Sawatsky, Walter (1930-1961)

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Walter Sawatsky: teacher and missionary; born 26 December 1930 in Mullingar, Saskatchewan to Peter J. Sawatsky (22 March 1905–25 August 1962) and Maria (Harder) Sawatsky (20 April 1909–25 June 1942). He was the oldest child of two sons and one daughter. Following the death of his mother, his father married Mary Braun (1910–1980), a widow with two daughters, in 1943. A daughter and a son were born to this union. On 22 August 1954 Walter married Irma Neufeldt in the Yarrow Mennonite Brethren Church. Irma was the daughter of Peter P. Neufeldt (14 August 1911–29 June 1961) and Helena (Enns) Neufeldt (14 December 1911–18 April 1999). Walter and Irma had two sons: Terrance and Edwin. Walter died on 29 June 1961 in Bonners Ferry, Idaho and was buried in Yarrow on 2 July. On 25 July 1963 Irma married Siegfried "Fred" Epp; Fred and Irma had one daughter: Darlene.

In 1941 the Sawatsky family moved to Yarrow, British Columbia. Walter accepted Christ as his Saviour at an early age and was baptized and received into the Yarrow Mennonite Brethren Church on 12 September 1948. Upon completing high school in 1951, Walter spent a year at Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta. This was followed by a year of teacher training and two years of teaching in Prince George, British Columbia. For the next two years he studied at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, where he earned an A.B. degree in 1957.

In July 1957 Walter and Irma embarked upon a missionary career in the Belgian Congo of Africa. Here they served as houseparents at the Ecole Belle Vue school for missionary children near Kajiji and were also involved in direct mission work as much as possible. Unrest within the newly created country necessitated their evacuation in 1960. During the year that followed, the family relocated to Fresno, California where Walter studied at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in anticipation of a missionary assignment in Brazil.

On 25 June 1961 Walter Sawatsky, who was also a gifted singer, was ordained as a minister and a missionary in the Yarrow Mennonite Brethren Church. He considered this the high peak of his life and stated, "Like Missionary Carey has said, 'Let me burn out for Christ,' so let me burn out for my Lord." Four days later, en route to the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference in Coaldale, Alberta, Walter, his father-in-law Peter P. Neufeldt, and Herbert Martens, lost their lives in a traffic accident.


Laurel 1948-49: Yearbook of the Sharon Mennonite Collegiate Institute. Yarrow, BC: Sharon Mennonite Collegiate Institute, 1949.

"Ausgehende MBG Missionsarbeiter." Mennonitische Rundschau (14 August 1957): 1.

"God Speaks to Yarrow." Mennonite Observer (21 July 1961): 4, 11.

"To Leave for Brazil." Mennonite Observer (30 June 1961): 4.

Author(s) Ed Lenzmann
Date Published May 2014

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Lenzmann, Ed. "Sawatsky, Walter (1930-1961)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2014. Web. 25 Jul 2024.,_Walter_(1930-1961)&oldid=179229.

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Lenzmann, Ed. (May 2014). Sawatsky, Walter (1930-1961). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 July 2024, from,_Walter_(1930-1961)&oldid=179229.

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