ELKHART — Ray Ernest Horst was born April 23, 1924 in Ephrata, Pa., to Titus S. and Mary (Landis) Horst. He passed away Saturday at his home at the age of 89.
On May 5, 1951, Ray married Ruth Brunk, who survives. He is also survived his by daughter, Carolyn Heydon of Elkhart and her children, Robert and Amber; his son, Ray Edward (Barb) Horst of Oakland, Calif. and his children, Lauren, Matthew and Nathan; and his foster daughter, Jean (David) Luadzers of Jefferson City, Mo. and her children, Mark Owen, Melissa Sharp and Erin Golden.
After graduating from high school in 1942, Ray enrolled in Eastern Mennonite College but was drafted in 1943. As a conscientious objector, Ray spent the war years serving in Civilian Pubic Service at the Veterans Administration tubercular hospital in Livermore, Calif. and with the Forest Service in Glacier National Park. Following the war, he enrolled in Goshen College, graduating in 1949.
As a result of his CPS experience, Ray developed an interest in creating programs and service opportunities for North American Mennonite young people. He served on the Mennonite Youth Council from 1947 to 1974, which created the church-wide Mennonite Youth Fellowship.
Ray worked briefly at a building supply company and Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pa., then moved to Elkhart in 1954 to work at Mennonite Board of Missions (now Mission Network), where he stayed until retiring in 1989.
As secretary for Relief and Service, he developed the Mennonite Voluntary Service program. At its height in the 1960s and 1970s, MVS had more than 450 young volunteers at a time who spent one to two years working on service projects throughout North America.
During his time at MBM, he also served on numerous boards and councils, both local and nationwide. He helped create the Elkhart Child Development (day care) Center in Elkhart, the Prince of Peace Chapel congregation in Aspen, Colo., and was involved in the development of the Peace Corps with the Kennedy administration.
In his later years at MBM, he organized a new department for church development and evangelism and organized United Native Ministries to help Native American/Canadian Mennonite congregations meet together to solve common problems. Ray felt a great love for the people he met through UNM and after retiring from MBM in 1989, Ray and Ruth continued to work with UNM part time until finally retiring in 2005, at the age of 81.
In 1974 to 1976, at age 50, Ray took a two-year leave from MBM so he and Ruth could move to Nigeria and serve as country directors for MCC’s Teacher’s Abroad program. Though this was his first international experience, he fit right in and felt at home there.
Ray had no hobbies in the traditional sense. His great loves, besides his family and the church, were people and travel. He travelled throughout North America for his work, but after retirement, he and Ruth travelled extensively, visiting Europe, the Caribbean, East and West Africa, Australia/New Zealand and Japan. He loved nature and natural beauty.
Ray had a deep respect and love for people of all ages and types, and was not either impressed or put off by superficial factors such as race or social status. Through the end of his life he continued to serve as a mentor, advisor and unofficial counselor for those around him.
Friends may call Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at Hartzler-Gutermuth-Inman Funeral Home in Elkhart.
Services will take place Monday at 11 a.m. at Prairie Street Mennonite Church, Elkhart with burial to follow at Prairie Street Cemetery in Elkhart.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given to Mennonite Central Committee or Mennonite Mission Network.
Online condolences may be shared at www.hartzlergutermuthinman.com.