David Luther Habegger, 94, died March 30, 2020, in Elkhart, Ind., at the home of his daughter Becky. He was born June 15, 1925, to Barbara (Hirschy) and Alfred Habegger, in Busby, Mont., where his parents served as General Conference Mennonite missionaries among the Northern Cheyenne people. The Montana years were formative and lasting, in that he deeply enjoyed remembering the Busby sand hills and singing Cheyenne hymns in his final years. David attended Busby Indian School, was homeschooled for one year, and spent two years of high school in Berne, Ind. He graduated in 1946 from Bethel College, North Newton, Kan., where he met LaVeta Loganbill of Hillsboro, Kan. They married on August 18, 1946, after which David completed studies at Mennonite Biblical Seminary (BD from Bethany Biblical Seminary, 1949) in Chicago, Ill. They were commissioned by the General Conference Foreign Mission Board and joined his parents serving the Northern Cheyenne people. They returned to Chicago so David could pursue studies at Garrett Theological Seminary at Northwestern University (MA, 1953). In 1965 he completed a doctorate of religion at Claremont School of Theology in California, writing his thesis on “The Mission of the First Mennonite Church of Upland, California.” In his 42-year ministry, David pastored Bethany (now White River Cheyenne) Mennonite Church, Busby, Mont., Petter Memorial Mennonite Church, Lame Deer, Mont., Carlock Mennonite Church, Carlock, Ill., First Mennonite Church, Allentown, Pa., First Mennonite Church, Upland, Calif., Hively Avenue Mennonite Church, Elkhart, Ind., Mennonite Church of the Servant, Wichita, Kan., and First Mennonite Church, Urbana, Ill. Other employment included I-W regional coordinator for MCC, admissions counselor for Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and Western District Conference staff including church planting. He actively supported the work of committees on both district conference and national levels, and attended all of the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCMC) triennial sessions from 1941 to 2001. He promoted GCMC congregations becoming dually affiliated with the Mennonite Church, was an early proponent of integration, and attended Mennonite Church USA conventions through the Pittsburgh assembly in 2011. He also participated in six Mennonite World Conference gatherings in the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, and France. David sought to support the church as a witness for peace and reconciliation, which included organizing silent peace vigils, counseling those considering conscientious objection to military service, promoting social justice within the biblical framework of Jubilee, and advocating for the mentally ill. Concerned about making the church relevant, he encouraged developing annual faith covenants, creating small “koinoinia” groups within a congregation, and considering alternate church forms, such as the house church that led to Wichita’s Church of the Servant. His faith led him to commit his family to a life of stewardship and simplicity. David bequeathed them his love of singing--at age 90 he could sing by memory more than 100 traditional hymns, gospel songs, Sunday School choruses, and contemporary religious songs. David’s interest in family history resulted in books on the Peter and Elisabeth (Lehman) Habegger family and the Hirschy families as well as 18 articles in “Mennonite Family History” journal. In 1995 he helped found the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association to bring together genealogists and to digitize genealogical records of Swiss, German, French, Austrian and eastern U.S. immigrant families with Anabaptist roots. He willingly created an “Ahnentafel” or genealogical record for persons interested in knowing more about their European Anabaptist ancestors. He and LaVeta enjoyed leading several family history tours to Europe. David received the 2011 Alumni Ministry and Service Award from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries (now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) in recognition of his contributions to the church, including congregational and conference ministry, denominational service, and seminary recruitment.
Survivors include five children, Rachel (John) Pannabecker of North Newton, Kan., Nathan Habegger of Nantes, France, Christen (Patricia) Habegger, Rebecca (Roger) Zehr, and Peter Habegger, all of Elkhart, Ind.; eleven grandchildren; and twenty great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife LaVeta, his parents, and six siblings, Marden Habegger, Jeanne Boehr, Helen Fretz, Esther Sauder, Lois Habegger and Bernard Habegger.
Memorial services will be held at Hively Avenue Mennonite Church, Elkhart, Ind., at a future date, with burial at the First Mennonite Church of Christian cemetery in Moundridge, Kan. Memorial contributions may be sent to White River Cheyenne Mennonite Church in Busby, Mont., Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Bethel College, Mennonite Central Committee or Mennonite Church USA.
David Luther Habegger (1925-2020) and Irma LaVeta Loganbill Habegger (1925-2008)
Rachel K. & John Pannabecker, North Newton, Kansas
Nathan B. Habegger & Jessica Joguet, Nantes, France
Benjamin Habegger & Rocío Márquez Gutierrez, Biel, Switzerland
Alex, Margot, Tomás, Alba
Jeremy Habegger & Zaina Limbambu-Schiller, New Orleans, Louisiana
Samuel Habegger & Célia Demarcq, Annecy-le-Vieux, France
Saralina & Cedric Thiévent, Les Reussilles, Switzerland
Rachelle Habegger & Elie Jeannerat, Biel, Switzerland
Timothée Habegger & Sara Peñalba, Soraluze, Spain
Christen D. & Patricia “Trish” Habegger, Bristol, Indiana
Stephen & Abigail Habegger, Bothell, Washington
Alyse, Arik, Anya
Elizabeth “Beth” & Michael Schulz, Dayton, Ohio
Rebecca “Becky” J. & Roger Zehr, Elkhart, Indiana
Joel & Rebekah Zehr, Eureka, Illinois
Neil & Chelsea Zehr, Roanoke, Indiana
Peter A. Habegger, Elkhart, Indiana
Jaden Money, Southaven, Mississippi