John Orlin Schrag (J.O.), 100, died October 15, 2014, at Kidron Bethel in North Newton, Kansas. The middle child in a family of seven, he was born on the family farm three miles west and four miles north of Moundridge, Kansas, April 30, 1914, to Adina Pearl (Kaufman) Schrag and Jacob D. Schrag.
From childhood to the beginning of high school, he attended the Hoffungsfeld (Hopefield) Mennonite Church where he was baptized by Rev. Neuenschwander in 1931. About the same year, he and his family joined the Eden Mennonite Church in Moundridge. He transferred his membership two more times, first to the McPherson Mennonite Church, and after retirement to the Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton.
On June 12, 1943, he married Esther Frieda Ratzlaff, a Bethel College classmate. Their two daughters (Sandra Zerger and Rebecca Fretz) survive him. Family was very important to John. His youngest sibling Milo E. Schrag and wife Anne Zerger Schrag and a sister-in-law Dorothy Witter Schrag (widow of Martin H. Schrag) are the only survivors of his siblings. Other siblings include: Melinda (Mrs. Martin M. Goering), Alvin (and wife Marie Goering Schrag), Clarence (and wife Leona Goering Schrag), and Marie (and husband Waldo Wedel and later Arnold Wedel). In-laws (all deceased) were Ruie Ratzlaff (Henry) Becker, Walter Ratzlaff (Alice), Sadie Ratzlaff Harms (Edwin), Paul Ratzlaff, Kathryn Ratzlaff Blair (Milford). Sons-in-law are John D. Zerger and Thomas H. Fretz. Grandchildren include: Jonathan Zerger (Heather Esau), Mark Fretz (Wibke Wojanowski), Brian Zerger (Kristin Bohnenblust), and Amy Kristine Fretz (deceased). Great-grandchildren are Piet Fretz, Til Fretz, Justin Zerger, Addison Zerger, Allison Zerger and Madelyn Zerger. In addition, he leaves behind cousins and many nieces and nephews.
J.O. attended Pioneer School, a one-room school a half-mile from the family homestead. There he liked history and most courses except math and spelling. He said he had many good teachers, but was prone to mention Ed Flickner, an elementary teacher, who rewarded good learning with Hershey bars. He attended Moundridge High School and Hesston Academy. After farming for several years to help the family during the Depression, he enrolled at Bethel College, where he formed friendships that lasted a lifetime. He credited Bethel College with shaping his life. While at Bethel, he was co-captain of the football team, admitted to Who’s Who Among College Students, on the yearbook staff, vice-president of his senior class, and in several plays.
After graduation from Bethel College in 1938 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Arts, he taught high school and coached at Macksville, Burlington, McPherson, and Hillsboro High Schools in Kansas. He then entered Kansas City—Western Dental School (now the University of Missouri—Kansas City School of Dentistry), from which he graduated at the top of his class. He practiced one year in Macksville before moving to McPherson, where he practiced for over thirty years with two years in alternative service in Aibonito and Pugillas, Puerto Rico.
John was actively involved in the community. He was on the Bethel College Board of Directors and served as board chair, Church Congregational Chair at Eden and McPherson, President of Mennonite Men of the General Conference, a life member of the American Dental Association, elected to Omicron Kappa Upsilon, a member of the Peace and Justice Commission of the Western District Conference, and chair of the Knife and Fork Club.
In retirement, he and Esther served in voluntary service on three Native American reservations. As a member of the Silver Haired Legislature, he wrote several pieces of legislation that became law. He enjoyed traveling to many locations in the United States, Europe, Central and South America. Trips often were combined with attending church conferences, Elderhostels, or visiting family. He became involved in the fine arts by painting, ceramics, silversmithing, wood carving, and writing poems, children’s books, and short narratives. Also, he was an avid sports fan with his favorite sport being baseball.
Visitation Friday, October 17, 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Petersen Funeral Home with the family present from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. A graveside service will be held in Greenwood Cemetery in Newton at 10:00 am Saturday, October 18. A memorial service will be at the Bethel College Chapel in the Administration Building at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Memorials may be designated to the Helping Hands Fund at Bethel College.
I think J. O. was one of my dad’s favorite cousins! I still remember his comments at dad’s funeral. A fine man (though he did often hurt me with that dentist’s drill!).
You have our heartfelt love at this time. Our family has always felt a special closeness to John and Esther. He lived with my grandparents when he taught school in Macksville. When he came back to Macksville as a dentist the relationship continued. Such fondness we feel for all of you. You have our sincere sympathy…