LeRoy Bechler, 97, died April 1, 2023, at Cottage Garden in Goshen, Ind.
He was born Dec. 4, 1925, in Pigeon, Mich., to Edward and Ada (Roth) Bechler.
On Aug. 24, 1950, he married Irene M. (Springer) Bechler at East Bend Mennonite Church, Fisher, Ill. They were married 71 years.
He loved God with all his heart, and this deep love and commitment to follow Jesus led him to become a pastor and church planter in the African-American community in Saginaw, Mich., and Los Angeles and Inglewood Calif. Under his leadership and with the support of the congregation, a K-6 school was opened in Inglewood, Calif. He further answered the call by taking an executive leadership position responsible for home missions and church growth in Southeast Mennonite Conference.
He authored two books: The Black Mennonite Church in North America 1886-1986 and Answering the Call: Telling the Story.
He was a member of College Mennonite Church, Goshen.
He graduated from Hesston College with associate of arts and bachelor of religious education degrees, and from Fuller Theological Seminary with a master of arts degree. He loved to learn, enjoyed woodworking and traveling and was an avid Dodgers fan. Most of all, he enjoyed spending time with his family.
Surviving are his children, Kathleen (Michael) Lechlitner of Greenville, S.C., Kent (Karen) Bechler of Glendora, Calif., and Curt (Shari) Bechler of Hudsonville, Mich.; six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Preceding him in death were his wife, Irene; and a brother, Harold Bechler.
A memorial service was April 30 at College Mennonite Church, with burial at Violett Cemetery. Memorial contributions can be sent to Goshen Home Health and Hospice.