Cover photo for Elaine Sommers Rich's Obituary
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1926 Elaine 2020

Elaine Sommers Rich

February 8, 1926 — September 27, 2020

North Manchester

Elaine Sommers Rich, age 94, died peacefully on September 27, 2020 in North Manchester, Indiana. She was born February 8, 1926 to Monroe and Effie (Horner) Sommers in Plevna, Indiana where she grew up as the oldest of five children during the Depression era. The children’s novel Hannah Elizabeth is semi-autobiographical about her childhood. She committed her life to Christ and joined the Howard-Miami Mennonite Church as a young teen.

She skipped her last year of high school and went to Goshen College from which she graduated in 1947. She began teaching at Goshen that year and later received a Master’s degree from Michigan State University. She met Ronald Rich of Washington, Illinois on a Mennonite college trip to Europe in 1947 and they were married on June 14, 1953 in the Goshen College Chapel. Ronald died in 2014.

Elaine was a writer, teacher, homemaker, and church worker who could recite scores of poems by heart. Everywhere she lived, she would either find or start a Writer’s Group. For 67 years she kept a journal, in which, alongside the mundanities of life, she recorded her private thoughts, reactions to the news, analysis of what she was reading, and snatches of poetry. Among her books were Hannah Elizabeth, Breaking Bread Together, Mennonite Women, Prayers for Everyday, and Pondered in her Heart. For over 30 years, she wrote a column called “Thinking With” for the Mennonite Weekly Review. She taught at Goshen College, Bethel College in Kansas, the International Christian University in Tokyo, and Bluffton College, as well as being an adjunct professor at North Carolina State U., Bowling Green State U., Findlay College, and Owens Community College. She was a TESOL instructor in the Ada and Bluffton Ohio public schools.

She was active in the First Mennonite Church in Bluffton as well as in the church at large. In Tokyo, Japan, she chaired Church Women United. In Bluffton, she coordinated World Day of Prayer observations for many years and served on the United Church Board. She served twelve years on the Commission on Education of the General Conference Mennonite Church until its merger in 2000. She was interested in fostering international peace and went to Hebron, Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams; taught English at Chongqing University (summer 2000); and attended Mennonite World Conference in Calcutta, India (1997).

She was a loving mother to her four children who survive her: Jonathan (Tai) of Union City, CA; Andrew (Sally) of North Manchester, IN; Miriam (JB) of Blacksburg, VA; and Mark (Kathy) of Yellow Springs, OH. She is also survived by six grandchildren: Sarah, Joseph, Rebekah, Jonathan, Louisa Rich, and Hannah Brown.

Family and friends may call Saturday, July 24, 2021 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. at the Eel River Community Church of the Brethren, 2507 State Road 14, Silver Lake, Indiana. A celebration of Elaine's life will begin at 2:00 p.m.

She was a small but mighty woman who loved people, big ideas, and the worldwide church.

Arrangements are entrusted to McKee Mortuary

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Elaine Sommers Rich, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Saturday, July 24, 2021

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Eel River Community Church of the Brethren

2507 East State Road 14, Silver Lake, IN 46982

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Memorial Service

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Eel River Community Church of the Brethren

2507 East State Road 14, Silver Lake, IN 46982

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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