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James D. Thiessen
James Dale Thiessen was born at home, near Munich, North Dakota, to Abraham A and Marie (Hoffman) Thiessen on August 30, 1927. He entered Heaven’s gates on the morning of January 28, 2019 at Kidron Village in North Newton, Kansas.
His only sibling, a sister Olga, was eleven years old when James was born. She taught him to speak English before he entered first grade since Low German was spoken at home, and High German was spoken in church. He grew up on the family farm, learning to haul grain in a wagon pulled by a team of horses at the age of ten. James enjoyed hunting, playing marbles, farm chores, school and church activities in his early years.
At the age of ten James met nine-year-old Gladys Ruth Heppner for the first time. Her family had recently moved to the Alsen, ND, area from Lostwood, ND, and their families attended the same church. They began dating when James was seventeen, and Gladys was sixteen. They were married in the Salem Mennonite Church, Munich, ND, on September 24, 1947. Soon thereafter, in the space of ten years, five children arrived, and parental joys and challenges ensued for James and Gladys.
Education became a high priority early in James’ life. He graduated from Bethany Bible Academy, Munich, ND, at age 16, followed by a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible & Philosophy from Grace College of the Bible, Omaha, NE, in 1953. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education (1955) and a Masters degree in Education (1957) from Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, OK. Further academic studies followed, attending Emporia State University and Wichita State University.
These academic studies prepared James for a lifetime of teaching and administrative positions including Pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (1956-1966) and Principal of Markoma Bible Academy (1961-1966), both in Tahlequah, OK. In 1966 James accepted the position as Superintendent of Berean Academy (1966-1994) in Elbing, KS, where he served twenty-eight graduating classes, and experienced much joy working with students, teachers, administrators, and staff. At age 69, in 1996, James began an affiliation with ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International). He served twelve years on the Board of Directors for ACSI, and led twenty-two accreditation teams, including four trips to Guam and Saipan, and one trip to Portugal.
James & Gladys determined early in their marriage that their priority in this life together would be following their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, wherever He would direct them. And this calling led them to invest their lives in education that is Christ-centered as to its worldview, using the Bible as the foundation for interpreting life, both now and life in eternity to come. James’ passion for living was centered in knowing and experiencing Jesus, God’s Son, our Savior. His servant heart was fulfilled with experiences as a loving husband, father, pastor, high school teacher and administrator, Sunday School teacher and elder of Whitewater Community Church (formerly Swiss Church), board member of various organizations, grandfather and great-grandfather.
James is in Heaven now, and leaves behind the love of his life, Gladys of North Newton, KS, and their children, Karen and Irv Busenitz of Santa Clarita, CA, Kerwin and Julie Thiessen of Valley Center, KS, Korrene and Michael Keenan of Houston, TX, Keith and Deb Thiessen of Omaha, NE, and Kenneth and Marchel Thiessen of Valley Center, KS, ten grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren.
Many precious memories of James Thiessen from officiating at our wedding to making the trip back to Tahlequah to make our wedding party complete on our 50th Wedding anniversary, then to preach my mother's
funeral a few years later, not to mention serving as our pastor at Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Tahlequah. Ron & Regina Lobauagh
Ron & Regina Lobaugh Feb 3 2019 12:00 AM
I always enjoyed listening to him speak he had such a gift in communication. I remember that each of the years I was in high school at some chapel he would talk about how important our vertical relationship with Jesus Christ was if we wanted to have a Christ like horizonal relationship with the people around us. He certainly demonstrated that with his life
Darrel Entz (class of '80)
Darrel Entz (class of '80) Feb 3 2019 12:00 AM
I always enjoyed hearing him speak, he always had such a connection with his audience. Each year I was in high school I remember him talking in chapel about our vertical relationship with Jesus Christ and our horizonal relationship with people. He certainly lived that out.
Darrel Entz (class of '80) Feb 3 2019 12:00 AM
Ken, I am very sorry for your loss! Your dad was an amazing man! He finished his race and I'm sure that he heard the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Judy Neufeld - Class of '77 Feb 2 2019 12:00 AM
In my time at Berean, James Thiessen seemed like a "Moses" to me-- bigger than life, yet a friendship with God that overflowed to all of us-- and beckoned me to follow. SO thankful for his life of service, and now his joy to see Jesus and hear his "well done!" All those "vertical/ horizontal relationship" talks he gave in chapel-- now he knows how deeply true they were!
Thanks, Thiessen family, for sharing your father and grandfather with so many of us over the years-- our prayers go with you! Lowell Entz
Lowell Entz (class of '77) Feb 2 2019 12:00 AM
No one man had a greater Godly influence on the direction of my life than Mr. Thiessen. He helped me to confirm my faith. He directed me to the Savior when I was confused and doubting. He firmly, yet patiently guided me through some emotionally tough times in my teenage years.
I know countless others have been blessed by his influence. My prayers are with you all, his precious family.
Richard Flora Feb 1 2019 12:00 AM
Mr. Thiessen had a big impact on my life. He led a school that impacted me for life more than many many other things. God has called home a great servant of His. Sylvia and I send our condolences to all the Thiessen family.
Philip Schroeder (class of '72) Feb 1 2019 12:00 AM
A Designers Choice was sent on February 1, 2019
Prayers for your family. So many precious memories of a life well lived! The impact still resonates on our family! God bless. Love in Jesus, Richard and Dorothy Flora
Expression of Sympathy Feb 1 2019 12:00 AM
Ken and Marchel--I am very sorry to hear about the passing of your father and father-in-law. He sounds like he was a kind, loving, Christian man--just like his son. I offer my condolences to all the family. I am interested in his schooling in Tallequah, OK. because my mom and dad were born in Muskogee.
My prayers are with all of you. Much, much love----Cindy Anderson
Cindy Anderson Jan 31 2019 12:00 AM
Mr. Thiessen was one of the nicest men I have ever met. It was my absolute pleasure to be able to care for him during the night shift at Kidron Bethel. The love Mr and Mrs Thiessen had for each other could be felt the moment you walked into his room. I'm blessed for having known him!!
Maggie Jan 31 2019 12:00 AM