Cal Redekop, co-founder of Mennonite Central Committee's alternative service organization Pax, accepts the 2015 Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence Community Service Award on behalf of MCC and Pax. At left is James Madison University Provost Jerry Benson and at right Gandhi Center director Terry Beitzel. (Photo by Ervie Glick)

In Memoriam: Calvin “Cal” Redekop

Calvin “Cal” Redekop passed away on July 20, 2022 at the age of 96 in Harrisonburg. A graduate of Goshen College, he went on to develop many associations with the Mennonite institutions, including serving as vice president of Tabor College, and professor at Goshen and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Redekop was also the co-founder of the PAX service program, the predecessor to the Peace Corps. Upon retiring to the Harrisonburg area, he and his wife Freda were faithful friends to EMU and strong partners in the university’s educational mission. 

Cal Redekop on his solar-powered bicycle. (Courtesy of the Redekop family)

A Celebration of Life service will be 2 p.m., Sept. 25 at Park View Mennonite Church.

Redekop served the EMU Business and Leadership program as an adjunct faculty member, during which time he became a trusted colleague and mentor to many faculty and staff. He was also the founding chair of the Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society, an organization of elders based at EMU.

The couple began several endowed scholarships for EMU undergraduate students, including helping to establish the Hubert R. Pellman Endowed Chair, which supports the Language and Literature program. More recently, Redekop helped facilitate the donation of two Hustler mowers and and an all-purpose vehicle to Facilities Management through his ties with Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas.

Redekop helped inspire and fund many of the solar arrays at EMU, at VMRC, and other major organizations around the valley. He was also involved with supporting and connecting VMRC’s Willow Run Farm with EMU’s Sustainable Food Initiative to grow and harvest vegetables.  

Two 2020 tributes in Anabaptist World magazine (jointly bylined to Wally Kroeker, Burton Buller, and Tom Brenneman) and in the Harrisonburg Citizen (by Russ Eanes) describe more of Redekop’s works, vision and philosophy.

The full obituary is published here and below. 

Calvin Wall (Waldo) Redekop peacefully passed away on July 20, 2022 at the age of 96, after a long, eventful, and purposeful life. He was born on Sept. 19, 1925 in a two-room cabin on the prairie, in Volt, Montana, to Jacob and Katherine Redekop. His siblings were Rosa, Ella, Jacob, and Bertha. He spent his early years on the farm in Montana; the Depression and Dust Bowl brought about the family’s relocation to Dalles, Oregon in 1937. His book Enchantment and Despair: Montana Childhood Stories, 1925-1937, fondly records those years. The family spent three years in Dalles, then in the fall of 1940 moved to Mt. Lake, Minn., where Calvin attended high school. Calvin attended Goshen College from 1946-1949, graduating with a degree in social science.

In July 1949 Calvin joined the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). He spent the first six months of voluntary service doing peace witness and education in Alberta, Canada, and Akron PA. Then in January 1950 he sailed for Europe and served as PAX Program Organizer and Mennonite Voluntary Service Director until December 1952. In 1953 Cal returned to America and spent one semester at Goshen College Seminary, and then 1-1/2 years studying for the MA in sociology and anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He then taught social science courses at Hesston College (1955-62), with time spent from 1955-58 at the University of Chicago pursuing a PhD in Sociology and Anthropology (completed in 1959). While in Europe, Cal had met Freda Pellman, who was working for Menno Travel Service in Amsterdam, and they were married in 1955. Freda was a faithful companion and mentor to Calvin.

In 1962 the growing family moved to Richmond Indiana, where Calvin taught sociology of religion at Earlham School of Religion and Earlham College. In 1967 the family moved to Goshen, Indiana, where Calvin taught at Goshen College as Professor of Sociology, as well as the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart. During 1971-72 the family lived in Paraguay while Calvin pursued research on indigenous-Mennonite relations in the Chaco. This was a formative experience for the family, and eventually resulted in the publication of Strangers Become Neighbors: Indigenous and Mennonite Relations in the Paraguayan Chaco (1980).

In 1976 the family moved to Hillsboro, Kansas, where Cal served as vice president and dean of Tabor College, before heading to Canada where Calvin spent the final ten years of his academic career at Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ontario, from which he retired in 1989. 

Starting in the 1970s, Cal and Freda led a number of travel tours, many with an Anabaptist focus, in Europe, Central and South America, and Jamaica, and throughout their marriage they traveled widely. In 1989 Cal and Freda moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where they spent many fine years together before Freda passed away in 2011. There he was involved in numerous activities and organizations, which included serving as a founding member of the Brethen-Mennonite Heritage Center; a founding member of Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society; an early and active supporter of Willow Run farm; and an active member of Park View Mennonite Church. He also taught courses as an adjunct in the EMU Business Department.

During his academic career Calvin was an invited lecturer at numerous Mennonite colleges, and he published many books and articles on Anabaptist/Mennonite topics, including The Old Colony Mennonites (1969); Mennonite Society (1989); Mennonite Entrepreneurs (1995), Creation and the Environment: An Anabaptist Perspective on a Sustainable World (2000); Power, Authority, and the Anabaptist Tradition (2001), and most recently Service: The Path to Justice (2022, with Terry Beitzel). 

Calvin was a popular college teacher and his sons remember the many times Cal and Freda invited students into the home for discussion, socializing and laughter. Over the course of his career he forged many friendships in the Mennonite world and beyond, continuing to make new friends and colleagues as his own generation left the stage.

Calvin was involved in numerous ventures and organizations over the course of his life, both public and private, business and civic, Mennonite and non-Mennonite. His first major business venture was to join a nascent startup, Excel Industries, Inc., a turf equipment company with which he and Freda remained affiliated for the rest of their lives. He was a founding member of Sunflower Energy Works, one of the first solar energy companies in Kansas. Cal was an active board member of EnerSource, a Canadian solar energy company; Secure Futures, a Virginia Solar company; Wood Composites Inc., a recycled decking company; and Real Associates, Inc., a small real estate company.

He also served on many community boards and associations in the Mennonite world. Among other involvements, Cal was instrumental in the formation of the “second MEDA” (Mennonite Economic Development Associates), and served as founding editor of The Marketplace, the official publication of MEDA. Towards the end of his life he and his family created the JustPax Fund and Redekop Family Endowment, charitable organizations devoted to economic, gender, and environmental justice.

Calvin is survived by sons Bill (Diana), Ben (Fran), Fred (Ria), and granddaughter Katarina. He was predeceased by his parents, sister Rosa, granddaughter Sallie, and loving wife and life-companion Freda. Calvin is also survived by brother Jacob and sisters Ella and Bertha, and many friends and extended family members including the Pellman clan.

Discussion on “In Memoriam: Calvin “Cal” Redekop

  1. I was a seminary student at EMS in the mid-90s. During a pastoral internship at Park View, Cal and Freda had my family and me into their home. I remember him as a hospitable and encouraging person.

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