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Published: Monday, 6/4/2007

Pastor was writing book about battle with breast cancer

SOMERSET, Mich. - The Rev. E. Anne Stuckey, associate pastor at Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold who was among the denomination's early female pastors and who had just started writing a book tentatively titled When the Pastor Gets Cancer, died Thursday in a vehicle crash near Peru, Ill.

She had been in Iowa doing research for her book and was driving alone on I-80 in a heavy rainstorm, headed back to the home in Hillsdale County's Irish Hills near Somerset that she shared with her husband, Terry, he said. Her car apparently hydroplaned, crossed the median, and collided with an oncoming semi tractor, he said. Pastor Stuckey, who was 54, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Just weeks ago, Pastor Stuckey had started a sabbatical from the church in Fulton County to concentrate on writing about her experience with breast cancer.

"She had cared for so many people and all of a sudden the roles were reversed," her husband said.

Even in the midst of chemotherapy when she had lost her hair, Pastor Stuckey stood in the pulpit at Zion without wearing a wig or scarf, and told the congregation that she would not hide her experience with cancer and how it affected her relationship with God, recalled Zion member Jane Friesen.

Pastor Stuckey had written an earlier book, Training Ministry Teams: A Manual for Deacons and Elders, that sold thousands of copies and was translated into Indonesian, Korean, Vietnamese, and other languages.

She also wrote regularly for The Builder, a preparation guide for adult Sunday school teachers, and The Mennonite magazine.

But she was perhaps best known as a speaker.

Her largest audience was a Mennonite convention of about 5,000 teens in Orlando in 1997.

"She was a great storyteller. Her sermons reached all age groups," Mrs. Friesen said.

Indeed, yesterday when Zion was mourning Pastor Stuckey during its worship service, church member Joyce Frey said a high school student told the congregation: "Anne's sermons I tried to stay awake for."

Pastor Stuckey, however, preached only about once a month and spent most of her time talking with church members who were grieving or facing big challenges.

"She was superb at doing that," said Zion Pastor Ronald D. Guengerich, "and incredibly appreciated by the congregation."

Pastor Stuckey, born Elizabeth Anne Woelfle in Kitchener, Ont., was raised Canadian Baptist.

But after her father died of cancer and her mother returned to work, she was sent to a Mennonite boarding school in Ontario.

She graduated from high school, skipping the 13th year that is traditional in Canada, and received a bachelor's degree in English from what was then Waterloo Lutheran University in Waterloo, Ont., at age 19.

In part because she was still so young, she decided to study further at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., and it was there she met her husband, a fellow student.

They married in 1974 and interrupted their seminary studies to teach at Hesston College in Kansas for a year. After Pastor Stuckey received a master's degree in Christian education, the couple spent 1976-1979 in Burkina Faso in Africa as representatives of Mennonite Central Committee, a relief organization, and she taught grades three through eight in an international school there.

When they returned to the states, they lived in Iowa where Pastor Stuckey became a chaplain at Parkview Manor nursing home in Wellman.

"That's where she got her first taste of the ministry," her husband said.

By 1987 she was licensed as a minister and in 1988 she became the first woman to be ordained by the Iowa-Nebraska Mennonite Conference.

She was an associate pastor and then a co-pastor at First Mennonite Church in Iowa City, Iowa, from 1987 to 1990.

The Stuckeys moved to southeast Michigan to be closer to his family in Fulton County and Pastor Stuckey became a preaching minister at Salem Mennonite Church in Waldron, Mich., in 1991. She stayed there until 2000 when she became an associate pastor at Zion, which typically draws 250 to 300 people on Sunday mornings.

Surviving are her husband, Terry; son, Matt; daughter, Leah; mother and stepfather, Elizabeth and Leonard Hagey; brother, John Woelfle, and stepbrother, John Arthur Hagey.

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. tomorrow and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday in Zion Mennonite Church fellowship hall. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Sauder Village's Founders Hall, Archbold. Short Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes to Mennonite Central Committee.



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