In the fall of 2017, the Oklahoma chapter took on the restoration of the abandoned Mennonite Brethren Cemetery, a few miles north, of Eakly, OK. Their initial findings indicated that there were many issues that needed to be addressed, so they went to work. What they found was an enormous wealth of information and a lack of information about the people buried there.Initially the investigation uncovered 4 visible head stones and a memorial stone that had been erected in 1998 to take the place of all the missing grave markers. Many birth and death dates were missing, one birth date off by 30 years and much, much more.
Howard grew up on a farm near the small town of Bessie, Oklahoma, a settlement of Germans from Russia from Ukraine. He was originally taught to speak German but as soon as he started Sunday school all classes were in English, and he completely forgot all his German except for a memorized short prayer. Living in a Mennonite community he heard the low German Plautdietsch and decided to take German in college. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics and a minor in German from Tabor College. He became involved with the Central Oklahoma Chapter in 2006 and served as president of the chapter from 2013 – 2015. He is an avid researcher and is involved with the Facebook group of Mennonite Genealogy and History.
LaDonna was born and raised on a farm southwest of Corn, Oklahoma, a Mennonite Brethren community of Germans from Russia. Although born into a GR family she knew very little of her heritage except she learned that her grandfather had immigrated from Russia, the Ukraine area, when he was 2 years old. LaDonna spent summers in the wheat field helping her father and after the harvest worked the land on a tractor preparing for the next harvest. She graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and became a schoolteacher. She learned more about her heritage when she began working with Howard Foote, her second cousin. Her interest was piqued when she located the 100-year-old cemetery and learned so much more about her GR heritage – a heritage she loves to share with her family. In the course of events, she also learned that her mother’s parents had come from Russia too, from the Frank area, and that her parents and her brother were members of the Central Oklahoma AHSGR.