For The Record

Submit birth, marriage and obituary records online.


PDF documents on this site require the free Adobe Reader:

Get Adobe Reader

2011-02-01 issue:

A long life of witness and service

Martha Graber 'helps make things work out.'

by Susan Miller Balzer

Print Article


Martha F. Graber reads steadily, modulating her voice to adapt to the content. Reading The Mennonite on tape for those with visual impairment is the one volunteer job that she continued to do in her ninth decade.

Martha Graber reads
The Mennonite at home. Photo by Susan Miller Balzer.

Martha says she can't remember exactly when she started reading The Mennonite on tape. It was "20 or so years ago—in the early or mid '80s." (At 91, a five- to 10-year discrepancy doesn’t make much difference to Martha.)

In January, she ended her monthly responsibility. "I find that I stumble a little bit," she says, then adds, "I enjoy getting to read The Mennonite before everyone else does. There's always interesting things in it."

Martha has packed many varied activities into her long life. While raising a family of five children —James, Kenneth, Lowell, Karolyn and Marilyn—Martha and her late husband, Eldon, made their home in four Kansas towns (Whitewater, Pretty Prairie, Chapman and North Newton), as well as Bluffton, Ohio; Freeman, S.D.; Chicago and Zaria, Nigeria. Martha and Marilyn now live in the home Martha designed on Minneapolis Street in North Newton. To keep connected with all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Martha plans "Graberamas"—when the family clan meets to visit, reminisce, pray, eat and play together.

Martha describes herself as a facilitator, one who "helps make things work out." She seems to have been equally at ease in the public eye as she is when working behind the scenes. Her interests and Christian convictions guide her activities, which now include taking part at Bethel College Mennonite Church and its Golden Agers group, exercising three times a week "to keep my strength up" at the Senior Center, which she helped start in Newton, attending Life Enrichment at Bethel College and participating in the Heartland Peace Tax Group. Last summer, the Heartland group honored her for her lifetime of peacemaking and gave her a scarf embroidered with "Foreclose on War, Invest in People," words that describe her lifelong priorities.

Foreclose on war
Martha was born in Turpin, Okla., to Marie Schmidt Friesen and Gerhard Friesen. Her father, she said, "was ahead of his time" in advocating war tax resistance and speaking out at Mennonite conferences against profiteering from the war economy. "His conscience would not let him support the military."

She said her father would have approved the 1983 action by the General Conference Menno­nite Church to honor employee Cornelia Lehn's request to not have her income taxes withheld from her paychecks.

The Friesens practiced war tax resistance by living simply, giving generously and usually not earning enough to owe income taxes.

Although as a youth she was embarrassed by her father's outspokenness to audiences unreceptive to his message, Martha embraced her parents' convictions about Christian discipleship and peacemaking and taught them to her children. She files tax returns but usually has a zero taxable income due to living simply and giving 50 percent of her income to charity. She has also advocated for the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund legislation.

Invest in people
Martha has invested her life and her money in helping people in all stages of their lives, from toddlers to senior citizens.

She contributes stocks through the Mennonite Foundation to Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite World Conference and supports environmental and health-care organizations as well.

"She gives (to organizations that are working) to solve problems," Marilyn Graber says.
Martha has served her church, family and community as a volunteer and in jobs as varied as church organist, dietician, editor, child-care director and city clerk.

She earned a degree in home economics with minors in English and chemistry at Bethel College, North Newton, and later returned to Bethel for teacher education courses.
She taught in, organized and/or directed nursery schools and community day-care centers in Chicago, Bluffton and Wadsworth, Ohio; Hesston, Kan., and in Zaria, Nigeria.

Margie Swartzendruber, a founding leader at Hesston Community Child Care, remembers Martha’s thriftiness, “She never wanted to throw anything away. When a toy was broken, she would try to fix it.”

Martha was director of information services and admissions counselor at Freeman (S.D.) Junior College and Academy while her husband served there as president. When Eldon directed the education department at Bluffton (Ohio) College, Martha worked there as an instructor in geography and director of publicity.

From 1972 to 1977 she was a lecturer in home economics and psychology at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, where she and Eldon served in the Teachers Abroad Program. At ABU, she not only developed the home economics curriculum and degree program but worked with the architect to plan the classroom facilities.

