ELKHART — Mr. Chad Jonathon Friesen, 46, of Elkhart, passed away on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, at 5:10 p.m. at the Center for Hospice Care in Elkhart from complications from a lifelong disability.
He was born in Fresno, Calif., on Jan. 4, 1967, to LeRoy G. and Carol F. (Nickel) Friesen.
Surviving Chad is his mother, Carol F. Nickel of Elkhart; his father LeRoy G. (Sharryl Lindberg) Friesen of South Bend; his sister Tiffany (Atiba Mbiwan) Friesen of Atlanta, Ga.; his brother Todd (Dennette Alwine) Friesen of Lancaster, Pa.; nieces Keisha Mbiwan and Jasmine Friesen; nephews Keenan Mbiwan and Jacob Friesen Grant; as well as two aunts, an uncle and several cousins.
He is preceded in death by his grandparents, Peter and Alvina Nickel and John and Blondina Friesen; an aunt, Twila Nickel; and an uncle, Marlyn Friesen.
A celebration of Chad’s life will begin today, Nov. 18, 2013, with a visitation at Billings Funeral Home of Elkhart from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Following the visitation, Chad will be cremated. A memorial service will then take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, at the chapel of the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary at 3003 S. Benham St. in Elkhart. Pastor David Moser will officiate.
Burial will follow on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, at 10 a.m. at Prairie Street Cemetery in Elkhart.
Despite Chad’s lifelong disability that defied diagnosis, he was a talented and celebrated artist whose work had become known far past the Michiana area. He was devoutly spiritual, and was best able to communicate with his world through his painting. By recording his innermost feelings and thoughts on canvas, his work became not only his diary but his prayer as well. He was deeply influenced by the time he spent in Jerusalem as a youth in the early 1970s when his parents served there with a Mennonite service organization. He was particularly drawn to the “God’s Eyes” that were traditionally painted above the doorways of many of the Muslim homes in Jerusalem, and he came to see these symbols as a reflection of God’s all-knowing wisdom and never ending grace.
In 1991, with the help of the Southside Fellowship Mennonite Church, of which he was a member, “God’s Eye Art” was founded as a vehicle to promote and showcase his work. He liked to paint flowers (especially sunflowers) and nature in such a way that they imparted a sacred meaning to the eyes of the beholder. Chad also loved riding the horses at Loveway, sailing on Lake Michigan, traveling and dogs. But he will be best remembered for his infectious zeal for life and the way it affected everyone who met him, as well as his tenacious and inspiring courage.