Viola Rae Hefta dies; was American Baptist home missionary

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 6/1/17)—Viola Rae Hefta, 96, of Owasso, Okla., an American Baptist home missionary, died on Friday, May 26. She was the wife of the late Joseph S. Hefta.

In 1944, the American Baptist Home Mission Society—a precursor organization to American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS)—appointed her to serve at Phoenix (Ariz.) Christian Center. During a summer appointment by the Baptist Home Mission Board, she was sent to minister in Winslow, Ariz., where she founded a small Mexican Baptist church that grew from meeting in a garage to becoming a large Southern Baptist congregation.

She and her husband pastored Drake Baptist Church in North Dakota in addition to serving other American Baptist churches in North Dakota and Kansas before retiring in 1985.

Born Oct. 2, 1920, in Atchison, Kan., she was a daughter of Egbert and Flossie (Bean) Berry.

She earned a master’s degree in Religious Education at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Kan., and a bachelor’s degree at Baptist Missionary Training School, Chicago.

While attending seminary, she worked at a Mexican Baptist church in Kansas City. After graduating, she became educational director at First Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, Mo.

In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her sisters, Nonette Peterson Sorensen and Beverly Pedersen, and brother, Glenn Berry.

She is survived by her daughters, Brenda, wife of David Juby of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Marcia, wife of Gregg Wolgast of Wichita, Kan.; sons, Loren, husband of Gladys Hefta of Owasso, Dr. Stanley, husband of Laura Hefta of Blacksburg, Va., and the Rev. Steven, husband of Diane Hefta of St. Charles, Ill.; 11 grandchildren, three step-grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, six step-great-grandchildren; three step-great-great-grandchildren; sister, Shirley Snyder of Burlington, Iowa; brothers-in-law, Don Manbeck of Phoenix, and Jack Pedersen of Manhattan, Kan.; sisters-in-law, Geri Moen of Mahtomedi, Minn., and Claire Berry of Huntington Beach, Calif.; former sister-in-law Pat Berry of Huntington Beach; numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, June 2, with family receiving friends 6-8 p.m. at Dillon Marler Dighton Funeral Home, 116 N. Main St., Owasso, Okla., 74055. A service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, at Community Baptist Church, 2805 S. Garnett Rd., Tulsa, Okla., 74129, preceded by a grave-site service at 10:30 a.m. at Fairview Cemetery, Owasso.

Memorials in support of American Baptist mission may be sent in care of Community Baptist Church.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.