By Wil LaVeist
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Former mission worker Ruby Siebert Thiessen was known for being helpful, insightful, and always offering a word of encouragement.

She died with her family by her side on Jan. 16 at the age of 90. A memorial service was held Feb. 4 in South Carolina where she resided near family members.

Thiessen was born on Dec. 24, 1926, in York County, Nebraska. She was the first of four children of Abraham and Helen (Friesen) Siebert. In 1948, she graduated from Grace Bible Institute, where she met her husband, Bernard. The Thiessens served 33 years in Japan beginning in 1952 in Kobe. They were sent by the General Conference Mennonite Church's Commission on Overseas Mission, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. The Thiessens were among the first group of Mennonite mission workers sent to develop churches in Japan. Their efforts in holding language and Bible study gatherings, led to some of the first Mennonite churches there.

"Ruby was a deeply spiritual person," said Alice Ruth Ramseyer, who served with the Thiessens in Japan in Miyazaki on the island of Kyushu. "In talking with her, I always wanted to follow her example into a deeper personal faith. Ruby was a wonderful hostess, enlivened by her dry sense of humor."

"Ruby was a wonderful hostess, with an open heart and door for all," said Mary Derksen, who also served in Japan. "She had a good grasp of the culture of Japan, and I always enjoyed hearing her encounters with neighbors. I was also impressed with Ruby's understanding of the Bible, and her spiritual depth. She lived what she believed."

After retiring in 1985, the Thiessens were active at Bethesda Mennonite Church in Henderson, Nebraska, for 24 years. In 2008, they moved to Greenville, South Carolina, to live closer to family members.

Ruby Thiessen is survived by her children, Beth (Robert) Schmidt, also of Greenville; Royce (Nancy) Thiessen of Morristown, Tennessee; Ron (Beth Ann) Thiessen of Weatherford, Oklahoma; and sister, Lydia Klaassen of Mt. Hope, South Carolina. Grandchildren include Melissa (Rocco) Adrian of Charleston, South Carolina; Rob Schmidt of Greenville; Keri (Jake) Culbertson of Columbia, South Carolina; Ryan (Sandra) Thiessen of Knoxville, Tennessee; Anoria Thiessen, Morristown; Zachary Thiessen, Los Angeles; and Julianne Thiessen, Weatherford. Also included are three great-grandchildren and a number of nieces and nephews. Preceding her in death were her husband, her parents, and her sister, Rachel Siebert.

​Wil LaVeist is a writer and managing editor for multimedia at Mennonite Mission Network.



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