If you needed help, Ked was ready
Longtime Oregonian made a difference in so many lives
Ked Dejmal was one of those people every church needs – and many healthy churches probably have.
When there was work to be done, you didn’t have to ask Ked twice about helping. He was there.
“He was a good and faithful servant,” said Chuck Fairchild. “He was quiet but always lent a hand.” Chuck was a friend of Ked’s and fellow member of Eugene Friends Church, Eugene, Oregon.
“He was very others-oriented,” said Sheri Hagen, one of Ked’s daughters. “He was a real people person.”
Our National Journey Award recipient
Everence® is supporting the life and work of Ked Dejmal with our 2018 National Journey Award, which recognizes people who model Christian stewardship. Ked died in March 2018 at 83.
Ked’s curious nature came to life in his interest in finding ways to keep learning, through real-life experiences beyond the textbook – even though he was a teacher. Got a few acres to spare? Why not start a Christmas tree farm?
Ked realized farm-related tax advantages would apply if he planted, tended and sold Christmas trees on part of the land where the family home was built in the early 1970s. And as a science teacher who grew up on a farm, he was naturally interested in horticulture.
Although Ked loved talking with people who came to buy trees, he didn’t necessarily want to spend every minute on the sales lot. So he came up with a new plan. “He built a shelter, put out a lock box and collected money on the honor system,” Sheri said.
The farm also helped fuel Ked’s passion for education. “The Christmas tree farm helped put my sister and me through college,” said Ked’s daughter Lynette Andersen.
At home in the middle school
Ked taught science to junior high/middle school students. He had a few chances to shift to high school, but declined the offers. Sheri said he knew that many adults have a hard time relating to middle school-age kids, so he felt it was best for him to stay where he was.
Years after they’d been in his class, former students approached Ked to tell him how much he influenced them. Some said they were poor students and in trouble a lot, but he had helped straighten them out, Lynette said.
In retirement, Ked and his wife, Nina, joined Volunteers on Wheels, which matches volunteers with churches or church camps needing help with construction or repair projects.
“Volunteers on Wheels is known throughout the Northwest,” Chuck said. “Churches that need help rebuilding a sanctuary or with big painting projects call VOW.”
Sheri said, “He and Mom really enjoyed doing that together,” reflecting on their VOW assignments.
Ked took several trips to Mexico to help build houses. He was an avid woodworker who built furniture and gift items. One year, he made Christmas ornaments as part of a fundraiser for mission projects.
Building and fixing
Where did he learn his construction skills? Growing up on a farm contributed to Ked’s know-how, as well as having a father who knew a lot about fixing and building.
But another important factor was, “He really liked figuring things out,” Sheri said. And Ked and a teacher friend invested in a few rental properties, with Ked handling most of the repairs himself.
“My dad was an amazing man,” Lynette said. “My dad could do most anything.”
Ked and Nina had a huge garden, and Ked taught Nina how to can the produce to preserve it. Ked was familiar with canning from his childhood.
Nina, who died in 2014, had been a teacher as well, before becoming a stay-at-home mom to raise Sheri, Lynette and their brother, Alan, who died in 1983. Music was a big part of Nina’s life, and she served as choir director and pianist/organist at church.
Known for his financial knowledge
Teaching, farming and gardening weren’t Ked’s only skills. Financial matters interested him too. He got good advice about investing for the future when he was younger, Lynette said, and people at church would ask Ked for advice about managing their money.
He served as the Everence stewardship advocate at Eugene Friends Church for more than 20 years and brought in Everence advisors and representatives to talk about financial planning.
Chuck said, “When we’d talk about the church budget, he’d ask questions about how things were being done, if it was the best use of our money – things like that.”
Ked worked with church stewards to wisely invest the church’s money, helped create an endowment fund to help with church projects, and even taught Sunday school classes about money management.
Lynette said her father’s financial philosophy could be summed up this way: “You don’t buy what you don’t have the money for.”
Encouraging students to excel
It seems that in just about everything Ked did, he ultimately helped others thrive and grow. And he didn’t take off his teacher’s hat after school hours. In fact, he served as a mentor for young people at his church.
Ked encouraged high school students who attended Eugene Friends Church to apply for Everence college scholarships. Knowing some of the students were especially bright, he figured they’d be good candidates to earn Everence scholarships.
He also knew that students or their parents must own or be using an Everence product to qualify for one of the scholarships, so he swung into action.
Ked visited a youth Sunday school class to talk about the scholarships. He offered to deposit $25 for any youth who wanted to start a savings account at Everence Federal Credit Union.
One of those who took him up on the offer was Cassandra “Cassie” Hwa, who applied and became the top national Everence scholarship recipient among 42 for the 2014-2015 school year.
Helping in a private way
Lynette said, “He never tooted his own horn” about the many things he did to help others.
“There were a lot of things our parents did that we found out about later when people would tell us,” she said.
Everence Stewardship Consultant Rhoda Blough worked with Ked on many occasions over the last 10 years or so. It was obvious when visiting Eugene Friends Church that “people in the church really did love him,” Rhoda said.
Rhoda remembers having lunch with Ked and Nina in Albany, Oregon. “They were such a lovely couple,” she said. “It was obvious they did a lot together and enjoyed being with each other.”
Ked was one of the best stewardship advocates Everence had, Rhoda said. “He was someone who I just admired so much.”