Cover photo for Rev. Dr. Kenneth Holderread's Obituary
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Holderread Profile Photo
1938 Rev. Dr. Kenneth O. Holderread 2023

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Holderread

March 27, 1938 — November 28, 2023

McPherson, KS

Kenneth Oliver Holderread was born on a dairy farm in Cushing, Oklahoma, to Leslie and Minnie (Kinzie) Holderread on March 27, 1938. He was the third of four children. For his first five years of schooling, Ken attended Cottonwood Elementary, a one-room schoolhouse. He then attended Hillside Country School through 8th grade when the schools consolidated, before graduating from Cushing High School. While in high school, he was an active FFA member, exhibiting dairy cattle at local, state, and regional fairs. He had a knack for working with animals and could convince an untrained heifer to lead with a halter.


While attending McPherson College, Ken met and fell in love with Elsie Lucore. Six weeks later, they were engaged. They married on August 10, 1958, in Arriba, Colorado, and spent over 65 adventurous years together traveling the world and following God’s call, including traveling to all 50 states and many countries around the world.


During college, Ken took some time off to serve as youth director for the Western Region of the Church of the Brethren.  Ken earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial arts with a minor in math from McPherson College, a master of divinity and doctorate of ministry degrees from Bethany Theological Seminary, and certification in Clinical Pastoral Education. He also received Spiritual Direction training from the Shalem Institute.


After college, he taught public school in Newton, Kansas from 1961-62 before he and Elsie were called to their first international placement, a teaching post in Ghana, West Africa from 1962-64. Their son, Barry, was only 9 months old, and they arrived without the trunk containing his diapers. Ken volunteered his undershirts to fill the gap until they arrived. Ghana is where Ken felt the call to ministry, and he enrolled at Bethany Seminary upon their return. During their time in Oak Brook, IL, daughters Deb and Cathy were born. Ken supported his family while in seminary by substitute teaching, selling hearing aids, driving limousines, and being a youth pastor at a Presbyterian Church.


From 1968-79, Ken pastored the Empire Church of the Brethren in CA. During this time, he directed a Clinical Pastoral Education unit in the parish setting and held various ecumenical positions in the Modesto Council of Churches and its relief ministries. He also served as a “seagoing cowboy” for Heifer Project (International) and accompanied a group of cattle from the port in San Francisco to Busan, South Korea, to care for them on their journey. In 1979, Ken and Elsie moved their family to Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, to pastor the Memorial Church of the Brethren.


In 1984, Ken and Elsie were called by the former Church of the Brethren General Board to go as mission workers to Sudan (leaving four days after Cathy graduated from high school). Their significant work in Sudan took place during a time when warfare was occurring in the Darfur region and included training pastors, evangelists, and church leaders. The couple also developed a Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program in English, Arabic, and Nuer, working out of the capital city of Khartoum. When they returned to the US, Ken worked from the General Offices in Elgin, IL. During this time, the program was expanded to include a ministry seminar to help pastors deal with war and famine. As Africa and Middle East representative for the Church of the Brethren, Ken continued his work related to African concerns as well as collaborative relationships with ecumenical and humanitarian organizations, particularly in Sudan and the area that is now South Sudan. He also made several working visits to South Africa, and had the opportunity to worship with Nelson Mandela at a meeting of US church leaders, when Mandela was here to address Congress and touring US cities to rally support in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.


Ken later served as District Executive for the Illinois and Wisconsin District of the Church of the Brethren. After retiring for the first time in 2001, the couple were Co-Executives for the Western Plains District for another seven years where they developed leadership for a church renewal program. He remained a Spiritual Director for many years and had a passion for being present with others on their spiritual journey. He supervised 20 student pastor interns during his ministry and participated in local, regional, and national peace demonstrations and other activities.


Ken enjoyed singing in college and throughout his life in various groups and choirs, as well as many solos and duets with Elsie. A favorite for him was singing with his family, especially for grace before meals. He loved spending time with family and attending his grandchildren’s activities. In addition to having a playful sense of humor, he was also very intentional about validating and supporting the life decisions made by his children and grandchildren.


Ken envisioned possibilities yet to come and was perfectly matched with Elsie who worked quietly behind the scenes with all the details. He had a heart for listening and meeting people wherever they were, and for journeying together with them. He lived a life of ministry, being open to God’s call and calling forth the gifts in others. In a quote from an interview in the Messenger magazine about his focus for mission, Ken said, “We are called to a new understanding and a new faith, a new way of approaching faith even for our own lives if we are sensitive to the whole world.”


Ken passed away peacefully surrounded by family on November 28, 2023, at The Cedars in McPherson, at age 85. Ken is survived by his wife, Elsie; three children: Barry (Rebecca) Holderread, Deb (Allan) van Asselt, Cathy (Mike) Patrick; nine grandchildren: Emma and Helen Holderread; Kerrick (Anna), Kaitlyn, and, Grace van Asselt; Ben (fiancee, Rebecca), Andy, Chris, and Alyssa (fiance, Jacob) Patrick; brother, Glen (Joan) Holderread; brother-in-law, Don (Nancy) Lucore; sisters-in-law, Charlene Holderread, Susan Blackford, Dorothy Kipp, and Darlene Lucore; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.


He was preceded in death by his parents, Leslie and Minnie Holderread; sister, Betty Holderread; brother, Don Holderread; brothers-in-law, Keith Kipp, Sylvus Flora, and Dale Lucore; sister-in-law, Martha Flora, niece, Linda Flora, and nephew, Doug Holderread.


Graveside service will be held February 2, 2024, at 1:00 pm at the Big Creek Church of the Brethren cemetery (101 N Brethren Rd) in Cushing, OK. A service of remembrance will be held on February 3, at 10:30 am at the McPherson Church of the Brethren (200 N Carrie) in McPherson, KS.  To view a live stream broadcast of the service, please click on the following link:


Memorial donations may be made to the McPherson Church of the Brethren or StepMC (Steps to End Poverty of McPherson County) in care of Stockham Family Funeral Home, 205 N Chestnut, McPherson, KS 67460.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Rev. Dr. Kenneth Holderread, please visit our flower store.
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