Rev. John D. Blythe

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.

Messages & Condolences

From Cathy Bennett...

Julie, Gretchen and Family, Sending positive healing energy and thoughts your way. It’s always hard to part with a parent. But to say goodbye to a man so committed to good and to justice and love must be especially difficult. The world needs more. But his quest for justice and goodness lives on in you and in his grandchildren. What a beautiful seed he and your mother planted. Hoping for warm memories to comfort you in this next year and beyond. Love from Cathy and Mike.

From Patricia Elliott...

Gretchen – I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Know that I am thinking of you at this time and my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

From Gretchen Towner Lewis...

Much love to all of you Blythe spirits. Your parents were always among our favorite people. I remember when they first came to Lewiston with their very cool three-speed bikes. I was so impressed with their spirit of adventure. It was such a joy when they came to Madison with baby Carol-Beth. Through the years, the world was a happier place knowing that both Donna Beth and John were there. They were such warm, outgoing people. I loved your father’s smile, your mother’s wit and chocolate-chip cookies, and the great love and faith they both shared. Thank you, Carol-Beth, Chris, David, Julie, and Gretchen for sharing your folks with our family.

From Eric Sullivan...

Gretchen, I am sorry for your loss. I never met your father, but I certainly see his spirit in you. The empathy, compassion, and quest for justice that I see in his obituary is clearly alive in your personal interactions and through your professionalism. You and your family will be in my thoughts.

From Diana Boyd McElroy...

Dear Gretchen and Family:
I’m very sorry for your loss, but very grateful for the opportunity to learn more about your dad through this beautiful obituary. You all will remain in my thoughts. Take care – Diana

From Mary Fiore...

What a beautiful tribute to your father, with attributes we can all admire – as a husband, father, grandfather, mentor, pastor, oriented to so many justice issues, follower of Jesus. How blessed you were to have such a father. I took special note that your parents shared the same birthdate, as did my parents. My mother was born on the family farm, Dad was born in a hospital, and they were both delivered by the same doctor! The didn’t know one another until high school. I so enjoyed meeting your dad through this beautiful obituary.

From Claire Rider...

Chris and family,
I have heard many stories about your Dad and his influence on First Baptist Madison. After reading his obituary, I am grateful for his ministry, his influence on family and friends and how I wish I had known him. My prayers are with you and all of your family over your loss.

From Lynette Miller...

I remember seeing your father when he visited you and worshipped at First Baptist, Madison. He passed on his values to his children and grandchildren, a great legacy for your family to hold dear. Lynette Miller

From Jane Taylor...

Julie and family…I am so sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing but knew through Joan, he was in hospice. His obituary speaks of a life well lived and I know through you of his dedication to the welfare of all people. I met him at your wedding and one other time I believe but remember his cheery personality. I remember his devotion to your Mom. Love, Aunt Jane

From chris ogden...

The passing of your father is a sad time but a time for reflection on his life well spent. He spent three years at First Baptist Church in Madison ,Wisconsin. He was the Associate Pastor. As I was in the youth group He was a fine friend to us. Bless him and you .

From Diane and Bert Adams...

We are very sorry for your loss. Though we did not know your father, we learned about him when we came to First Baptist Madison in 1965. We had many connections with American Baptist Churches over the years. We have appreciated being fellow congregation members with you, Chris, over these many years – and appreciate your same spirit of justice and peace!

From Victor & Stacey Powell...

Stacey and I send our condolences. John & Donna Beth always greeted you with a smile and a kind word. John and Donna Beth were dedicated to serving the students of Ottawa University and supported CFA. I remember one night John and Donna Beth showed up to attend a CFA meeting with the college students. Several students ended up carrying Donna Beth in her wheelchair up and down the stairs of the Administration Building, so they could participate in a time of worship. Our lives are the richer for knowing them.

From Kathy Kempen...

John and Donna Beth we such happy, caring people. I enjoyed getting to know them at church and at OU, when John and I were part of the Advancement Team. My deepest sympathies to the children and family.

From Christie Muret...

What important memories we have of our time spent with the Blythe family! John and Donna Beth treated us as if we were family (along with so many others). We send our love and condolences to Carol, Chris, David, Julie and Gretchen, as well as the extended family. Joe and Christie Muret, Jenny, Jessie and Sarah Beth

From Marian Getz...

Dear Blythe children we are sad to hear of your dad’s passing. Your parents were so good to us while we were students at OU. They made a lasting impression. Julie, my dear friend, we love you. Praying for you all. Love Greg and Mar Getz

From Wynndee Lee...

To a beautiful family,
John will be missed. His and DB were tremendous individuals and as a couple. Thanks for sharing them with us? Prayers and blessings to you all.

