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Obituaries » Geneva M. Shetler

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Geneva M. Shetler

July 8, 1919 - September 13, 2019

Visitation will begin at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, September 17, 2019 followed by a memorial luncheon at First Mennonite Church in Bluffton. Private burial will take place in Maple Grove Cemetery in Bluffton.

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Bluffton, Ohio
Geneva Shetler was born Geneva May Stamm on July 8, 1919 to Gustav and Priscilla (Stuckey) Stamm on a farm near Archbold, Ohio. She was the 6th of 10 children and Geneva worked with her brothers and sisters helping take care of the younger children, raising the animals, working in the garden and truck patch, and putting up produce. She remembered that “with such a large family I learned early how to speak up for myself and become as independent as possible without being a problem for my parents.” She had a special relationship with her grandmother, who dealt well with a child who was especially “persistent” and full of questions.
Geneva was always a curious and avid learner. She attended school with her siblings in the one-room schoolhouse on a corner of the family farm. In high school she took part in school plays, enjoyed playing ball and competed in races, and graduated in 1936. At 17, Geneva somehow convinced her parents that she was mature and independent enough to start attending Goshen College and completed a two-year certificate in education, one of the few choices open to women at the time. Geneva began her education career when she was 19 by teaching grades 4-6 in a three-room school in her home community.
In her second year at college a professor required his students to sit in alphabetical order and she sat next to — and shared a textbook with — Luther Shetler. They started dating and were married on December 22, 1940, together for 78 years until Luther’s death in December, 2018. Luther and Geneva lived in a number of communities during their first 10 years of their marriage but settled in Bluffton, OH where Luther began teaching at Bluffton College. They built their house together on Augsburger Road and Geneva threw herself into all that went into keeping the family (including Luther) organized and raising their five children, who were 18 years apart from oldest to youngest. She and Luther loved hosting both family and friends at their home and Geneva’s artistry with both food and setting was renowned.
Even while immersed in family life Geneva was still determined to finish college. In 1967 she went back to school to complete her BA in Education at Bluffton College. She taught elementary school in Elmira, OH, and Bluffton, OH for a total of 20 years. She was a master teacher, always eager to try out new and better ways to teach (sometimes to the consternation of school administrators). In her pursuit of being the best teacher she could be Geneva also earned her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education at Bowling Green University.
Geneva’s life always revolved around church and community. The Stamm family attended Lockport Mennonite Church where she said she grew up with a sense of responsibility for sharing whatever they had with others. The many Bible verses and hymns she learned as a child were still with her in the last weeks of life. Geneva and her husband were active members of the First Mennonite Church in Bluffton, OH.
When her children were young Geneva sewed all of their clothes including pants and coats and snowsuits! In later life a friend encouraged her to try quilting and a whole different kind of artistry emerged. She loved laying out, designing and sewing her own beautiful patterns for quilts and pillows and wall hangings that now decorate the homes of her children and grandchildren. She continued making quilts and until her fingers and her eyes would no longer cooperate.
In retirement she and Luther enjoyed traveling and learning at elderhostels in the US, Central America and Europe. Her creativity continued in her quilting, cooking, sewing and growing flowers at their house in the woods. She took pleasure in watching the grandchildren and great grandchildren grow and bloom. In 1984 she instituted a weekly family gathering (“Tea Party”) that lasted until their move to Maple Crest in 2011. All generations have great memories of the food and discussions at these gatherings. It was the place to laugh and be loved and to bring the new babies to be held and approved of by the rest of the family!
Geneva Shetler died peacefully and surrounded by family on September 13, 2019 at the Mennonite Memorial Home in Bluffton. She was 100 years old. Geneva is survived by five children: Joenita (Stanley) Clemens, Bluffton, OH; Terry (Bonnie Wolfe), Bellvue, CO; Lu Derstine, Bluffton, OH; Peter (Jan Bender), Goshen, IN; and Tami (Michael) Hardy, Bluffton, OH, 14 grandchildren and 33 great grandchildren, a sister, Zelma Kauffman, a brother Duane (Betty) Stamm, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, her parents, son-in-law Dale Derstine, 4 sisters: Beulah Stockburger, Irma Short, Wilma Roth, and Grace Eicher; and 3 brothers: Paul, Harold, and Denver Stamm.
Visitation will begin at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, September 17, 2019 followed by a memorial luncheon at First Mennonite Church in Bluffton. Private burial will take place in Maple Grove Cemetery in Bluffton.
Memorial contributions may be made to Bluffton University, Goshen College, Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio or First Mennonite Church.


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