Phil and Sandy Whipple

Rev. Phil Whipple, who served as bishop of the US National Conference 2009-2015, passed away around 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 15. He was a victim of Covid-19. Phil was admitted to the hospital on November 2, and never left. He was placed on a ventilator on November 12, and died three days later.

Bishop Todd Fetters came to the United Brethren office in 2013 to fill a new position created by Bishop Whipple, that of Director of National Ministries. They worked closely together for the next two years, and Todd succeeded Phil as bishop in 2015.

“Those of us who served with Phil are saddened by the news of his passing,” said Bishop Fetters. “He gave each of us an opportunity to serve the Lord through the Church of the United Brethren in Christ with our unique gifts, abilities, and personalities. In this sudden loss of our brother and friend, our solace is found in the words of Psalm 116:15, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones.’ Phil is today where he has always been, ‘in Christ.’”

Phil Whipple was born in 1957 in Illinois, and grew up in the Church of the Nazarene. He cited March 1974 as the date of his conversion.

Phil graduated from Liberty University and later from the Huntington University Graduate School. He began his ministry in 1980 at a non-UB church in Illinois, followed by five years, 1984-1989, pastoring a Wesleyan church in Saranac, Mich.

In 1990 he joined the staff of the Richfield Road UB church in Flint, Mich., as an associate pastor, where he worked under the leadership of senior pastor Lester Smith. A year later, he was assigned as senior pastor of Pleasant Valley UB church in Lake Odessa, Mich, where he served seven years.

In 1998 he began ten years as pastor of Colwood UB church in Caro, Mich. Under Phil’s leadership, the attendance grew from 200 to over 500, and they baptized 130 people. Phil was serving at Colwood when elected bishop in 2009. He succeeded Bishop Ron Ramsey, who served four years in that role.

Some highlights from Bishop Phil Whipple’s six years as bishop:

  • He created the part-time position of Director of Ministerial Licensing, which has greatly improved out efforts in guiding ministers to their next step in the licensing process (Jim Bolich now fills that role).
  • Various “summits” for UB ministers were begun, held in the year between national conferences. Three summits per year, based on church attendance, were held for senior pastors and their spouses. Other summits were organized for associate staff, worship ministers, and youth ministers.
  • He was part of the search process which brought Dr. Sherilyn Emberton to Huntington University as president in 2013.
  • We developed the current logo for the US National Conference.
  • Todd Fetters was hired as Director of National Ministries, a new position (now held by Dr. Mike Dittman).
  • He was part of the 2010 and 2013 General Conferences, in Honduras and Canada respectively.

Phil and his wife, Sandy, were married in 1979, and this past summer celebrated 41 years of marriage. They have two children, Mike and Josh, both of whom serve in ministry. When he was elected bishop in 2009, Josh was worship pastor at Mongul UB church (Shippensburg, Pa.) and Mike was the worship pastor at Colwood.

In 2015, Phil became pastor of Trinity Missionary Church in Yale, Mich. (in the thumb area). Mike Whipple announced his father’s death to the church, writing: “At 6 pm this evening my dad, Pastor Phil, slipped into Jesus’ arms. We were told he left this earth very peacefully, and we were so thankful for that news. Even though this is a time of mourning and we feel this pain deeply, we know Pastor Phil is meeting with Jesus now. What a joy that is. I want to thank you all for your kindness and your support over these last few weeks. You have all showed me what the church is capable of, and I am very grateful to have been able to walk through this with such a loving church body.”

We, too, are grateful that the Whipple family has been surrounded by a loving church family. Let’s join them with our own prayers for Sandy, and for the families of Josh and Mike, as they grieve the loss of a husband, father, and grandfather, while also celebrating a life well lived.

Rev. Robert “Bob” Miller, a United Brethren pastor for over 40 years, passed away on November 12, 2020, in Bryan, Ohio.

Bob was born in New Castle, Pa., in 1933, and went on to graduate from Huntington University in 1955, and from the HU seminary in 1958. He was ordained in 1959. He pastored about eight different churches in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. He also served many years as Michindoh Conference treasurer, and was employed 1976-1990 at Michindoh Ministries Camp and Conference Center. Most recently, he was pastor 1990-1998 of South Scipio UB church in Harlan, Ind.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, there will be a private burial for the family with a memorial service at a later time.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to Huntington University in Huntington, Ind.

Ruth A. Merillat, 99, passed away Wednesday, August 19, in East Jordan, Mich. She and her husband, Orville Merillat, who died in 1999, were members of Trenton Hills UB church in Adrian, Mich. In 1946, they founded what became Merillat Industries, the nation’s largest maker of kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

After retiring from active leadership in the company, they devoted themselves to philanthropy through the Merillat Christian Family Foundation. Among other things, they gave tens of millions of dollars to Huntington University, to United Brethren church building projects, to UB missions and camps, and to other UB-related causes. In 1988, the National Association of Evangelicals recognized them jointly as NAE Laypersons of the Year.

A private funeral service is being held on Tuesday, August 25. It will be streamed live at 2:00 pm via the Lenawee Christian School Facebook page and Youtube channel.

Mrs. Wardena Waldfogel passed away Saturday, August 1, 2020. She was 95 years old. She was the wife of Bishop Emeritus Raymond Waldfogel, with whom she served 50-some years in United Brethren ministry. They were married in 1945 and had five children.The family is using Myers Funeral Home in Huntington, Ind., but no public services are scheduled at this time.