From Joanna Walters...

John (and Donna Beth) were both a special blessing to me as an OU student. He had such an amazing way of making you feel “at home” even when away from home. He was a wonderful Chaplain to all who knew him. I always enjoyed a welcoming conversation and hug. I know he will be missed by many. God Bless the Blythe Family during this difficult time.

From Susan Maybeck...

Dear Blythe family, esp carol & Rick and David. I am so sorry to hear of your dads death. He was a minister whom I looked up to. And knowing you I know his values and passion for justice continues in your lives. He led a good life until his death. That’s a blessing

From Wallace Smith...

It has always been an honor to share a connection with John and Donna Beth and the entire Blythe family. What a privilege to share faith community in Winfield and again in Ottawa! We can aspire to continue the ministry of peacemaking on the journey ahead…

From Nancy Miller and Mark Reichle...

What a privilege it was to meet your father. Reading about his life long service is nothing short of inspirational. He and your mother set a strong example of commitment to family and community. Gretchen, the loving care you and your family provided are a tribute to them both. We are saddened by your loss and will keep your family in our prayers.

From Jessie Muret...

Thinking of you all! John had the kindest smile, grandest heart and I have the fondest memories of growing up at the church with all of the Blythe family. Love from the Murets.

From Bill Ballinger...

John D Blythe is deserving of the title Reverend, I do revere him. We were suite mates at Ottawa University together with Dr. Murle Mordy and Dr. Charles Anderson. We were the “Fabulous Foursome”. We shared many special enjoyable and tender times together. The world and I will miss his presence. My condolences to his beautiful family.

From Philip Masten...

We are sorry to learn of John’s passing. My father Clyde Masten was pastor at FBC Arkansas City while I was at OU and I know he and my mother, Shirley, enjoyed a friendship and comradely with John. I’m sure that dad and John are reconnecting in heaven.

From Hossein Bahmaie...

I did not have the opportunity to meet John Daniel Blythe in person. That is my loss. But I feel that I have met him indirectly through Gretchen. The image that come across this obituary is that of a “gentleman” in the British sense of the word that a gentleman is a “gentle” man; a kind, empathetic, polite, courteous, honorable, just, and courageous man. Courage is necessary to be empathetic and just . If a person is able, through her/his lifework, to move the needle ever so slightly toward justice, she/he has traveled on that arc that Dr. King spoke of: “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Now, that is a life well lived and worth celebrating.

From Stephanie Zerkel-Humbert...

Gretchen, my dear friend, I am so sorry for your loss. Reading your dad’s obituary was, in essence, reading his living legacy…you and your siblings and their families, and his and your mom’s whole-hearted commitment to social justice is a profound legacy. What an amazing man, and what a great family he and your mom raised. I can see where your dedication to social justice, kindness and generosity come from. I loved your Instagram posts showing your dad’s beaming face and megawatt smile. He looked like what he lived: light, goodness, love, graciousness, hope, forgiveness, humor, wit, and faith. Arne and I send our love to you dear Gretchen, and our heartfelt sympathy to your family.

From Maureen Kennedy...

Oh Gretchen, what a wonderful tribute to your Dad. His goodness and humor come though in his obituary. Peace to you my friend.

From Isabel Docampo...

Dear Blythe Family, I had the honor and blessing to meet your Dad (and Mom) many years ago as I am friends with Carol and Rick. Your Dad’s ministry was very inspirational to me. I see his legacy of love and faith in each one of his children, most particularly, in Carol, since I know her best. I am grateful for all the lives he touched with kindness and all the work he did for justice. My prayers are with you in this time of sorrow.

From Cheryl Smith...

So very sorry for your loss. A wonderful tribute for such a kind and caring man. He will be missed. Prayers for your family.

From Neal B Jefferis...

A life well lived with service to family, friends and community. RIP Rev. Blythe. Sincerely, Neal Jefferis (Winfield High School Class of 1975).

From Betsy Hansel...

Such a full and loving life, shared with so many. David, may the memories of him guide and support you and you siblings.

From Lisa J Foust (Phillips)...

What a lovely tribute for a wonderful man. I loved your parents’ goofy humor. I respected them not because I knew them well, but because of the integrity they instilled in their daughter and my dear friend. Gretchen, I am so sorry for the sadness you must feel. You were blessed to have your dad so long. In fact, we all were. Love to the family.

From Dalene Sallee West...

I’m sorry to hear of your dad’s passing. I am grateful for the years he spent here in Winfield as our pastor. I had enormous respect for your mom and dad and always enjoyed them. May God bless and comfort you all.

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