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John Hoffman Kreider

John Hoffman Kreider was born on November 24, 1901, in Campbelltown, Pa. He was the second son of Henry and Katie Kreider. John's naturally-dark complexion caused a cousin to remark about the two young Kreider sons that "one is a 'eathen (Ethan) and the other is black!"

John's father was a teacher in the elementary schools. However, when John was three years old, his father bought the "Kreider" farm---which his father had owned-- leaving the teaching profession to become a farmer. John and his five brothers and sisters were taught to help with the farm chores. Church services were also a regular part of John's life, as his father was a circuit minister who had preaching appointments at six different churches. Later Henry became bishop of the Brethren in Christ Church in Lebanon County.

John's first eight years of school were spent in the Campbelltown School about a mile from the Kreider home. It enrolled about ninety pupils and contained three rooms and three teachers. John was a good student and won honors in the school spelling bees. He was not kept at home to help on the farm as were many of his schoolmates; he was absent only for illness or inclement weather. The school year was seven months long, and John had perfect attendance for two years.

At age 13, having qualified for high school entrance and having a choice of schools, he chose Hershey High School. After one year there, however, he decided to go to Palmyra Agricultural High School in order to take the agricultural course, with the long-range goal of farming. Unfortunately, after little more than a year, the agricultural teacher was drafted into the army and the students of agriculture had to take the academic course. At this point, John quit school and worked on the farm for three years, also helping his father repair and maintain the telephone lines. In September of 1920 he enrolled as a junior at Grantham Academy. During his school years, John found math and science to be his easiest subjects, and English and foreign languages the hardest.

During John's senior year at Grantham, increasing health problems climaxed in an emergency appendectomy at Lebanon Hospital, a three-week hospital stay, and a three-week recuperation at home. He returned to school, graduated in June l922, and finished the year's work during the following summer.

At Grantham, John formed many enriching life-long friendships, and broadened his appreciation of people with differing views and backgrounds. Here he learned to know Anna Grove Kuhns, whom he would later marry. Somewhat earlier, at age 16 or 17, he had accepted Christ, and his parents' faith became his own, strongly shaping his future decisions.

After graduation from high school in 1922, John enrolled at Millersville Normal School, and traveled there by trolley, boarding in Millersville. (Brother Herbert, three years younger, was delighted that with John away, he could now drive the family Franklin.) Although most summers John continued to help on the farm, during the summer of l923 he took a two-week automobile trip to Canada, spending time visiting relatives and places of historical interest, collecting Indian arrowheads, and studying trees and birds.

In the fall of 1922, John began teaching school at the Haldeman School a mile from his home. He took extension courses at Lebanon Valley College two evenings a week to keep his credentials current. The following two years he taught at Risser School near Lawn. His students remember him as a handsome man with penetrating dark eyes---a teacher who was even-tempered and never "rattled" in the classroom. Nor was he easily discouraged from his duties by bad weather; for when melting snow or heavy rains made driving difficult, John would ride horseback five or six miles, and then walk the last mile to school.

In 1925-26, he attended a full year at Lebanon Valley College and was classified as a sophomore. In an autobiography he wrote there, he states: "My purpose...is to receive more credit for teaching and to gain more scientific knowledge. I expect to teach for a period of perhaps three years and then engage in farming." That summer he took qualitative chemistry, from Lebanon Valley College.

On September 30, 1926, John married Anna Grove Kuhns at the Kuhns homestead in Mount Joy. His father officiated at the ceremony. After a wedding trip to Virginia, they each continued to live with their own families except for weekends spent together at Anna's home. In March of l927, they established their own home on the Kuhns farm, where John entered into a farming partnership, working for wages with Anna's father, Jacob R. Kuhns. After Jacob's death in l930, John farmed on shares for his mother-in-law, eventually buying the farm in l943 and engaging in general farming and dairying until his retirement in 1966.

Farming was a challenging, fulfilling vocation for this "intellectual farmer." Salesmen with their memorized pitches were frequently unprepared for the searching questions and knowledgeable remarks which they encountered. John kept careful records and notations on pages tacked inside the barn cupboards. For John, farming was another opportunity to study, learn and expand his skills. He was willing to try new methods; one of the first farmers in the Mount Joy area to build a milking parlor, he also invested in newer machinery, experimented with irrigation and the latest planting methods, and tried new crops. Farming was more than a way to make a living---it was his vocation and his avocation. He enjoyed passing on to others what he had learned. His children (John, Henry, and Lois Jean) remember Sunday afternoon walks in the meadow, where he pointed out various birds, trees, and plants. He was adept at finding four-leaf clovers. Spring meant finding the first dog-tooth violets or stunning banks of bluebells in the quarry. He especially delighted in identifying, protecting, and planting trees. He could identify about 40 different species of trees on the farm; most prized was the Cedar of Lebanon which he planted. Many times he would point it out to visitors, reminding them that Psalm 92:12-13 compares the Christian to such a tree: "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a Cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God."

