Jack Lee Kiekel died Saturday, August 21st, at his home on Vashon Island, Washington, having recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Jack was born on June 5, 1931, in Salinas, Kansas, to Walter and Lelia Kiekel, the older of two sons. His father owned a small store where Jack learned to serve the public by running the candy counter and witnessed his father’s generosity of selling groceries to townspeople who sometimes couldn’t pay during those Depression years. Jack’s father always wanted to live “out West” and first the family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where Walter took Jack and his brother Bob camping and fishing often. Eventually, the family settled in Salem, Oregon, where
Jack’s dad, ever the entrepreneur, bought and ran a sequence of businesses. In later childhood in Salem, Jack enjoyed sports and was an able enough student to enroll at Willamette University, where he graduated in 1953 with a BA in Theology. Jack suffered a serious illness shortly after and promised that if he survived he would dedicate his life in service to the Lord, and this led him to enroll in The American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California in 1955. There he met fellow student, Beverlene Mandrapa. They married in 1957, after her graduation, and she joined Jack in Denver, Colorado, where he was working at his first job as a youth pastor.
After several years in Denver, Jack and Beve longed to return to family in the Willamette Valley, which they did in 1959 when Jack became youth pastor at the First Baptist Church in McMinnville, Oregon. There, Jack and Beve’s family grew to include their two daughters Kathryn and Kimberly.
Like his father, Jack had the travel bug. Learning from a Linfield professor about the opportunity to teach school and manage a related hostel for expatriate children in Lahore, Pakistan, and Jack and Beve eagerly took the chance on this adventure. Jack and Beve loved their friendships with local staff, shopping for supplies in open air markets and the travel that living abroad made easier. They didn’t know it, but this would be the start of a lifelong pattern of alternating between overseas education and the ministry.
After two years in Lahore, Jack and Bev returned to the Willamette Valley, this time to Eugene, where Jack served as copastor with Marvin Friesen, his dear friend and colleague, at Emerald Baptist Church. Life in Eugene was wonderful for Jack and Beve as their daughters grew, Jack thrived in the ministry and they both earned advanced degrees at the University of Oregon. Jack always had a big vegetable garden, enjoyed camping and fishing with family and friends and took great pleasure volunteering at the Olympic Time Trials at the U of O track.
It’s hard to talk about Jack without talking about Beve. They were a team. Jack always made a point of acknowledging this and without hesitation would say “I could not have done it without Beve.” He loved his wife and often shared that with each passing year his love grew.
The travel bug would bite again, sending Jack and Bev to Singapore in 1979 where Jack became Guidance Counselor and Admissions Director at Singapore American School, Bev taught 5th and 6th grades and daughter Kimberly went to high school. Kathryn spent extended time in Singapore completing independent college coursework. The family thrived overseas as it allowed for interesting adventures throughout SE Asia.
After daughter Kimberly finished high school, they returned to Oregon where Jack served as the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Salem. Jack loved being closer to his brother Bob, a professor at Oregon State University, and his family in Corvallis. The family ties the brothers fostered continues today among their children.
Following many years in Salem, and on the cusp of retirement, Jack and Beve took one last posting overseas, this time at the Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan. They then settled into retirement in Sunriver, Oregon, near lifelong friends and fellow expatriate educators, the Brown’s, Young’s and Cassetty’s. These relationships, and countless others, animated the lives of Jack and Beve.
While in Sunriver, Jack never fully retired from the ministry. Jack and Beve were part of Sunriver Christian Fellowship (SRCF), which is a merger of Episcopal and Lutheran parishes and attended by people of varied Christian backgrounds. Jack thoroughly enjoyed working with Pastor Nancy Green and retired Lutheran Pastor Frank Brocker. Jack preached occasionally at SRCF and was an advocate of its ecumenical approach to worship and ministry, a witness to his passionate belief in God’s love for all humanity.
Jack was also active with Habitat for Humanity, served on Citizens Patrol and started a men’s group that is still active today. Jack was a doer. He strived to live a life of service, acceptance, and love. He encouraged those around him to “Live on the Godward side of life.” His favorite scripture was “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Mathew 22:39.
Eventually, Jack and Beve moved to Vashon to be closer to family. Jack loved his fellowship at the “religious exploration hour” ahead of Sunday services at Church of the Holy Spirit and was easily persuaded to preach often at Burton Community Church, a faith community he greatly admired. Jack also looked to help anywhere he could, participating in men’s groups at other churches and famously spearheading for the Burton Community Church the “free drip coffee on Sunday mornings” for anyone coming to the Burton Coffee Stand.
Although a writer of poetry for family and friends, Jack lived his life not in his head, but his heart, hands, and feet. His example of faith lived out in action made an impression on all who came to know him. He is dearly missed and survived by his wife Beve, brother Bob, and daughters Kathryn (husband Dave) and Kimberly (husband Scott) and grandchildren Avery, Brian, Brooks and Audrey.
Jack’s family would like to extend special thanks to The Vashon Caregivers Network, specifically caregivers Monica, Ben, Stacy and Julia and The Providence Hospice team. Their compassion and professionalism made all the difference.
Donations in Jack’s name can be made to:
The Vashon Food Bank: PO Box 1205, Vashon WA 98077 Or www.vashonfoodbank.org
Vashon Senior Center: www.vashoncenter.org/contribute-1
Burton Church Free Coffee Fund: PO Box 13134, Burton, WA