Lucille Irene Leppke Klassen was born on January 8, 1923, to Carl and Lizzie (Litke) Leppke on a farm 1 mile south and ¼ East of the Ebenfeld M.B. Church, rural Hillsboro. She had 1 older brother and later 2 younger brothers were born. Lucille loved growing up on the farm and often shared her memories with her grandchildren. It was at this farm that she cultivated her life long love of gardening while helping her mother. She attended the Ebenfeld School for her grade school years. Although she was left-handed, her teacher insisted she write and cut with her right hand. After graduating from the 8th grade at Ebenfeld School, Lucille attended Hillsboro High School for two years riding every day to Hillsboro with her brother, Marvin.
While attending revival meetings at Ebenfeld Church at the age of 14, Lucille trusted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. She was baptized in the Cottonwood River, while a certain young man was watching that day. A few years later, this handsome young man caught her eye while they were attending bi-weekly Sunday Jugendvereiu meetings at Ebenfeld Church. (Later these became known as Christian Endeavor programs.) While strolling the midway at the Marion County fair, Jacob D. Klassen asked her to ride the Ferris wheel. He must have been quite charming for she said “yes” even though she was afraid to ride the Ferris wheel. Later they played several games of Bingo before Jake sked if he could drive her home. He must have been charming and persuasive, because her parents eventually gave their permission. They ended their romantic first date with a long talk in front of the harvest moon about ½ mile from Lucille’s home. Jacob and Lucille were married on October 26, 1941 at Ebenfeld M. B. Church.
Jake was drafted by the US Army in August 1942. Lucille accompanied him to training bases in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Suddenly this 19-year-old sheltered Mennonite girl was thrust into the world of deep south and segregation. Her faith became her firm foundation. Jake’s company departed for England in April 1944. Lucille had already returned to her parent’s farm in rural Hillsboro. She delivered her first baby, Judy, shortly after Jake left. Lucille and Judy lived at the Carl Leppke farm and moved with them to Albuquerque, New Mexico a year later.
In July 1945, Jake returned from Europe and met his 14-month-old daughter for the first time. The family moved to a farm 4 miles south of Hillsboro. Three more children eventually joined the family: Dennis in 1947, Jolene in 1948 and Joetta in 1960.
Church was always very important to Lucille. She was a lifelong member at the Ebenfeld Church. She participated in the ladies sewing circle and taught children’s Sunday School and VBS. She enjoyed hosting women’s Bible studies in her home. She prayed faithfully for the salvation of her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her biggest joy was when she heard member of her family invited Jesus into their life.
In 1966, Jake and Lucille sold their farm and moved to Hillsboro, where they started Hillsboro Industries. During this time, Lucille enjoyed many years of working at Parkside Homes as a nurse aide. In the later years she became a home health care aide. She loved caring for older individuals, reading the Bible to them or listening to their life stories. Dennis joined the Hillsboro Industries as a manager in 1976. In 1978, Dennis was involved in a tragic plane crash near Hillsboro in which he and 2 other men were severely burned. Five weeks later, Dennis passed away at the age of 30, leaving behind his wife Jeryll and two sons, Brian and Jonathan. This was Lucille’s deepest grief.
As time went on, Jake and Lucille began traveling. They spent several months in Lima, Peru to help build a school for the deaf and homes for missionaries. They took fun trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica. They also traveled to Quatomec, Mexico to visit “old colony” Mennonite Russian Villages. In 1980, they visited the Ukrainian Mennonite villages and the U.S.S.R. They loved fishing and made several trips to Peerless Lake in Northern Alberta, Canada, to spend time fishing with her brothers. In 2008, Lucille took a trip to visit her granddaughter Stephanie in Shostka, Ukraine. After a week, they joined the Tabor College Tour of the Mennonite villages in Southern Ukraine. Then in 2010, at the age of 87, she traveled to Amsterdam, Netherlands to visit her daughter Joetta.
On October 27, 1991, Jake and Lucille celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Four months later Jake passed away. Eventually Lucille moved to her duplex near the Tabor College campus. Every fall season Lucille loved welcoming new Tabor College students into the house next door. Delivering homemade Cinnamon Rolls was her method to introduce herself. As a result, she developed many lifelong friendships with these students.
Lucille enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren, inviting them to Vacation Bible School at Ebenfeld and attending school activities and sporting events. As each of her grandchildren grew to adulthood, she delighted in hand stitching a quilt for each one.
Lucille passed away while gardening at her home, in Hillsboro on Sunday, May 19, 2019, at the age of 96. Lucille will be missed by her family, relatives and friends.
Survivors include: daughters Judith (John) Harris of Newton, KS, Jolene (Ron) Loewen of North Newton, KS, and Joetta (David) Whitcomb of Moundridge, KS; daughter-in-law Jeryll Klassen, Del Mar, CA; brother, Kenneth Leppke, Albuquerque, New Mexico; 8 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by: her husband, Jacob D. Klassen; son, Dennis Klassen; brothers, Marvin Leppke and Lee Roy Leppke.
Memorials have been designated to the Ebenfeld MB Church Cemetery Gateway Project, or Ebenfeld School Restoration, in care of Zeiner Funeral Home, PO Box 6, Marion KS 66861.