November 24, 1940 — August 3, 2019
Myrna Arlene Schweitzer was born at home to Roland and (Esther) Marie (Stutzman) Schweitzer on November 24, 1940 in the Snake Hollow area near Kalona, Iowa. In 1943, the Schweitzer family (which included sister Mary) moved from Iowa to operate the Oliver Schmucker dairy farm located south of Albany, just off Columbus Street. The farm acreage has since been incorporated into the property owned by the Mennonite Village.
Myrna gave her heart to Jesus at a very young age and was an active member of the Fairview Mennonite Church her entire life. She attended Grand Prairie Elementary through seventh grade until the family moved to the Knox Butte area; she then completed her pre-high school education at Crabtree School. Myrna’s work ethic developed early: she helped to care for her younger siblings (Mary, Jim, and Ramona), worked as a housekeeper for various families, and spent many hours picking beans and berries for local farmers. Although work prevented her from attending the local high school prior to getting married, she later earned a high school diploma through the America School Home Correspondence program. Her industriousness and determination to learn also resulted in her seeking and receiving piano lessons from a neighborhood woman who gave her lessons in exchange for eggs.
Myrna married Larry Allen Roth on September 29, 1959. In accordance with his Mennonite upbringing, Larry had registered as a conscientious objector and after the wedding, the two moved to Sturgis, Michigan so Larry could complete a two-year term of alternate service working on a dairy farm owned by the Froh brothers. While Larry milked cows and worked the fields, Myrna cooked, did laundry, and provided custodial service at the Froh Community Home, which had opened its doors a few years earlier as a nursing facility. Larry and Myrna lived on the premises and in 1961, gave birth to their first child, Brian.
When they returned to Albany in 1962, they took over the Edward Roth family farm on Seven Mile Lane, where Larry was born and raised. Brian was joined by two sisters: Lori in 1965, and Brenda in 1968. Myrna poured everything she had into raising her children, creating a stable home, and helping on the farm. As a young mom, Myrna began learning how to sew and knit out of necessity. As her children got older, however, and Myrna could think more about her own interests, she realized that she had a knack for these art forms. Always hungry to learn, Myrna enrolled in courses and workshops that would teach her more. Over time, Myrna’s gift for sewing would cause her to become a sought-after seamstress; her skills were exhibited in wedding dresses, tailored suits, special dresses for her daughters, one-of-a-kind outfits for grandchildren, and box-after-box of handmade clothing distributed to various mission organizations. Myrna’s gift for sewing, however, is most noticeable during the Christmas season because she produced almost every costume and accessory used during Fairview Mennonite Church’s annual Christmas pageant.
Myrna’s creative skills were extensive: her musical talents also included playing and teaching piano and directing choirs for Fairview Christian School where she gently but determinedly cultivated the musical talents of even the most reluctant. Myrna also sang in two different women’s quartets: first with sister Mary and eventual sisters-in-law Lois (Roth) Kropf and Ardys (Roth) Miller; later on with good friends Anna Grace Kauffman, Bernice (then-Kropf) Smucker, and Velma Ropp. The Joy Belles (whom Larry teasingly referred to as “the gerbils”) traveled around the region singing for special events hosted by other church communities. Her family members loved hearing the low tones of Myrna’s second alto.
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Myrna was the consummate hostess, homemaker, and a behind-the-scenes servant leader; everyone who visited Myrna at her home left feeling refreshed and loved. She baked and served countless cinnamon and dinner rolls, cookies, and pies, frequently delivering to neighbors and friends in times of difficulty. Her flowerbeds were beautifully maintained and she generously shared cut flowers that beautified the countertops and mantles of many. As an active member at Fairview, Myrna’s offerings of food and flowers benefited the church community on many occasions. She was also a faithful participant in Fairview’s Ladies Sewing events.
Because of a shared love for travel, Larry and Myrna made international trips to Europe, Central America, and British Columbia, Canada. They also frequently traveled to Hawaii and Alaska, where they alternatively served as fishing boat deck hands, galley cooks, or stay-in-town child care providers to free up daughter Lori and husband Dale who own a hunting/guiding service. Because of a fierce determination to protect her husband from drowning, Myrna also made many trips to the Oregon coast to go deep sea fishing with Larry, but her favorite Oregon coast trips included stays with the family at the Otter Crest resort.
Myrna was freed from her earthly limitations when she went to be with Jesus on August 3, 2019 surrounded by family at Lydia’s House, the memory care unit of the Mennonite Village. Although her battle with Alzheimer’s included many difficult moments, Myrna was a blessing to everyone who interacted with her during this season. Alzheimer’s has an unpredictable impact on a person’s personality, but for Myrna, it highlighted her gentle spirit. Larry and his family will be forever appreciative for the love and care provided by the staff and administrators of this program.
Myrna is survived by Larry, her husband of 59 years; son Brian and his wife Kelley (Brenneman); daughter Lori (Adams) and her husband Dale; and daughter Brenda. She also leaves behind five well-loved grandchildren; seven well-cared for great-grandchildren; siblings Jim Schweitzer and Ramona Headings, both of Albany, and many well-clothed, well-fed, and well-served friends. She was preceded in death by her parents, Roland and Marie Schweitzer, and her sister Mary (Schweitzer) Lederman.
Memorial contributions can be made in Myrna’s name to the Ladies Sewing at Fairview Mennonite Church. A viewing is scheduled for Thursday, August 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. at AAsum-Dufour Funeral Home. The graveside service is scheduled for Friday, August 16, at 3 p.m. at Fairview Mennonite Church, followed by a memorial service scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. The memorial service will be followed by a reception in the church’s multipurpose building.
AAsum-Dufour Funeral Home is handling the arrangements (www.aasum-dufour.com).