John Daniel Blythe, a retired American Baptist pastor and chaplain, died at the age of 91 at the Saint Luke’s Hospice House in Kansas City, Missouri. John was born in Atchison, Kansas, the son of Samuel Judson and Lucy Christina Crawford Blythe. He is survived by his children: Carol Beth Blythe (Rick Goodman) of Silver Spring, MD; Chris Blythe (Diane) of Madison, WI; David Blythe (Jeff Allen) of Brooklyn, NY; Julie Blythe Peterson (Kent) of Westwood, KS and Gretchen Blythe (Elliott Schimmel) of Kansas City, MO. He is also survived by his grandchildren: Laura Beth Blythe-Goodman (Mike Sexton), Susie Blythe-Goodman (David Delgado), Sean Blythe (Jami Riley), Ryan Blythe, Jack Peterson (Heather Nyheim), Kathryn Peterson, and Jessica Peterson. Klaus Fischer of Bonn, Germany was an AFS exchange student with the Blythe family, 1974-75. John is also survived by his brothers, Sam and Paul Blythe. John was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Donna Beth Noren Blythe as well as his parents and his sister, Mary Blythe Brown.
John and Donna Beth met their first year at Ottawa University when they discovered they shared a birthdate. He was a track star at Ottawa but Donna Beth was able to catch him! They were married August 23, 1952 in Superior, NE. He was a wonderful caregiver for her and enabled her to travel and enjoy a rich life despite having M.S. Their family was the center of their lives together as they shared many special events and trips, including a wonderful 50th anniversary celebration with the extended family in Maine in 2002.
John graduated from Atchison High School in 1947; from Ottawa University with a B.A. in 1951; and from Andover Newton Theological School with a Master of Divinity in 1955. He was ordained in 1954 as a student minister at First Baptist Church of Wollaston, MA. He served as associate minister at First Baptist Church of Lewiston, ME and First Baptist Church of Madison, WI and as minister at First Baptist Church of Marengo, IL and First Baptist Church of Winfield, KS. He also served as Chaplain at Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, WI and as Chaplain and Director of Church Relations at Ottawa University in Ottawa, KS. In retirement, he preached in several churches including the Cuchara Chapel in Colorado.
John also served in various leadership or membership capacities at the Winfield Council of Churches, Winfield Ministerial Alliance, Rotary Clubs of Winfield, Ottawa and Lawrence, American Baptist Churches of the Central Region, Ottawa University Alumni Association, Diabetes Association and AFS Winfield. John received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award from Ottawa University in 2003.
He and Donna Beth were advocates for peace and justice throughout their lives in many organizations. They were early and longtime supporters of the Koinonia Farm, a Christian community committed to racial equality, pacifism, and economic sharing, from which Habitat for Humanity evolved. They hosted its founder, Clarence Jordan, in their home when John brought him to speak at Wayland Academy in the 1960s. John helped initiate a series of dialogues for racial justice in Winfield in 1968 following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He preached about the injustice of the Vietnam War and he and Donna Beth marched for peace in Lawrence before the Iraq War. He celebrated the life of his gay son and he and Donna Beth were members of the Association of Affirming and Welcoming Baptists. He lived his life following the words of Jesus, “Love one another the way I have loved you.”
John’s proudest accomplishments included his children and grandchildren who care for and support one another, who care about others, who are active in their churches, who are advocates for peace and justice and who are good Democrats (his words!). John was especially proud of his and the church and community’s special ministry with Laotian refugees who were resettled in Winfield, KS in the 1970s. And he loved spending time at the Blythe Spirit cabin near La Veta, Colorado with family and friends.
John had an unbounded love for all those he encountered, and he treated each person he met as a unique and special individual. Even as dementia reduced his memory and as the pandemic limited his visitors, he asked the staff who cared for him questions about where they were born and to whom they were related. He loved a good joke or prank, and his beaming smile and sunny spirit did not leave him in these last days.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests his memory be honored with gifts to the John D. & Donna Beth Blythe Scholarship (for music students) at Ottawa University, 1001 S Cedar St, Ottawa, KS 66067.
Because of the pandemic, a memorial service will be held at a later date when it is safe to gather.