At Bluffton, she served as advisor for the Student Christian Association, and in Nigeria her role with the Student Christian Fellowship was that of "Senior Friend," She tutored and counseled international students in university settings.

While her children were in school—a long time, since James is nearly 23 years older than his youngest sister—Martha chaired Parent Teacher Associations and led Cub Scouts. She did substitute teaching in local public schools.

Martha invested much of her life in Christian education. She taught Sunday school and Vacation Church School nearly 40 years and served on congregational and denominational Christian education and curriculum committees. She pioneered in including sex education in the Christian education curriculum. "People didn't talk about it at that time. We thought the church should be more involved in it."

Martha also gave leadership to local, regional and national women's mission and service committees and to the Bethel College Women's Association. Chair, president, consultant, organizer, director, resource person, speaker and writer are some of the "hats" Martha has worn.

Martha's can-do attitude often took her into the kitchen, where she helped organize and prepare fundraising meals and receptions. Although assuming many typical "women's jobs," Martha says she prefers participating in groups and organizations that are not exclusively for women.

Martha began researching and taking action on senior issues in the 1980s and was a co-director of the new Inter-Mennonite Council on Aging (later Mennonite Association of Retired Persons) in 1982-1986 and the founding president of Harvey County (Kan.) Coalition of Aging Services in 1984. She served on the county transportation advisory committee and chaired the local AARP community service and legislative committees. She also volunteered with the Central Kansas Adult Basic Education Literacy Program and with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

She was named Outstanding Older Kansan (already in 1986), Outstanding Branch Member of American Association of University Women in 1987 and Outstanding Member of Newton Area Retired Teachers Association in 1989.

What's ahead?
One of Martha's grandfathers lived to be more than 100 years old. A great-grandfather experienced a miraculous rescue by an angel when he was sinking in the ice near his Russian village.

Throughout her first 91 years, Martha has contributed to even more helping organizations than these listed in this story. In unpretentious ways, she has been the angel behind many miracles—giving a hand, sharing wisdom and encouraging young and old. Reading The Mennonite kept her abreast of the thought and news of her faith community. Sharing this with others, gave her a double blessing.

Susan Miller Balzer is a member of Hesston (Kan ) Menno­nite Church.

Reader Comments

Add Comments
  • Posted by yoliMems at Monday, November 18, 2013 at 05:14 PM

    When I see such role-models I assess the impact they have upon our generation and I cannot feel in any other way than proud of witnessing such powerful stories. I have read this once in an HR consulting firms newsletter and I still recall it - recruiting people is not just a job, is having that sixth sense upon which are truly those people to make history in their careers.

  • Posted by QueenBlumberg46 at Tuesday, January 07, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    Thanks for another informative web site. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal way? I've a project that I'm just now working on, and I've been on the look out for such info Japanese webcams blog post promotion Japanese sex chat asian webcams live Japanese sex.

  • Posted by SongKraut88 at Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 02:42 AM

    I have read a few good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much effort you put to make such a magnificent informative website ipad mini tips and tricks ipad mini guide seo for blogs blog post guest posting service.

  • Posted by ToniaPfeiffer90 at Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 03:26 AM

    Nice write-up, i'm a giant believer in commenting on weblogs to assist the weblog writers notice that they?ve added something deserving about the world vast internet! (source ). japanese sex japanese sex japanese tube live Japanese sex Japanese webcam

  • Posted by OleviaConrad48 at Monday, January 20, 2014 at 10:30 PM

    We stumbled over here from a different website and thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to finding out about your web page yet again japanese sex Japanese cam live Japanese sex Japanese cams Japanese sex chat.

  • Posted by OleviaConrad48 at Friday, January 24, 2014 at 09:31 PM

    I’ll immediately seize your rss feed as I can't to find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you've any? Kindly let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks san francisco bay area limousines airport transportation san jose limousine service san francisco airport car service san francisco limo service san francisco.

  • Posted by OleviaConrad48 at Monday, February 10, 2014 at 08:50 PM

    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Thanks for providing this info custom writing service guest posting web content writers buy social signals best article writing service.

