• Last modified 410 days ago (April 12, 2023)


Life of 'most amazing invalid' to be recounted

Staff writer

The life of a Marion County man once heralded by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” as “the most amazing invalid in all history” will be recounted April 23 at the annual banquet of Tabor College’s Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies

Although J.G. Ewert suffered crippling arthritis that kept him bedridden for 26 years, he did not let that prevent him from being active in literary circles.

A Hillsboro native, he graduated from Bethel College, was a faculty member at Tabor, and was an editor and writer.

He also was involved in food relief for the suffering and hungry in south Russia.

He was responsible for collecting 75% of the money for food parcels sent to Russia in 1921 to 1922.

According to Peggy Goertzen, director of the center, Ewert was known as a “deep scholar.” He knew nine languages and taught five of them.

He was so loved in the Hillsboro community that friends provided food and other items for him and for his brother David and aged mother.

The community raised money to outfit his room to make it possible for him to use a special typewriter. With the use of only one finger, Ewert was able to communicate on the typewriter and could devote his time to writing, editing, and teaching.

Ewert died March 16, 1923. Nearly 1,300 people attended his funeral in the Tabor College auditorium.

His life’s story will be told April 23 by Tabor English professor Christopher Dick.

“The active/inactive paradox is fascinating to me,” Dick said.” Ewert’s identity as an invalid is front and center in discussions of his life. Being completely immobilized, he was certainly the definition of inactive. However, what he was able to actively engage in is just astounding.

“For someone completely deprived of physical strength, he seems to have had an inner strength that allowed him to ‘speak truth to power’ in some very fascinating ways. His ideas were unique, and so was he.”

The cost for the evening event is $20.

The center also will sponsor a Mennonite Heritage Tour from 11:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 22.

After a traditional light lunch at Tabor, participants will visit the Brunk Cemetery, Gnadenau village and orphanage, Ebenfeld M.B. Church and cemetery, Peabody train station and prisoner of war building, and Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church near Goessel.

The tour cost is $35. Reservations for either or both events are being accepted by Goertzen at or (620) 947-3121, ext. 1211 or 1212.

Last modified April 12, 2023