Cover photo for Herbert Eugene (Gene) Herr's Obituary
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1932 Herbert 2012

Herbert Eugene (Gene) Herr

May 11, 1932 — January 1, 2012

Herbert Eugene (Gene) Herr passed away at age 79, on Jan 1, 2012, in Hesston, Kansas. He died from complications related to cancer.

Gene was born on May 11, 1932 in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, to Mary Landis and Herbert Herr. He married Mary Yutzy on May 21, 1955.

He attended primary and high school in Strasburg. He attended both Eastern Mennonite and Goshen College, graduating from the latter with a degree in Bible. His graduate education spanned several institutions: Associated Mennonite Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana; Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma (Master’s in Religious Education); Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana (Master’s in Divinity); and St. Paul School of Theology in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he completed coursework toward a Doctorate in Ministry.

Gene was ordained into the ministry on May 15, 1955 while serving as pastor at Kingview Mennonite Church in Scottdale, Pennsylvania. He then became the National Youth Fellowship Director for the Mennonite Church, serving in that role from 1955-1966. From 1966-1970, he was pastor at Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church in Harper, Kansas; during the 1960’s, he was also active with Faith at Work’s Leadership Training Institutes; from 1970-1975, he served as Director of Christian Education at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana; from 1976-77, he was interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Elkhart, Indiana; and, from 1978-1982, he was co-director of the Phoenix Discipleship and Service program sponsored by the Mennonite Board of Missions. From 1983-1985, he pursued graduate studies.

From 1985-2001, Gene and his wife Mary continued their close collaborative work when they founded and established The Hermitage Retreat Center in Three Rivers, Michigan. In many ways, his life experiences came together at The Hermitage. Located on about 53 acres with a barn that was creatively rebuilt by a local craftsman and family friend, this still thriving institution remains a place for silent retreats, spiritual formation, and walks along the property’s wooded trails. It is a unique place of solitude, providing a place to reconnect with one’s inner calling and to discern how to live a faith-based life. After retiring in 2001, Gene spent five months in Belfast, Northern Ireland, working at the Columbanus Community of Reconciliation. He also volunteered with the Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica and the Harvey County Homeless Shelter in Newton, Kansas. Through the years, across many roles and diverse settings, he answered the call to serve and help others—often working with people from a range of denominations.

He enjoyed life immensely and was physically active. When it came time to give up more strenuous activity, he continued to walk vigorously and cheered on his granddaughters when they participated in various sports or related activities. He always had encouraging words and sage advice for his children, grandchildren, and many friends. He was also a gracious host to international guests from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, experiences that led to positive, life-long relationships with those whose lives he touched.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Herr, of Newton, Kansas. Son Phillip and wife Maria live in Olney, Maryland; son Karl and wife Mary Lynne live in Bayfield, Colorado; and daughter Ellen Awe and husband Darryl live in Wichita, Kansas. He has six granddaughters: Jessica McElhiney, Heather Herr, Alejandra Herr, Emily Metcalf, Amber Vogts, and Avery Vogts. A sister, Marian Hess and husband, Ed, live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

A memorial service will be held at Hesston Mennonite Church, Hesston, Kansas, on Friday, Jan 6th at 7pm, following family viewing from 3-5pm.

Funeral Mass will be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Newton, Kansas, on Saturday, Jan 7th at 10:30am. Burial will follow at East Lawn Cemetary in Zimmerdale.

Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, Newton, Kansas, is handling arrangements.

Memorial donations can be made to the Spiritual Strengths Cancer Care program, Congregation of St. Joseph, Wichita, Kansas.

A full obituary is available at
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