Dr. Raymond and Wardena Waldfogel began their pastoral experience in 1950 in the former North Ohio Conference (northern Indiana and northwest Ohio), starting in 1950. He was fulltime conference superintendent for six years, and in 1969 was elected to the first of three terms as bishop, serving 1969-1981. They then returned to pastoral ministry. Bishop Waldfogel passed away in 2011.

Gail D. Miller (right), 89, passed away July 1, 2020, in Montpelier, Ohio. She and her husband, Rev. Robert Miller, served in the United Brethren pastorate for over 40 years. She was actively involved in children’s ministry in the church and summer camp.

Visitation: 10am on Friday, July 3, 2020.
Funeral: 11:30 am immediately following the visitation.
Location: Stryker United Brethren Church, Stryker, Ohio. Rev. Nick Woodall will officiate.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Stryker United Brethren Church. Online condolences may be offered to the family at the Grisier Funeral Home website.

Dan Paternoster (left) and UB minister Charlie Milliken greeting people at the 2011 US National Conference.

Dan Paternoster, a longtime member of Fowlerville UB church (Fowlerville, Mich.), passed away around 6:30 Wednesday morning, July 1, 2020. He was a member of the denominational Executive Leadership Team for 14 years, from 2001-2015. Dan worked as a veterinarian. He has regularly attended the US National Conference meetings every two years, and will be missed.

For the 2013 US National Conference in Fort Wayne, Ind., a video was done about Dan and a terrible accident he was in while bike riding. It’s an inspiring story. You can watch it here.

Rev. George and Nadine Speas

Rev. George Speas, 88, passed away on June 18, 2020. Over his ministry he pastored six different United Brethren churches in Michigan, including 31 years at Kilpatrick UB church in Woodland up through 2002. He was also a hospice chaplain for ten years.

George graduated from high school in 1949 in Lake Odessa, Mich., and then spent four years in the US Navy during the Korean War, being stationed in Japan. After completing his military service, he married Nadine Louise Cook in 1955. She passed away on April 26 of this year.

There will be a private graveside service. At a later date, a large celebration of life will be held for both George and Nadine.

Memorial contributions can be sent to Kilpatrick UB church, 10005 E Barnum Rd, Woodland MI 48897.

June L. Brown, age 89, of Chambersburg, Pa., passed away on Thursday, June 4, 2020. She served 35 years as a United Brethren missionary in Sierra Leone. Private graveside services will be held at Norland Cemetery in Chambersburg. No other arrangements have been announced at this time.

You can read June Brown’s obituary on the Geisel Funeral home website. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in her name to UB Global, 302 Lake St., Huntington, IN 46750. Designed “Sierra Leone Hospital” on the memo lane. Or, contributions can be made to King Street Church Joy Class, 56 North Second St., Chambersburg, PA 17201.

Below is June’s story as told in All for Christ, Volume 2, by Steve Dennie.

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“It Took Love”

Beginning around 1973, Edward Morlai, the Sierra Leone Conference director of Church Services, worked with June Brown in the Bumpe office. He was a big fan, but by no means the only fan. “She is not a stranger; she is one of us, and we like her. She is readily accepted, not only in our church, but in our culture. We bring many problems to her, and she helps us a lot. She knows what to do at what particular time. Anywhere you go, people know Miss Brown.”

When Mr. Morlai visited the United States in 1985, he told June Brown, “Now I know what you’re giving up to come to Sierra Leone.”

June didn’t view it that way. “When I come home on furlough, I almost feel guilty being here. Everything I touch and feel and eat, everything reminds me of what I don’t have over there, and what they don’t have — and probably won’t get for years to come, no matter how hard they strive for it….I’m not giving up anything. It’s a call, a desire to do the Lord’s work.”

Mr. Morlai smiled. “I don’t think she has convinced me. It took love to leave a church like King Street and go to Sierra Leone, and stay all those years. It is a big sacrifice for her. It takes a lot of love.”

June Brown grew up in Pennsylvania. She accepted Christ at age eight, and at age 15 sensed God calling her to the mission field. She enrolled at Huntington College in 1948, but left to spend four years in the Women’s Air Force. While stationed in San Antonio, Texas, she taught math and science classes, and played on the base softball and basketball teams, both of which won the Women’s Air Force World Championship. She returned to Huntington College in 1954, graduated in 1956, and became a public schoolteacher in Rockford, Ill. But the call to missions remained. In 1957, she began 35 years as a United Brethren missionary in Sierra Leone.

June’s missionary service included six years as a teacher at Centennial Secondary School, followed by 29 years at Bumpe High School, where she taught math and Bible. She also served stints as boarding home manager, bookstore clerk and acting principal, and could ably step in when the school needed an electrician, plumber, or diesel mechanic.

During her furlough in 1966, June returned to Huntington College to teach physical education and coach basketball, volleyball, and tennis. In 1985, June took on the role of Director of Missionary Affairs. She remained in Sierra Leone until 1992, when all missionaries were evacuated from the country because of a military coup. She took the opportunity to retire from missionary service. June returned to her hometown of Chambersburg, Pa., and to her home church, King Street.

During Commencement services on May 18, 1993, Huntington College recognized her with the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The citation began:

“June L. Brown has built a life of excellence everywhere she has invested her talent and energy. In education, in service to country, and in missions, she has always held to the highest standards in her personal life and professional endeavors.”