  • Posted by AraCuhn47 at Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 01:55 AM

    An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people do not speak about such topics. To the next! Cheers!! website content custom writing service blog post web content writers social signals service

  • Posted by maskodok at Saturday, March 01, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    So informative things are provided here, I really happy to read this post, I was just imagine about it and you provided me the correct information I really bookmark it, for further reading, So thanks for sharing the information
    Alfamart official partner merchandise FIFA piala dunia Brazil 2014

    IDRPoker.com Agen Texas Poker Online Indonesia Terpercaya

    IDRPoker.com Agen Texas Poker Online Indonesia Terpercaya

  • Posted by shahbaz at Sunday, March 02, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    I’ll immediately seize your rss feed as I can't to find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. wholesale-garcinia-cambogia

  • Posted by shahbaz at Sunday, March 02, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    You could certainly see your skills in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart digitaltickets.com

  • Posted by shahbaz at Thursday, March 06, 2014 at 12:29 AM

    Thank you pertaining to an additional useful site. Where different might My spouse and i acquire that will sort of facts written in such the perfect Wallet Management solution technique? I've truly the venture that will I am just now focusing on, in addition to I am within the check such data.

  • Posted by tonyw at Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    That was really helpful. Thanks a lot. http://www.wynajmijkat.pl/2013/10/bramy-przemyslowe-i-czym-sa-i-gdzie-je-spotkac/ http://domy.pokoik.net/blog/bramy-segmentowe-

  • Posted by ihavben at Sunday, April 20, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    The target with small region will slope your correct matters with close meet and share your great options today.
    social followers
    views for YouTube

  • Posted by ihavben at Sunday, April 20, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Many times save with more quality followers and likes in the seem area to publish. The time is greatly involved with your phase credit.
    Andy Riches
    Kevin peter

  • Posted by ridho1991 at Monday, May 12, 2014 at 09:54 PM

    After study a few of the blog posts on your website now, and I truly like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Pls check out my web site as well and let me know what you think.

    oris breast cream

    forum jual beli

    free online blog

  • Posted by ihavben at Saturday, June 07, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    The margin and new port options will compare big new presents with super quality results on the top. buy facebook followers

  • Posted by ihavben at Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 03:48 AM

    The worthy new changes and challenges cover the media value with the help of high energy through easy points to facebook votes

  • Posted by ihavben at Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 01:16 PM

    The right points and full strategies will completely covers new results to solve big neither ideas to follow. diet for diabetes

  • Posted by ihavben at Monday, June 30, 2014 at 09:24 AM

    The more active ideas and special act through more active power points after very first move through the sense. buy votes for contest

  • Posted by ihavben at Monday, June 30, 2014 at 01:49 PM

    The top indication and mean measure to participate on scale up work to summarize big money in the pocket zone. increase facebook likes

  • Posted by ihavben at Friday, July 18, 2014 at 04:13 AM

    The sharper box identity will convert big more sales to run with high value points to cover the big value. get online votes

  • Posted by ihavben at Friday, August 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    The solid performance with excellent expert results will cover more percentage on the right place. best acne spot treatment

  • Posted by ihavben at Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    The simple active presence and tight data accepts big range of shift corners to make them flexible row. eye floaters cure naturally

  • Posted by mike12 at Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 05:17 AM

    Very nice post i like it a lot.I appreciate your efforts.
    grass mats with long lasting quality

  • Posted by mike12 at Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 08:02 AM

    You shouldn't pay the list price when buying a product online. Frequently, retailers follow a agenda for placing various product on discount or sale. If you wait for the perfect time, it is possible to save ten to 50 % from the full retail price. Just a little delayed gratification could mean big savings later on.Transporting Company

  • Posted by smith44 at Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 07:18 PM

    Interesting topic shown here, i am now working on it regularly here and would say keep the future posts like this continuously.
    Wholesale Towels

  • Posted by smith33 at Monday, August 25, 2014 at 01:07 PM

    That is very interesting Smile I love reading and I am always searching for informative information like this. This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing this great article. Wholesale Bedding

  • Posted by shahbaz123 at Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 03:44 AM

    Get free Pass bee Media now visit on this link and get free apps

  • Posted by ouku at Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 06:51 AM

    Thank you so much for the post you do. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, ts converter i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. pdf converter s

Current Stories

Articles

News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer

Columns

Births and Marriages

Readers Say


Subscribe