Eli J. Walter, 96 of Newton went to be with Jesus on January 20, 2018 at Presbyterian Manor in Newton. Dad was born on a farm in rural Hitchcock, SD January 9, 1922 to Joe M and Susie (Hofer) Walter. He was the second oldest of 10 children.
He attended various grade schools sometimes riding a horse to school and sometimes on a horse-drawn wagon or a sled in the winter. While growing up he said he always wanted to be a pilot. After graduating from Yale High School he attended Freeman Jr. College for one year and received a license to teach school. Dad taught at a country grade school for one year and then enlisted in the Army. He was in the Air Corps and his dream of becoming a pilot was coming true as he trained to be a fighter pilot in 1942 right in the middle of WWII. The war ended before he saw combat duty.
During his time in the Army Air Corps, at his brother’s wedding he met Adeline Wipf. It was love at first sight and two months after their first date they were married. Even though Dad grew up in a Christian home it was while on a date with Mom that she led him to the Lord. He was baptized in 1946.
After being discharged from the military Dad attended Huron College. He then worked as an electrical contractor for three years. He often told us that if God had let him that would have been his life’s vocation. But he felt the tug of God on his heart for ministry and attended St. Paul Bible Institute in Minnesota graduating in 1952. He then returned and graduated from Huron College with a teaching degree. He would tell us that he was a history major but didn’t know when the War of 1812 was fought.
In the early ‘50s he was one of the founding teachers of Sunshine Bible Academy, a Christian boarding school for high school students on the windswept plains of South Dakota. We moved to Hutchinson, Kansas in 1957 and Dad taught at Central Christian High School for eight years. He also taught one year at the Kansas State Industrial Reformatory as it was known then. While teaching school full time he served as interim pastor as Crestview Bible Church for one year and then as pastor of Orchard Park MB church for seven years.
Moving to Elbing in 1966 it became Mom and Dad’s home for the next 49 years. Dad taught at Berean Academy for at least 25 years. He remained there as athletic director for several more years. After all these years this school year was the first year that he has not been able to go to Berean activities.
As a teacher, coach, and athletic director one of his goals was to provide many opportunities for student participation. He was an organizer and an idea person. During those early years at Berean there were not many athletic activities for girls so he created them. This past week concluded the 51st Annual Eli J. Walter Girls Basketball tournament, the longest running girls tournament in the state of Kansas. It was another example of him wanting to serve his students.
Dad was also very active here at church. He taught Sunday school for a long time and was on the missions committee as well. He had a heart for missions as that was his major at St. Paul Bible Institute. One of the highlights of his life was when he and Mom were able to take a trip to visit his brother Joe and wife Jan and sister Maurine and husband Paul who were missionaries in the jungles of Peru. There might still be a well that bears his name in the jungles as a result of that trip. He also was involved in the Prison Fellowship ministry for quite a few years.
Having walked in their shoes he always tried to be an encouragement to his pastors by praying with them and for them.
After his retirement from Berean some of his other activities were that he drove a mail route, helped fill in at Klassen’s Store in Elbing, delivered vehicles for Resnik Motors, served as water commissioner for the city of Elbing and worked for J. L. Unruh.
In the summer of 2015 Dad and Mom moved to Presbyterian Manor in Newton. He was used to serving others and he didn’t like that his physical limitations made it difficult for him to do that. Mom not being able to communicate was a real challenge for him as well. These last months he kept telling us that he was ready to go home. His last few days were very peaceful as he slowly slipped into glory to meet his Savior face-to-face.
We are thankful for the full life God gave Dad. And we are thankful for the example he was for us and our children. By God’s grace we hope to continue his legacy for generations to come. Dad let Jesus live through him and as a result influenced many, many people.
Dad is survived by his wife Adeline (Wipf) Walter. Survivors also include three children; Kathie (Jack) Girst, Randy (Judy) Walter, Daryl (Diane) Walter
7 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren, David & Mary Kaye Girst – Levi, Brady, Malia; Beth & Ryan Duft – Kinley, Avery, Caden; Jenny & Ernesto Ildefonso – Maximus; Jay & Shana Walter – Adrienne, Paige, Jillian; Lynn Walter; Lori & Nate Wilson – Charlie, Payton; Jeff & Joni Walter – Finnley; brother Joe (Jan) Walter; sisters Maurine Friesen, June Wiebe, Lavonne Walter and Naomi Rempe. Preceding him in death are his parents, brother Johnnie Walter, sisters Edna Stahl, Joann Epp, and infant sister Caroline Walter.
Memorial contributions can be made to Berean Academy and can be sent in care of Lamb Funeral Home, PO Box 358, Whitewater, KS 67154.