Walter S. Friesen, 91, died Aug. 26, 2023, in Hesston, Kan. He was born Nov. 14, 1931, near Garden City, Kan., to Henry R. and “Minnie” (Schmidt) Friesen into a decade of severe dust storms and financial difficulty before moving to Meade, Kan. There he chose baptism and graduated from Meade Bible Academy. He graduated from Tabor College and met Carol Heinrichs. They married Sept. 5, 1953, and parented three children.
Walter earned a doctorate in educational psychology and later a master of divinity degree. His career in various aspects of human development included serving as administrator/counselor at Kansas State University, Wichita State University and Bethel College, before taking a Mennonite Voluntary Service sabbatical and becoming ordained. He pastored First Mennonite Church in Denver, Eden Mennonite Church in Moundridge, Kan., Hope Mennonite Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and semiretired to interim pastorates, directing Hesston College’s Pastoral Ministries Program, chaplaincy work and volunteer pastoral counseling. He served on many mental health and advisory boards.
Early hard times were balanced by family life rich with faith, laughter, discernment and harmony singing, which guided his entire life. Mentoring from Karl Menninger during 1-W service was formational. He cherished Anabaptist teachings of grace and reconciliation and sought to deepen his biblical understandings, apply and align them authentically in daily living and empower others toward positive interactions.
He delighted in words through writing, presentations, poetry, humor and building understandings with others through conversation. He was a curious learner and teacher at heart. He enjoyed designing both programs and his surroundings, including gardening and drawing/painting projects. Nature and new experiences through travel gave him energy and inspiration. He toured Uzbekistan and Paraguay, and speaking engagements took him throughout the continent.
Most of all, he loved singing in harmony, in groups and especially with Carol. With a vast repertoire, he frequently broke into song, even in his last weeks.
He is survived by children Randal (Mary Helen) Friesen of Denver; Nancy Friesen (Stewart Gehring) of Chicago and Jenny (John) Fast of Goessel, Kan.; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.