Theron F. Schlabach

Theron F. Schlabach, 87, of Goshen, Ind., died May 13, 2021, at Greencroft Health Care. He was born Dec. 6, 1933, to Ezra and Vivian (Johns) Schlabach. He married Sara Ann Kauffman on Jan. 8, 1955.


He was both a professor and a trucker. He had married and begun supporting his family as a big-rig trucker before deciding to go to Goshen College and then the University of Wisconsin, where he received his doctorate in American social history. Returning to GC in 1965 to teach, he resumed trucking as a hobby for a few weeks each summer while visiting historical sites. Though he officially retired from teaching full-time from GC in 1995, he continued to teach part time into the early 2000s and to pursue his scholarly research and writing much longer. Known as a craftsman of clear and accessible prose, he is the author of five books and editor of more, including an acclaimed four-volume history of Mennonites in America.

Though rooted in Elkhart County and the Mennonite church, his faith and intellectual curiosity combined to guide him toward an increasingly international perspective. He and Sara twice led GC’s international studies program in Costa Rica. He led classes in Europe and traveled to China. He delighted in the international and multicultural breadth of his family, with links from Denmark to Costa Rica to Malaysia, and with great-grandchildren who share roots not only with his German-Swiss ancestors but with Africa, Central America and the Navajo.

He was baptized at Benton Mennonite Church in Benton, Ind. While studying at the University of Wisconsin he helped found Madison Mennonite Church. He was a member of College Mennonite Church for more than five decades.

Survivors include a daughter, Kristina Johnson of Goshen; three sons, Gerald (Joetta) Schlabach of Michigan, J. Carlyle (Julie Birky) Schlabach of Arizona, and Roderic (Mary Beth) Schlabach of Goshen; two sisters, Ruth Shaum of Goshen and Arleta (Phil) Kilmer of New Paris; a brother, Dorvin (Ruth) Schlabach of Goshen; seven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Sara, in 2009; two brothers, Dale and J. Richard Schlabach; a sister, Eudean Broni; and a grandson.

Funeral services were held at College Mennonite Church In Goshen. A private family burial was held at Clinton Union Cemetery in Goshen. Memorial donations may be given to the Jubilee Fund at College Mennonite Church or the Mennonite Historical Library Endowment at Goshen College.


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