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Bethel says farewell to 'Number 1' football fan Staley

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Friends and family are mourning the loss of a man who was an avid fan of Bethel College Thresher football.

Dennis E. Staley, Newton, died Dec. 30 at Newton Medical Center. He was 67.

Staley began working for Bethel’s food service when he was 18 and continued in the job for 43 years before retiring in 2010.

Many called him “Bethel’s Number 1 Fan,” a title he owned proudly. He seldom missed a home football game, cheering on the Threshers from the sidelines rather than the stands.

Coaches would call on Staley to give pep talks to the team. When Bethel won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in 1980, Staley was awarded a championship ring as an honorary Thresher.

Staley was born March 6, 1948, in Newton to Galen and Velda (Gillispie) Staley. He attended Newton schools before beginning work at Bethel College. He was a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Newton.

Staley is survived by his mother, Velda Staley Higgins, and her husband, Berle Higgins, and brothers Rod (Nancy) Staley and Kevin (Angie) Staley. He was preceded in death by his father.

Funeral services are Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. in the chapel of Peterson Funeral Home, Newton, with burial following at the Wild Mead Cemetery in rural Nickerson.

Memorials have been established with the Bethel College athletics department and Immanuel Baptist Church.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2015-16 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2015-16. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.