Curt A. Claassen
Curt Albert Claassen, 99, of Berne entered the presence of his beloved Savior and Lord on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at Adams Memorial Hospital in Decatur. He was born on September 28, 1918 in the family farmhouse in rural Whitewater, Kansas to Edward and Catherine Claassen. He was married on June 1, 1944 in Dallas, Oregon to Olga Schultz.
After graduation from high school, he attended the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University) where he studied Bible in preparation for mission work. During a summer, he sang tenor in a quartet, which toured in several states. It was at Biola that he met his wife while working in the school cafeteria. In later years, he studied at UCLA, completed a Bachelor’s degree at Goshen College and studied at Denver Seminary.
They left for missionary service in India with the General Conference Mennonite Church in December 1945 where they served the churches of Mauhadi, Janjgir, Champa, and Korba until 1973. Their faithful service to the Indian church included village evangelism, mentoring Indian evangelists, teaching in a Bible school, preaching and teaching, nurturing Christians in scattered villages, and planting new churches in Korba’s urban industrial areas. They travelled by oxcart, bicycle, and jeep.
Extreme disappointment was theirs when, in 1975, their visas to re-enter India were denied. He was then invited to join the staff of the First Mennonite Church in Berne, where they quickly felt at home and were warmly embraced by the Berne community. Their giftings suited them well with his roles of associate and visitation pastor and hers of hospitality and prayer. Both loved to encourage young people to walk well with Jesus. He continued on staff at First Mennonite Church for 20 years, until 1995.
His zeal for Jesus Christ characterized him with joy, love, and kindness, which touched everyone around him. He “never knew a stranger” because he was interested that each person he met should know Jesus. A firm handshake accompanied his heartfelt, “The Lord bless you richly!” His deep trust in God brought a steady peace even when things were difficult. As he often said, “There’s nothing to fear.”
From a very young age, he played hymns and gospel songs on the piano, continuing to do so until just prior to his death. Always, it was his desire that the music glorify God. His playing will continue to bless all through a CD recorded by Tara Steffen when he was 92.
He is survived by four sons, Lloyd (Gail) Claassen of Seattle, Washington; Gordon (Yarna) Claassen of Modesto, California; Eldon (Jan) Claassen of Fort Wayne; and Loren (Patricia) Claassen of Columbus, Ohio; six grandchildren, Josh (Ashley); and Caleb (Mari) of Finland; Anna (Jake); and Sarah of Fort Wayne; and Ken and Kyle of Columbus, Ohio; two great-grandsons, Aaron and Niko; two great-grandchildren expected in 2018; and two sisters-in-law, Verbena Claassen; and Martha Claassen.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife in 2010; nine brothers; and three sisters.
Visitation will be from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, December 19 at First Mennonite Church in Berne followed by a memorial service at 7:30 p.m. Officiating will be Pastor Jerry Flueckiger and Pastor Jeff Linthicum. A private family burial took place on Friday, November 24 at MRE Cemetery in Berne.
The Claassen family thanks the Berne community for their love, kindness, and supportive encouragement to Curt and Olga since 1975.
Memorials may be made to First Mennonite Church Missions.
Arrangements provided by Yager-Kirchhofer Funeral Home in Berne. Sign the guestbook online at www.yagerkirchhofer.com.