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Published: Monday, 10/6/2003

Reverend raised money in Bluffton College post

BLUFFTON - The Rev. Harry Yoder, a longtime administrator at Bluffton College and pastor of several Mennonite churches, died Wednesday of pneumonia at the Mennonite Memorial Home in Bluffton, his daughter Edith Yoder said. He was 99.

Mr. Yoder was pastor at five churches in Indiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania over the years. As an assistant to the president at Bluffton College, he traveled to churches across the Midwest, raising funds that enabled the college to build several facilities.

Born Aug. 19, 1904, in Goshen, Ind., he worked on the farm after eighth grade and eventually graduated from Goshen Academy.

Mr. Yoder studied at Bluffton College's Witmarsum Theological Seminary and graduated in 1932. He continued studying theology at the Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut and graduated in 1935.

He became pastor of the former Silver Street Mennonite Church in Goshen and also drove a school bus and ran a farm with hundreds of chickens. After five years, he moved to Carlock, Ill., where he was pastor of the Carlock Mennonite Church and the Little North Church for another five years.

In 1946, Mr. Yoder went to work at Bluffton College, where he recruited students. During that time, he was president of the Central District Mennonite Conference. In 1955, he became pastor of Calvary Mennonite Church in Washington, Ill., and continued his work with the Central District Conference.

After five years there, he became assistant to the president at Bluffton College and traveled to churches in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to raise money. He enjoyed driving and meeting people, his daughter Edith Yoder said. He retired in 1974 and spent two years living on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where his wife's family had a cottage.

From there he moved to Lancaster, Pa., to be an interim pastor at the Bethel Mennonite Church for three years. After that, he returned to Bluffton and was employed as a visitation pastor, going to see the sick and elderly, at the First Mennonite Church.

He received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Bluffton College in 1983.

In his spare time, he refinished furniture that he had collected in his travels in the Midwest. He was a member of the Bluffton Lions Club.

Mr. Yoder was known for his sense of humor and his talent with people.

“He had friends who were very young, right through to the seniors,” Ms. Yoder said.

Surviving are his son, Ronald; daughters, Edith Yoder and Laura Gliga; brothers, Allen and Dale; sister, Ruth Leichty; four grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.

There will be a memorial service at 3 p.m. Oct. 19 at the First Mennonite Church in Bluffton. There will be no visitation.

The family suggests tributes to Bluffton College, First Mennonite Church, or the Mennonite Memorial Home.

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