Hilda Louise (Penner) Ray, 98, of Winfield, died Thursday, February 4th, 2021 at Cumbernauld Village.
Funeral services will be 1:30 p.m. Friday, February 12, at the First Presbyterian Church of Winfield. Visitation will be at the church from 4 – 6pm Thursday, February 11. The family will be present during this time. Masks are requested. Shelley Family Funeral Home of Winfield is in charge of the arrangements. In lieu of flowers memorials have been established in Hilda’s name for the Presbyterian Church, Cumbernauld Village, and the Vernon Township Kellogg Hall Building Fund. Contributions can be made through the Shelley Family Funeral Home. The funeral service will be recorded and available to view at www.shelleyfamilyfh.com for those unable to attend.
Hilda was born March 20, 1922 to Kurt and Bertha (Schmitt) Penner in Newton, Kansas. She grew up on a farm near Whitewater. At 13 she won a 4-H State Fair blue ribbon for an angel food cake that was mixed by hand and carefully baked in their wood stove.
The highlight of her years at Whitewater High School was their senior class trip in 1940 to the World’s Fair in New York City. She attended Emporia State Teachers College for a year to earn her teaching certificate. After one year of teaching eight grades in a one room school house, she knew that she wanted to do something else. She had a creative spark that was not being met. She spent time working in Cleveland while her sister attended the Cleveland Institute of Music. She later returned to Kansas and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Art Education from Wichita University in 1947. She spent a summer in New York City teaching art and crafts at the YMCA.
Hilda was hired to re-start the art program at Wellington teaching all grades, kindergarten through high school. While she was busy teaching, a farmer over in Cowley County, Cap Groene, set up his neighboring farmer and friend, Frank Ray, with this new Wellington art teacher. As the sweet story goes, the art teacher ended up having to re-think her vow against marrying a farmer, and she and Frank were married on June 11, 1950 at the Emmaus Mennonite church near Whitewater. This farmer was so special to her that she helped him clean up the farm and helped him build it up to become the largest egg producing operation in Kansas in the late 50s. In addition to all those chickens they raised four sons and a daughter.
Hilda kept a large garden and she canned, froze, and dried its produce to keep the basement shelves full. She could also sew, quilt, and mend anything. She was a charter member of the Walnut Valley Quilters Guild. In the 70s she helped bring the art of wheat weaving back into popularity by teaching classes. She was an active 4-H parent and leader and thrived at entering exhibits and helping at the Cowley County Fair where she was the Art Superintendent for many years. The Merrymakers Club in the Kellogg community was very special to her. Through the decades there were many Merrymakers family picnics, showers, and other fellowship times together.
Hilda was active with the First Presbyterian Church serving as a deacon and elder. She spent many years teaching Sunday school and was a member of the choir. Singing in the Elijah Oratorio was something she greatly enjoyed.
Caregiving was second nature to her. When she and Frank married she helped care for his elderly parents who lived with them. Hilda’s brightest star shined in her devotion to raising and caring for their handicapped son, Kenneth. She made many sacrifices to care for him and others in the family. Without hesitation, she cared for Frank’s brother Ross as he lived out his final years on the farm with them, then ten years later she attended to Frank through his 2-year cancer battle. Many of Frank and Hilda’s nieces and nephews spent time on the farm. Nephew Tony Penner was welcomed to live and grow up on the farm during his high school years. She was able to do all this and make it seem to her family that this was nothing extraordinary; it’s just what you do. Her life was a testament to “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Hilda was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Frank, sister Charlotte Wilson, brothers Rudi, Paul, and Karl Penner, and an infant grandson Jamie Ray.
Survivors include her sons, David (Sally) of Winfield, Phillip (Lyn) of Flower Mound, TX, Martin (Judy) of Winfield, Kenneth of Winfield; daughter, Carolie (Ron) Ediger of Hutchinson, KS; 21 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and one more due any day; two first cousins; and many dear nephews and nieces.
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