congregation.
He was a member of Albany Mennonite Church and became involved in church work when a young adult. His first elected position in church was co-superintendent of Sunday school when he was 19.
Survivors include a daughter, Mardell (Douglas) Hochstetler of Albany; a son, Kevin Willems of Lake Stevens, Wash.; two granddaughters and one grandson.
A private graveside was held at Fairview Mennonite Cemetery and a memorial service at Albany Mennonite Church. Memorials may be given to Mennonite Village’s Endowment Fund or to Albany Mennonite Church.