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Bell-ringing led to a life of service for Marion couple

Staff writer

It’s December again, and Richard “Rich” and Judy Forney have made their way to Aurora, Illinois, to help their Salvation Army officer son at his station at the familiar red kettle. They set up outside shopping malls where, instead of ringing a bell, Rich plays his Glockenspiel.

“I enjoy it, and it brings in a lot of money,” Rich said. “People like to hear familiar tunes. It puts them in a better spirit before they go into the store to shop.”

Judy spends her time helping to create gift packages.

The Forneys spent their entire married life of 49 years in the service of The Salvation Army. They retired from active service in January and took permanent residency at their vacation home at Marion County Park and Lake.

Rich said his parents were officers in The Salvation Army, and that was his goal since he was in high school. He has a brother who also is an officer.

Judy became attracted to the work of the Salvation Army while in college.

“I wanted to serve the Lord, and I wanted to help people,” she said. “The Salvation Army is organized like an army to more efficiently carry out its mission ‘to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination,’” Judy Forney said, quoting from the website.

The Forneys met in Bible college and went on to a Salvation Army seminary together to train as officers. Both are ordained ministers.

They progressed from being lieutenants to captains, then majors and colonels. Each step up the ladder brought more responsibilities.

They were assigned to almost 20 different locations during their active service, including four-and-a-half years in South America. Their duties were many and varied, including preaching, teaching, counseling, youth work, aid distribution, jail ministry, and disaster service.

Their three children were ages 10, 11, and 12 when they were sent overseas in 1981. Richard was in charge of youth ministries in Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. The family lived in Buenos Aires.

Rich oversaw summer camps and organized weekend youth retreats. Judy assisted him and taught Christian education in a local seminary.

“Some of those youth had never been outside of the city before,” Rich said. “Everything they saw was new to them.”

The couple developed a puppet show with Muppet-like characters that proved popular with children and adults.

Back in the states, Judy administered large low-income housing units in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.

The Forneys served two stints in Salina after their first attempt at retirement in 2012. Rich conducted a jail ministry there. He developed a plan that allowed inmates to send gifts to their children at Christmastime. He also helped elementary schools create clothes closets for teachers to access for students as needed. He helped distribute donated goods.

Rich often went to disaster areas in this country and other countries to aid in recovery.

Although they have retired,, serving others is in their blood and they remain active as volunteers. Richard plays in the band and Judy sings in the choir in their church in Wichita.

The couple purchased their vacation home on Lakeshore Drive in 2001. It has an expansive view of the lake.

“We wanted it to be a place where missionaries on furlough could stay or Salvation Army families could go for a break even when we were not living here,” Judy said. “We wanted it to be a place of retreat and rest.”

They have remodeled and added to the house throughout the years and still have a guest bedroom available.

The couple has a large garden on their two-acre plot. They put up a lot of produce. Rich also likes to hunt and fish.

Judy is known as the “cooking queen” by the teenagers who reside in a boys’ home in Wichita. She enjoys baking cookies for them.

“It’s just a little thing, but it means a lot to them,” she said. “They call me ‘Grandma Judy.’”

The couple looks back on their life with satisfaction.

“It’s been a very worthwhile life,” Rich said. “In helping people, we learned to appreciate what we have, especially the simple things.”

Last modified Dec. 10, 2015

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