Robert Coon

Robert Russell Coon, 90, of Goshen, Ind., died July 28, 2021, at Greencroft Goshen. He was born Feb. 17, 1931, to Hugh and Cora Coon in Dayton, Ohio. 

Robert Coon
Robert Coon

He was baptized at a Grace Brethren church in Dayton. He was asked to preach his first sermon when he was 14, and the pastor inquired if he might be interested in becoming a minister.

After high school he joined the Marines and went on reserve for a year. While there he heard a call from God to go into the Christian ministry. His experience helped him as a pastor when he counseled and supported young conscientious objectors in his churches during the Vietnam War.

He attended Grace College in Winona Lake, then Bluffton College in Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. He concluded that he couldn’t bring himself to take a life, which, combined with his interest in a Mennonite pastor’s daughter, Helen Neufeld, and the tutelage of several professors, led him to a position of pacifism and Bethany (Mennonite) Seminary, then in Chicago.

He and Helen served at First Mennonite Church in Chicago, Flanagan Mennonite in Illinois, First Mennonite of Christian, Moundridge, Kan., Bethany Mennonite, Quakertown, Pa., Cordell Mennonite, Deer Creek Mennonite and Turpin Mennonite in Oklahoma, and two congregations in Pekin and East Peoria, Ill. Upon his retirement, they served a year as curators at Menno-Hof in Shipshewana and made their home in Topeka, where they joined Topeka Mennonite Church.

He wrote for Mennonite publications and anthologies on Mennonite history, pacifism and inclusion. He spent his retirement as a curator for the Topeka Historical Society Depot and researching his family genealogy. He and Helen wrote “Faith of Our Mothers and Fathers,” an Anabaptist history in story and song, which they performed for churches and other gatherings.

He advocated for mental health support and acceptance for pastors and their families. His own experience with depression led him to promote measures that would help others struggling with mental illness.

In the last years he lived at Greencroft. He joined Silverwood Mennonite Church.

Survivors include a son, Russell (Kathy) Coon; two daughters, Cathy Coon (Merv) Bitikofer and Dorothy Coon; five grandchildren and many great- and great-great-grandchildren.

Helen preceded him in death in 2006.

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