by Jared Jost | January 7, 2020 6:12 pm
Hillsboro – Dale Suderman, 75, passed away January 5, 2020 at Parkside Homes in Hillsboro. He was born April 24, 1944 to Dan and Edna (Harder) Suderman in Hillsboro. Survivors include: brother, Ron Suderman of rural Hillsboro; sister, Elva Suderman of Hillsboro. Predeceased by his brother Art Suderman in 2012. Celebration of Life Service 11:00 a.m. January 18, 2020 at Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church Officiated by Keith Harder. Committal Service 10:00 a.m. January 18, 2020 at Ebenfeld Church cemetery. Memorials to Parkside Home in care of Jost Funeral Home P.O. Box 266 Hillsboro, KS 67063. Online condolences at www.jostfuneralhome.com
Life Sketch Taken From the Funeral Bulletin
John Dale Suderman was born April 24, 1944, to Dan and Edna (Harder) Suderman in Hillsboro, Kansas. He died January 5, 2020 at Parkside Homes in Hillsboro.
Dale grew up on a farm where his family lived six miles south of Hillsboro.
Dale’s early education was at the Ridge and Cresswell schools in rural Marion County. He remembered with gratitude his second-grade teacher, Lois Hanneman, who loaned him a copy of Huckleberry Finn and introduced him to the joy and adventure of learning and reading. Much of Dale’s own writing reflects Twain’s wry sense of humor. He was baptized on July 4, 1954 at Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church.
Dale attended Hillsboro High School and Tabor College in Hillsboro where he graduated in 1965. He then attended Wichita University as a graduate student in political science for one year. Knowing he would be drafted, he volunteered for the U.S. Army. During basic training in Missouri and Alabama he helped others with basic education. He earned “sharpshooter” rifle status, according to his honorable discharge certificate.
In January 1968, Dale was assigned to Vietnam which he initially resisted but then embraced as an opportunity to have a front row seat to a significant period in U.S. history. He worked in Vietnam mostly as a supply clerk in Saigon but he remembered a pivotal experience as a night guard on the roof of a building. He detected movement but did not shoot and discovered later the potential target was a rescue squad. After that experience, Dale said he became a “chastened pacifist,” a stance he maintained the rest of his life.
Dale wrote his parents how he came to realize how much he loved Saigon and the Vietnamese people. “I wouldn’t have missed this trip for anything,” he wrote. When he returned to the United States, Dale became an outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam while trying to maintain solidarity with his fellow veteran soldiers.
After his stint in the army Dale worked for a public welfare agency in Kansas City where he also worshipped and renewed his faith at Rainbow Mennonite Church. He then completed a master’s degree in theology at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana. There he studied with John Howard Yoder and managed the seminary bookstore. He also became associate director of Partly Dave’s Coffee House, a ministry in downtown Elkhart.
After Elkhart, Dale served four years as associate director of Voluntary Service for the General Conference Mennonite Church out of Newton, Kansas. In this role Dale traveled widely to visit VS units in the U.S. and Canada and developed many lasting relationships.
Dale then moved to Chicago, where he was the owner and operator of a Logos bookstore that became a connecting point for an eclectic group of people and the source of many life long relationships, including Christian author Philip Yancey, who included (anonymously) several stories about Dale in one of his books.
While in Chicago Dale also began a life-long, and what he called a life-saving, association with Alcoholics Anonymous. His AA sponsor was Roger Ebert, a nationally-known Chicago film critic, and a regular customer at the Logos Bookstore.
Dale ended his professional career as a counselor at the Salvation Army Harbor Life facility in Chicago. Many of his colleagues there were people recently released from prison, including gang members and white-collar criminals. He loved this work and was much appreciated by clients and fellow counselors. He bought his first house in the West Town neighborhood of Chicago during this time which he found very satisfying.
During these years Dale also wrote an award-winning column for the Hillsboro Free Press in Kansas. Nearly every month Free Press readers eagerly awaited Dale’s commentary on life in Chicago and his reflections on life in and around Hillsboro.
Between 2006 and 2008, Dale travelled widely in Europe, Israel, South America, and Vietnam. During one of these trips he met with a former North Vietnamese army officer. He also visited the site of two massacres: My Lai, which was perpetrated by American forces, and Hue, perpetrated by North Vietnamese forces.
During his last years Dale became active in his local Episcopal parish in Chicago. He served as a warden and spoke with much appreciation for the Episcopal Church.
Before his stroke, Dale made several trips a year to Hillsboro to visit his family and friends. In his later years, he also called his sister, Elva, every day.
On Saturday morning, April 19, 2008, Dale suffered a massive stroke. He underwent two brain surgeries in Chicago and spent time at the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute. In the fall of 2008 some of his friends helped him move to Parkside Homes in Hillsboro that became his home for the next eleven years and where he was a much-loved resident. Dale had long talked about eventually retiring in Hillsboro but no one imagined he would come under these circumstances.
Dale remained an avid reader until the end of his life. David Brown, a Tabor classmate, accompanied Dale on monthly visits to the Tabor library. His reading tastes were as eclectic as the company he kept. His verbal communication skills were greatly compromised by his stroke but he always loved to hear about the ideas, travels and adventures of others. Parkside staff fondly remembered how Dale would try to engage them about politics and other topics of interest.
After he moved back to Kansas, Dale also continued his relationship with the Episcopal Church. Reverend Mike Loyd from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Newton visited Dale regularly and served him communion which he greatly appreciated.
Dale had an uncommon ability to relate to a wide variety of people and to hold together the various parts of his identity that sometimes seemed contradictory – sacred and profane, urban and rural, Mennonite and Episcopal, pacifist and military. In his writing and public speaking engagements at colleges and seminaries, he eloquently addressed these many facets of his experience and as a scholar thought carefully about what it all meant. As he embraced being gay, he was able to freely move among those who identified as being gay or straight. He understood how addiction works and the process of recovery. He counted cons and ex cons among his friends. He fearlessly, courageously, and wondrously embraced life as it was, not as he might have wished it were or expected it to be.
Dale is preceded in death by his parents and one brother, Art. He is survived by his sister Elva, and brother Ron (Sharon), a sister-in-law Harriett Suderman, numerous nephews and nieces and a host of friends.
The Passport Dale series of five silkscreen prints on display were made in Chicago by Liz Born and Daniel Born in 2009. They are based on Dale’s 1975 passport photograph, which was taken when he was 31 years old: “Passport Dale,” “Alcatraz Dale,” “Lord Byron Dale,” “Boystown Dale,” and “Gunslinger ‘Most Wanted’ Dale.”
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