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Sculptor installs bench on Bethel campus to honor father-in-law's memory

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A Denver-area sculptor and Bethel College graduate recently oversaw a special installation of one of his pieces to honor the memory of another Bethel graduate who happened to be his father-in-law.

Norman Epp created a limestone bench whose placement he directed June 4 in Memorial Grove on the Bethel campus. Epp carved the bench following the death of his father-in-law, Norman Abrahams, this past January. The family of Ray Abrahams, Hillsboro, commissioned the bench. Ray and Norman Abrahams were brothers.

Bethel College maintenance staff members Roger Reimer and Fred Unruh used the college’s loader tractor to assist with the installation.

Memorial Grove was established at the main trailhead of Sand Creek Trail in 2003 as an area for small groups to gather and as a place to memorialize individuals who have had a relationship with Bethel College.

Norman Abrahams graduated from Bethel in 1949 and was a loyal and enthusiastic supporter of the college all his life. He was especially interested in Sand Creek Trail – he was a member of the Sand Creek Trail Committee that helped build and maintain the trail and he enjoyed hiking the trail and helping with various maintenance projects along the trail throughout the years.

Abrahams, who spent his career as an optometrist, was born at Goessel in 1923. He married Ethel Ewert in 1944. She survives, along with daughters Nan (Doug) Graber, Monument, Colo., and Nadine Abrahams (Norman Epp), Wheat Ridge, Colo., and son Dwayne (Ruth Regier) Abrahams, Newton, as well as brothers Ray Abrahams and Chuck Abrahams (also of Hillsboro), six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Epp’s bench uses a Canadian limestone slab embedded with fossils for the seat. These fossils are crinoids – animals that resemble flowers, with a cluster of arms atop a long stem. Crinoids flourished up to 500 million years ago when shallow, marine environments blanketed much of North America.

The bench legs are carved from Silverdale limestone from Ark City, Kan. – the same limestone used to construct the upper part of Bethel’s Administration Building.

Memorial Grove is located in the northeast corner of the Bethel College campus, past Thresher Stadium and the tennis courts, and is open to the public. Anyone interested in making a contribution to Memorial Grove to honor a loved one is invited to contact Fred Goering, Bethel College director of development, 316-284-5226 or fgoering@bethelks.edu.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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