Anna Grove Kuhns, oldest child of Jacob and Martha Kuhns, was 32 when she and John were married. Having attended Joint School near her home and the Elizabethtown Academy (now Elizabethtown College), she had probably known John through association with other young people including John's sisters. She learned to know him better while attending winter term classes at Grantham. She never realized her desire (ambition?) to become a nurse, but helped on the farm and with the care of her youngest brother, Jacob, so her brother John could pursue the study of medicine. She was a careful homemaker, an accomplished cook, and found satisfaction in caring for her family. She enjoyed music and had learned to play the piano; so she made sure that all three of her children had piano lessons also. She was skillful in sewing and needlework until about age 41 when she was diagnosed with glaucoma. Even in spite of this handicap, she practiced her gifts of hospitality and generosity in a far-reaching way.

John and Anna passed along to their three children their love for farm life. In an estate plan before their death they deeded the farm to their children equally, making it possible for the farm to remain in the family for future generations and continue in agricultural preservation. John's sons, like their father, had begun as vocational agricultural students; but when they decided to enter the medical profession, both parents gave full support to their decisions. John and Anna worked hard and lived frugally in order to help all the children financially throughout their college years.

John and Anna were members of the Mt. Pleasant Brethren in Christ Church in the early years of their marriage, and in 1946 transferred their membership to the Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church. John served sixteen years as a deacon, and often as a Sunday school teacher, superintendent, church board member or prayer meeting leader. Besides congregational involvement, he frequently attended General Conference as a delegate, and was a long-time member of the Messiah Orphanage Board of Trustees. These public offices translated into practical acts of concern such as providing a foster home for two young lads from Messiah Orphanage, or taking baskets of chicken, eggs and garden produce given with a visit to a struggling family. John traveled to California to help a new pastor and his family move to Elizabethtown, and provided an apartment for them to occupy until a parsonage was ready for them. John and Anna gave encouragement and bountiful dinners to a multitude of visiting missionaries and evangelists, and bushels of potatoes and apples to Messiah Lighthouse Mission in Harrisburg, part of their habitual pattern of giving in the name of Christ.

Beyond good deeds, John was a man personally tuned to God, and he spent time renewing his spirit through study of the Scripture and memorization. He especially loved the Psalms, and developed a method for remembering the opening verses of each one. When his son John became ill and was hospitalized on the l3th ("star") floor of Jefferson Hospital, father John searched the New Testament for "star" verses; one was Romans 15:13, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

He enjoyed reading theologians such as Phillips Brooks, Spurgeon, Whitefield, and more contemporary writers as well. A family member recalls that, coming home from the church service one Sunday, John commented with characteristic humor as he reached for a volume of sermons, "Well, I've been to low church---now I'm going to high church!" Not a person given to emotionalism, John did enjoy expressing his faith through singing snatches of favorite hymns such as "Praise the Savior, ye who know Him" or "O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth." He was always quick to quote a verse he treasured or a bit of homey philosophy like "Do your givin' while you're livin'---then you're knowin' where it's goin'!" Another was, "Straight is the line of duty, curved is the line of beauty; follow the first and thou shalt see the other ever following thee."

As the children grew up and entered their chosen vocations, John and Anna continued to pray for, write, and financially encourage them. Missions became their personal concern as their children worked in Africa, Jordan, Haiti, India, New Mexico, and Canada.

Grandparenting was a delight for both of them, and Anna's poor vision did not prevent her from entering wholeheartedly into it. John had numerous plans for retirement, eager to exercise more of his many interests--travel, beekeeping, genealogy, reading, word puzzles, acrostics, and meeting new people. He found time to build two 6'x9' playhouses for the grandchildren, and to erect a home-made safety sign along a hazardous turn-off along Route 230. He found some interesting part-time jobs: working as a houseparent at the Hospital for Crippled Children in Elizabethtown and measuring driveways for Martin's Asphalt Paving (where he became known for careful measuring that never had to be re-checked.)

Following major surgery for an aortic aneurysm, John's final years were less active. Just as he neared his 70th birthday, he experienced the event he had long anticipated. As he talked with a neighbor and friend on the morning of November 6, 1971, he commented, "I feel better today than I have for a long time. I'm looking forward to soon celebrating threescore and ten years." Moments later he collapsed, and his spirit went to be with the Lord he had loved and served.

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