Joseph J. Duerksen

duerksen photop (1)

Joseph J. Duerksen was born on December 13, 1927, in Champa, Madhya Pradesh, India to Jacob R. and Christena Duerksen.  He passed away on January 15, 2022, in Overland Park, KS.

Joseph spent his first years in what is now known as the state of Chhattisgarh in central India.  School years were spent at Woodstock School in Landour, Uttar Pradesh (now Uttarakhand) in the foothills of the Himalayas.  After graduation in 1945, Joe traveled to North Newton, Kansas to attend Bethel College.  Undergraduate studies prepared him for medical school at the University of Kansas.

In 1952, during his medical school years, Joe married Mary Lou Franz.  Two years later, he graduated as a Medical Doctor.  An internship in tropical medicine in New Orleans, the addition of a son Philip to the family, followed by a year as a staff physician at Bethel Clinic in Newton, Kansas led to a trip by sea across the Pacific Ocean to India.  The eventual destination of this trip was Jagdeeshpur, Madhya Pradesh (now Chhattisgarh).  Joe served for five years, first as a staff physician and later Medical Superintendent of Sewa Bhawan Hospital, a mission hospital of the General Conference Mennonite Church.  Daughter Mary and son Mark were added to the family during these years.

A year of residency in General Surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center preceded six years as Medical Superintendent at Christian Hospital, Champa, India.  With the idea of returning to India to add a new dimension to the hospital, Joe returned to KUMC for a residency in Anesthesiology.  Deciding not to return to India, Joe joined the KUMC Department of Anesthesiology as an Assistant Professor.  This began many years of practice as an Anesthesiologist in the Kansas City area, most of these years at St. Luke’s Hospital or one of its affiliates.

     While working at KUMC and St. Luke’s, Joe traveled many times to India.  These trips continued after his retirement.  The trips involved visits to mission-supported hospitals in various parts of India.  With these visits, he brought updated information and support to the doctors and staff at these hospitals.  Supporting the work of Christian hospitals in India was a passion of his throughout his adult life.

His Christian faith was very important to Joe.  That is what led him to serve in India and to participate in and support organizations working toward peace and justice.  While in Kansas City, he was very active in the Rainbow Blvd/Rainbow Mennonite Church.  Singing in the choir and playing his viola were two of the gifts he shared.  He also played viola with the Medical Arts Symphony at KUMC,

Joe loved to talk with people and share information, ideas, and stories.  These people included family, friends, church family, medical colleagues, patients, and fellow travelers on the trains of India.  He spoke Hindi fluently and enjoyed any chance he got to connect with people from India.  Continuing well into retirement, Joe enjoyed gathering with other docs to talk medicine.

In Champa, Joe was involved in renovations at the hospital.  These included working with buildings and adding trees to the grounds.  A Sunday afternoon walk would include checking out the growth of newly planted trees and seeing how the many fruit trees and garden plants were doing.  In Kansas City, trips with family to canoe at local lakes were highlights.  Trips to conferences and family included visits to national parks.

Health conditions slowed him down in his later years.  He remained at home until no longer able to live independently.  He was in a nursing care facility for the last year of his life.  He developed friendships and shared stories with his neighbors.  Here it was that he passed away.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, his sister Lois, and his son-in-law Gil.  He is survived by his children, daughter-in-law Norma, sister Christine, sister-in-law Betty, brother-in-law Marion, and others he considered part of his family.

Memorial Contributions

Memorial gifts may be made to Rainbow Mennonite Church, 1444 South West Boulevard, Kansas City, KS  66103 or Ludhiana Christian Medical College Board USA, Inc., PO Box 6275, Evanston, IL  60204-6275 (scholarships for doctors preparing to serve in Christian hospitals in India).

6 Comments

  1. Pastor George M Melby on January 23, 2022 at 2:02 pm

    We have/I have lost a giant Christian in my life. Joe was the first person to introduce me to Rainbow Mennonite Church and my life was never the same since. Suffice it to say that I miss him dearly and can’t wait to see him again on my entrance to Heaven!
    George M Melby

  2. Barry Nickell on January 23, 2022 at 8:37 am

    Dr Duerksen what is an amazing person. I knew him as a patient, a friend in the medical arts orchestra in which he played until his 80s and it work at St. Luke’s. He was a wonderful husband taking care of his wife Mary and later in life her Identical twin Betty. In the orchestra we had two identical twins from a India and he always enjoyed during the break speaking to them in Hindi. I think he must have spoken Hindi all his childhood. He told me that when he gave lectures in India he always asked the doctors if they Wanted him to speak in American English, Indian dialect or Hindi. I always got a kick out of it when he would practice his Indian dialect. He said his Indian doctors wanted him to use American English. He was a great guy.

  3. Stan Ingersol on January 22, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    I have such an enormous respect for Joe Duerksen. The first Sunday my wife and I attended Rainbow Blvd. Mennonite Church, we were invited to stay for Sunday school. We chose a class that Joe was teaching using the book “Bread for the World,” a study of global hunger. By the end of the hour, I was thinking: “How incredible to sit here and study world hunger with a man who grew up in India and returned there as a missionary. It can’t get any better than this.” He and Mary Lou were such wonderful hosts. We will never forget their kindnesses.

  4. Mary Redmon on January 22, 2022 at 2:53 pm

    Joe was a pillar in our church. He was a wonderful example of one who lived his faith. We all mourn our loss
    Mary Redmon

  5. Jean Hershey Fitch on January 22, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    He has been a very special friend. Good memories live on

  6. Mani M Mani on January 21, 2022 at 5:41 pm

    I remember Joe Duerksen very well. We trained at the same time at KUMC.
    He was a wonderful clinician and anasthesiologist.

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