August 28, 1926 — May 11, 2019
Amelia Lois Yake was born August 28, 1926, in Scottdale, Pennsylvania, to Martha Erb Eby Yake and Clayton Franklin “C.F.” Yake, the third of six children. She attended Scottdale public school through 10th grade and graduated from Eastern Mennonite High School (Harrisonburg, Virginia) in 1945. In 1948, she graduated from Goshen College (Goshen, Indiana) with a B.A. in Sociology.
From 1948 to 1950, Lois worked in Europe with Mennonite Central Committee, assisting refugees from Russia and Eastern Europe relocate to both North and South America. Upon returning, she managed the Provident Book Store in Scottdale, Pennsylvania for five years before marrying Clif Kenagy and moving to Albany in 1955.
In Oregon, Lois worked as a social worker for the Department of Human Services until their first child was born in 1958. In 1969, the family moved to Corvallis to be close to the farm. As the children grew older, Lois devoted more of her time to church and community volunteer activities. She regularly led singing at Albany Mennonite Church and served on many church committees, both locally and denominationally. In the Vietnam War era, she and two local ministers organized and offered draft counseling services at Westminster House in Corvallis to young men considering conscientious objection.
Many people who grew up in the Corvallis/Albany area remember Lois as the person who gave them their first job. From the early 1960s until the late 1980s, Lois managed the strawberry harvest operation for the family farm, annually employing 200 to 300 junior high and high school students as berry pickers. In the later years, she also employed many Southeast Asian refugee families who were trying to gain a foothold in their new home.
In the early 1970s, Lois and Clif became concerned about the loss of farmland due to unplanned development. They advocated for the preservation of farmland and in support of Oregon’s Land Use Planning system. They worked at the state and local levels to preserve farmland and promote smart land use planning to preserve the state’s land base for future generations. Lois and Clif were founding members of the land use advocacy group, 1000 Friends of Oregon.
Starting in the late 1970s, Lois became active in dispute resolution work. She helped establish and support Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs in Benton and Linn counties. For several years in the 1980s, she served on the Oregon Dispute Reconciliation Commission.
Following the tragic death of son, Eric, in a bicycle accident in 1986, Lois and family founded the Eric Yake Kenagy Visiting Artist Series at Goshen College. Locally, Lois helped lead grief support groups, including GREG.
In the early 1990s, she and Clif became outspoken supporters of gays and lesbians, both in the local community and in the Mennonite Church denomination. Lois worked on a Welcome Committee in the Mennonite Church, and together with Clif joined the local PFLAG group, and wrote many letters to the editors of local newspapers and denominational publications.
Throughout her life, Lois practiced hospitality. She and Clif hosted various meetings in their home and frequently invited church visitors for Sunday dinner. When young people needed a refuge, she invited them to stay at her home — for a night or a number of months. Many people found support, comfort and hope as they walked along the river with her or sat at her kitchen table over a cup of tea. She always made time to listen to the questions, heartaches and dreams of young women who found in her a wise and encouraging friend, mentor and advocate. She had a special gift for making people feel welcomed and loved.
In 2010, Lois and Clif moved to the Mennonite Village in Albany. Clif died in 2011. In recent years, Lois' refrains were: “I have made a decision to live with joy;” quoting the apostle Paul: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances;” and quoting her mother and the Psalmist: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” These are the words that she chose to live by, and that continued to shape her.
Lois sought to put her faith into action by serving "the least of these" (Matt. 25). She was an active member of Albany Mennonite Church. Even after her hearing failed, she continued to passionately sing hymns — on pitch!
In recent months, after entering hospice, she said repeatedly: “We do not know what is on the other side, but this we know: When we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise, than when we first begun.”
Lois died May 11, 2019, at the age of 92.
She is survived by three siblings: Ethel Metzler (Goshen, Indiana), Stan Yake (Loudenville, New York), and Byron Yake (West Orange, New Jersey); children, Susan Kenagy (Biene Schaefer) of Dix Hills, New York, Peter Kenagy (Tina Springer) of Albany, and Marguerite Kenagy (Susan Tripp) of Salem, Oregon; and eight grandchildren.
Lois’ memorial service will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 29, at Albany Mennonite Church (3405 Kizer Ave. NE, Albany, OR 97322). All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, Lois requested that memorial contributions be made to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC. P.O. Box 500, Akron, PA 17501; mcc.org); or to Goshen College for the Eric Yake Kenagy Visiting Artist Fund (Goshen College, Development Office, 1700 South Main Street, Goshen, IN 46526; Goshen.edu).