Alvin Merle Claassen, age 79, entered heaven on Jan. 8, 2017, in Whitewater, Kans.. He was born on December 3, 1937, to Henry and Elsie (Claassen) Claassen of rural Whitewater. His grade school years were spent in the one-room Claypool School House 3/4 of a mile from his home. His high school years were completed at Berean Academy and he attended Grace Bible Institute for one semester. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior as a youth, was baptized and became a member of the Emmaus Mennonite Church, where he remained a faithful member until his death.
In the spring of 1956, Alvin began a two-year 1W program, an alternative to military service, at the KU Medical Center pathology laboratory in Kansas City. It was during this time that he met Elaine Bechtel, a student at Bethel Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing, who was also in Kansas City, studying for three months at Children’s Mercy Hospital. At the end of these two years, he turned down a permanent job offer to work in the pathology lab. He chose to return home to farm with his Dad.
On April 10, 1960, Alvin and Elaine were married in the Deer Creek Mennonite Church in Deer Creek, Okla. They established their home in rural Whitewater, where he farmed with his father, Henry and then his son, Gary. He was happiest when working and was not even considering retirement, when in October of 2014, he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.
In addition to farming, Alvin served the church and community in many capacities. He served several terms on the church relief committee, which included a number of years as chairman of the Newton Area Meat Canning Project, a relief program to provide food for needs around the world. He was also an insurance secretary for 15 years with Mennonite Property Aid Association, served several terms on the Board of Directors for Wheat State Manor ,and was on the Board of Trustees for the Benton Volunteer Fire Department District 7 for 38 years.
He also enjoyed 39 years of working for Murdock Township. This involved maintaining 52 miles of gravel and dirt roads with regular grading, hauling rock and pushing snow, a job that sometimes meant working all night so everyone else could get out in the morning. At the same time, he was elected to the Township Board for 32 years.
All these accomplishments meant far less to him than his nearly 57 years of marriage to Elaine and the family they raised. Four children were born to this union of Alvin and Elaine: Michael, Denise, Gary and Warren.
His health began to deteriorate in late 2016, when the weekly chemotherapy treatments could no longer control the spread of the cancer. He passed from this world with family at his side and entered the Kingdom of God.
Alvin is survived by his wife Elaine; son Michael and wife Stahli of Newton, Kans.; daughter Denise Olson and husband Paul of Chariton, Iowa; son Gary and wife Carrie of Whitewater; and son Warren and wife Kelly of Wichita. Twelve grandchildren: Emma, Alice and Payne Claassen; Katherine (Bob) Snider of Overland Park, Kans.; Bethany (Joseph) Cherri of Joplin, Mo.; Sarah (Andrew) Alton of Mexico, Mo.; Caleb Olson and fiancée Sarah Hammock of Mexico, Mo; Morgan, Jacob and Evan Claassen; Keegan and Kaden Claassen; two great-grandchildren, Hayden Snider and William Cherri; one brother-in-law, Norman Ratzlaff and one sister-in-law, Sue Bechtel.
He was preceded in death by his parents Henry and Elsie, his sister Wynona and her husband Walter Entz, one brother-in-law Howard Bechtel, one sister-in-law Wanda Ratzlaff and one niece Eileen Doran.