What does a person do to continue to find meaning and purpose in life as one grows older?
For 85-year-old Katie Funk Wiebe of Wichita, sharing her life’s experiences and the insights she gained from them has become an enduring passion. She has written at least a dozen books.
Wiebe taught at Tabor College for 24 years from 1966 to 1990.
Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission and the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies at Tabor College sponsored a reception and program Saturday in Hillsboro honoring Wiebe’s life and work.
A new book, “The Voice of a Writer: Honoring the Life of Katie Funk Wiebe,” is a collection of articles and essays contributed by many authors in Wiebe’s honor, and was presented to her. A book signing followed.
Wiebe was born in Canada in 1925, shortly after her parents moved there from southern Russia. She grew up in Canada.
She married, and about four weeks after she and her husband moved to Hillsboro in 1962, he died, leaving her a widow with four children to raise.
The “stay-at-home” mom was forced to go to work. She obtained a college degree and taught English and journalism at Tabor College. She began writing books in 1976. All of them were inspired by her personal experiences.
Even in her youth, Wiebe questioned conventional Mennonite traditions, and that is manifested in her writings. Mennolink Books describes her as “an early Mennonite and biblical feminist.”
The first two books she wrote were about the loss of her husband and her struggles to find joy in a new life as a widow.
In her book, “The Storekeeper’s Daughter,” published in 1997, she goes back to her childhood. She relates stories her parents shared about hardships they endured in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. She also relates some of the things she struggled with growing up as a girl.
“You Never Gave Me a Name: One Mennonite Woman’s Story,” is about her college years and early married life and motherhood.
Wiebe has written several books about maintaining a positive and purposeful attitude while growing older. “Border Crossing: A Spiritual Journey,” is about life after 65. She talks about the need for senior citizens to share stories of their lives.
To help others do that, she followed up with her latest book, “How to Write Your Personal or Family History,” published in November 2009.
Several of Wiebe’s books are available at Hillsboro Public Library.