Congregation sews bears to remember Mrs. Wiebe

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Kevin Kinney and his daughter, Kylee, sew a memory bear using Mrs. Wiebe’s clothing. Kevin taught himself to sew and was instrumental in the Bible Fellowship Church event. Photo: BFC

Sewing machines whirred at Bible Fellowship Church in Rapid City, S.D. in October 2023, as the congregation made keepsake stuffed bears from articles of June Wiebe’s clothing.

Known by many as “Mrs. Wiebe,” the former Central District Conference minister’s wife died in early August 2023.

“The BFC family loved Mrs. June Wiebe,” says Darcie Decker, a member of the BFC congregation. “(The congregation has) many, many fond memories of her working with children, loving people around her or having people around her table.”

Pam Schmagel (at the sewing machine) assists in making memory bears at Bible Fellowship Church. Pam had the idea to make the bears, having done something similar after her father died in 2022. Photo: BFC

Pam Schmagel, another member of the congregation, had the idea for the memory bears while helping the family clean out Wiebe’s house. She had done something similar after her father died in 2022, making memory bears using her father’s well-loved shirts and giving them to her three adult children at Christmas.

“I asked if I could have (Mrs. Wiebe’s) clothing and moved her entire wardrobe to my downstairs closet until the planned event time,” Schmagel says.

The BFC women’s ministry, chaired by Megan Kinney, organized an all-church sewing party to make memory bears from Wiebe’s clothing. Megan’s husband, Kevin, a church elder, was instrumental as a self-taught sewist.

The congregation primarily used fabric from Mrs. Wiebe’s dresses to make the bears but also used some of her sweaters, Megan says, adding that people chose material from outfits attached to a memory or documented in photos.

From left: Gracelyn Grant, Sterling Grant and Talia Grant hold their memory bears in honor of Mrs. Wiebe. The Grant family made a bear for each family member. Photo: BFC

In all, the group made between 20 and 30 bears to keep or give to someone else.

“Of those who attended the event, I would hear many say, ‘I remember Mrs. Wiebe wearing that,’” Schmagel says. “It was a fun time to get together and help each other make these bears while remembering our beloved Mrs. Wiebe.”

Wiebe and her second husband, Waldo, served as Central District Conference minister couple from 1978-1990. Read more here: https://christianleadermag.com/former-cdc-ministers-wife-june-wiebe-dies/.

June Wiebe, pictured here during her jail ministry, and her second husband, Waldo, served as Central District Conference minister couple from 1978-1990. She died in early August 2023 at age 92. Photo: BFC

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