William G. Unrau

November 11, 1921 - August 8, 2022

As William, more commonly known as ‘Bill,’ was born on his parent’s farm on November 11, 1921 near Inola in northeastern Oklahoma. During the early 20th century small towns in middle America usually did not have a doctor.  The birthing process became the helping ministry of the church. Moms helped each other out with that. Bill was the lone survivor in a family of nine. He died on Monday, August 8, reaching the age 100 .

The years following World War I were difficult years for the newly settled farmers. Crops failed, prices declined, banks failed, and we lost our farm. He remembers well wearing patched overalls and going barefoot to the one-roomed school and to our country church. Early, he learned something about faith, caring for each other, and community support needs to keep a family going.

During the 1930s we recovered from the Recession. Diversified farming became more profitable, new machinery replaced horse-drawn equipment, new cars changed the means of transportation. The rural schools were consolidated quite early and home-made buses made high school a possibility for rural kids.

His way of thinking about life changed. He began to see what the high school experience pointed to, that one could choose his life career. His range of activities changed. He learned how to play basketball. Life then seemed to add an element of enjoyment that the endless work routine from house to farm to field seemed to lack.

But he will always be grateful for his rural heritage. There is something deeply satisfying about working the soil, about planting and harvesting, also about caring and working with livestock. One cannot ignore the value from gardening and growing one’s own food. The early rural family ate well. More than achieving success, rural family members working together creates a bonding experience absent in much of modern life.

By the time he finished high school in 1948, World War II was well on the way. All to soon two of his brothers were drafted into I-W service as an alternative to military service.

As a teenager Bill was charged to run the farm with is aging father. To say those were tiring years was an understatement, but you do what life calls for.

Though his farming years were fairly profitable during the war years, choosing his future vocation had not become clear. It was during this unsettled time that he entertained a call to the ministry. This would indicate the direction of his education to Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas; Bethany Biblical Seminary and Garrett Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.

But life is more than work and learning. It involves the joy of creating one’s own family. Soon after his Junior year in college, on May 30, 1948 he married Neva Schmidt at the Eden Mennonite Church in Oklahoma during the morning worship service. This was known as our home church where both of us grew to adulthood, where we were nurtured, baptized, and welcomed to a life of discipleship.

Nothing is more gratifying then creating one’s own family. Each member contributes something that enriches life.  Neva taught him much about caring relationships, the beauty of nature, and the well-being of all. His three children – Stuart, Kent and Eric – taught him that life was more than working to safe-guard our future. They saw life as more of an adventure when the challenge of life is to dare and to take some risks. Creating happenings makes life more interesting. Bill needed that.

For ministry his Seminary experience could never be underestimated. It helped him grow in scope and understanding and confidence. His faith stance was simple. He often said Jesus Christ models the way he played with God. While ministry was hard work for him, it was also sprinkled with moments of exciting joy.

But he would not speak of making denominational achievements. Serving and living with the people in community was his challenge. He would leave that to others that had such leadership gifts. His rewards came from being with people in the rhythms of life, their successes and failures, their hopes and dreams, their joys and sorrows. Ministry in community was never about ‘him,’ but about ‘us.’  If there was a priority in his ministry, it would be his desire to be a helper.

He served churches in Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Nebraska for some 25 years all in the Mennonite tradition. During the latter years he cherished the privilege of growing in ministry as a layman in the Antelope Park Church of the Brethren.

Bill encouraged the church to study Scripture to understand our calling as a community of faith. He enjoyed being a member of a discussion group that tried to be open, and free, and inclusive, and asking the hard questions that faith often inspires. Sometimes we disagreed, but we did not loose respect for each other.

Beyond mission in the local church he had a strong sense that the church ministry should be in the world. Much energy was given to make Ten Thousand Villages a thriving ministry in our city. It is guided by a diverse group of dedicate people who sell things low income families from more than 40 countries have made with their hands but had no possibility for sales.

He also was active in Nebraskans for Peace. There is too much violence and killing in our society. Our faith challenges us to find a more constructive way to deal with human conflict. Then there is gathering winter apparel for the ‘Family Closet’ at the Clinton Elementary School that serves the children of low income families. Included are also Disaster Service, relief and food where need is. Thanks to a small church that engages in creative and wholistic ministries.

Finally, Bill wants to thank all of those whose love was shared as his journey in life came to an end. Foremost are family members – Eric and Holly who became his caregivers. Kent and Waltrand from Italy did what telephone calls made possible. His pastor and lay persons visited, prayed and kept him connected with the community of faith. Relatives from a distance also offered their support and shared treasured memories. He felt blessed to the end. And now he looks forward to a glorious future.

Preceding him in death were his parents and their eight children, his wife Neva of 62 years, and son Stuart. Continuing the journey son Kent and Waltrand in Italy, Eric and Holly in Lincoln, Nebraska, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.  Apart from a few spouses the P. V. Unrau family is now history.



Celebration of Life


Antelope Park Church of the Brethren

Share a Memory or Condolence

Obituaries & Services

There are no Obits.

Never miss an obituary, sign up for email or text message notifications

We’re here

Grief Support

We understand that grieving doesn’t end after the service. We offer Aftercare for grief support as you process and heal from your loss.

Learn More