Lois Augusta (Duerksen) Deckert was born on August 8, 1933 in Korba, India to Christina and Jacob Duerksen. Lois had an auspicious, albeit early, entrance into the world. She was born at home where the Queen of Korba came on her elephant to see her tiny new subject. Every subsequent birthday the Queen gave Lois a silver Rupee. The Duerksen family lived in India as missionaries from the time Lois was born until all of the children had returned to the United States to attend Bethel College. Lois and her siblings, Joseph and Christine, attended Woodstock boarding school in Mussoorie, India. Lois had a deep attachment to India and Woodstock school and attended reunions each year that she could travel.
As a young college student at Bethel College Lois pursued her love of art while majoring in Elementary Education. She will be remembered by family and friends for her many creative talents. She continued her art education throughout her life taking classes in painting, poetry, and ceramics. She used her talents to connect with others by hand crafting greeting cards for family and friends and knitting afghans and sweaters that are still being enjoyed and treasured by the recipients. In addition to the visual arts, Lois enjoyed writing both prose and poetry. She belonged to several writing groups, edited the Women in Mission magazine, worked at the Mennonite press, and published a novel entitled “Keeping Hope”.
During her time at Bethel, Lois met Marion Deckert. She married Marion on June 16, 1957 in Bethel College Mennonite Church. Lois and Marion moved to Chicago Illinois where Marion pursued a Divinity degree and Lois taught school. Following the completion of Marion’s degree they volunteered with Mennonite Central Committee which took them first to Morocco and later to Halmahara Indonesia. Their first child, Alan, was born in Morocco and their second, Alice, was born in Indonesia. Lois enjoyed adventure and learning about other cultures and she continued to travel widely with Marion throughout their life together, returning several times to India and once to Indonesia.
Lois and Marion eventually settled in North Newton Kansas. Lois took on many roles during her life in North Newton. In particular she served as the International Student advisor at Bethel College for a number of years. In this role she was able to form deep connections with many international students. Their shared experience as “Global Citizens” made these students family to her. Many of these students remained life-long friends.
Marion’s sabbatical from Bethel College took them to Indonesia. Unfortunately, Lois was diagnosed with lymphoma and an inoperable tumor brought them back to the States where they finished off the year in Akron, PA at the MCC headquarters while Lois underwent treatment. Lois bravely battled the lymphoma on and off for five or six years with chemotherapy and radiation. Those close to her marveled at the grace with which she endured her illness and rejoiced in her survival and the fact that she could live cancer free for the last decades of her life.
Having married into a farm family Lois was forced to learn to cook and preserve the bounty from their extensive garden. Although she often complained about the proliferating produce on her kitchen counter she took great pride in the rows of jars filled with the fruits of her labor on the pantry shelves in the basement of their home on Emerald Court. She also used her talents to become an accomplished and creative baker and cook. We will remember her each time we sit down to fellowship around a table loaded with good food and each time we sip a post-prandial cup of tea. Her hospitality will be missed by many.
Lois is survived by her husband, Marion Deckert, her two children, Alan and Alice Deckert, her two grandchildren, Caitlin and Megan McGrath and her two siblings, Christine (Duerksen) Waltner and Joseph Duerksen.
A Memorial Service will be held at 3:00 pm on August 15th at the Bethel College Mennonite Church.