John Warkentin (1927 - 2014)

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(News article) John A. Warkentin, 87, of Swanton, whose varied life led him from hardship in Siberia to success in the agricultural and plumbing industries, died Tuesday at the Ebeid Hospice residence in Sylvania.

The cause of death was a stroke, said his son, John A. Warkentin II.

A descendant of German-Dutch Mennonites, Mr. Warken-tin was born March 27, 1927, in Russia, where his parents and relatives had cultivated a successful business as farmers.

But the Warkentins chose to flee the country in 1928, fearing religious persecution at the hands of Communist authorities.

"Mennonites like my parents who carried the Bible were automatically disposed of," Mr. Warkentin told The Blade in a 2005 interview.

Their escape began in Siberia, where young Mr. Warkentin and his family crossed the barren landscape on foot. Next was China, where the family lived for a year until passage to the United States was possible.

A Japanese cargo ship ferried the family to San Francisco in the fall of 1929. They moved to Bluffton shortly after, making the long trip from California to northwest Ohio in a 1927 Chevy truck.

After high school, Mr. Warkentin joined the Merchant Marines. He served in World War II, sustaining injuries that he recovered from at a hospital in Calcutta, India.

Mr. Warkentin was "extremely proud of his family legacy," his son recalled. The younger Mr. Warkentin well remembers his father'?s stories from the war - not just of the horrors he had witnessed, but also the places he traveled.

After returning to the United States, Mr. Warken-tin met and married his wife, Myrna Ruth Taylor, who died in 2002. Together they moved to Swanton, where Mr. Warkentin farmed and worked as a plumbing and heating contractor.

Mr. Warkentin "was always a worker," his son said. He and his wife raised racehorses, beef cattle, and hogs, some of which won prizes at county fairs and national competitions. He was active in 4-H and passed on his passion for raising livestock to his children and grandchildren.

Mr. Warkentin worked long hours, but his son said that he always made time for family. An active member of the Eagles and American Legion, he loved Ohio State football and salmon fishing on Lake Michigan.

Despite familial and financial hardship, he remained positive. "He was still the optimist, looking and finding the good in people," his son said.

In addition to his son, surviving Mr. Warkentin are his daughter, Susan Anderson; sister, Agnes Rice; seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. today at the Neville Funeral Home, Holland, where services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

The family suggests tributes to the building fund at Faith Lutheran Church in Swanton.

Contact Blade Staff Writer Marissa Medansky at: mmedansky@theblade.com or 419-724-6368.
Published in Toledo Blade on June 20, 2014
John A Warkentin
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