Christopher A. Mennen, 62, of Sanborn, Iowa, formerly of Le Mars and Sheldon, Iowa passed away on Thursday, August 6, 2020 at Prairie View in Sanborn. A Graveside Service will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 13, 2020 at Memorial Cemetery in Le Mars. A gathering with friends will follow at the Mauer – Johnson Funeral Home Fellowship Room. A celebration of life event is tentatively planned for July, 2021. Expressions of sympathy may be directed through www.mauerjohnsonfh.com
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Christopher Alan Mennen was born to Gordon and Teresa (Harms) Mennen in Le Mars, Iowa on July 2, 1958. Chris was the fifth child of his parents, and was special in many ways. Chris was diagnosed with Down Syndrome as an infant, and this spurred his parents to devote themselves to ensuring he had the best of opportunities available. Chris was a charming and bright child. Although his parents started him in public kindergarten at age 5 years (1963), they realized this was not an adequate setting for his needs. At age 6 years (1964) Chris began school at Martin Luther Home and School in Beatrice, Nebraska. Teresa’s devotion prompted her to drive to Beatrice every third week to bring Chris home to spend the weekend with their family. Gordon and Teresa, knowing how much potential Chris had, continued to advocate for resources for Chris, though little was available at the time. Gordon and Teresa were co-founders of the Plymouth County Chapter for Mentally Handicapped Children, a means of influencing the understanding of developmental disabilities and advocating for resources. At age 16 years (1974) Chris was no longer able to stay at Martin Luther Home and School, given behavioral changes associated with adolescence not well understood at the time. He lived with his parents until moving to Village Northwest Unlimited at age 18 years (1976). Chris would spend the next 43 years living at Village Northwest Unlimited. Chris was the first resident in the Blue Cottage, which Teresa named, “High Hopes”. He was later among the first group of residents to move to a waiver home in the Sheldon community. Chris was a hard and enthusiastic worker as a janitor and in can sorting and pallet making. He was also a stellar athlete, and competed for many years in the Special Olympics. He excelled in various sports throughout his life, including swimming, skiing, basketball, volleyball, and bowling. He was honored as the Iowa Special Athlete of the Year in 1996. Chris moved to Prairie View Nursing Home in May, 2019 where he made new friends and again had a significant positive impact on those around him.
Chris was a beautiful blessing to his family and friends. Chris travelled extensively with his family. He spent much of his vacation time at Lake Okoboji, Iowa, where Teresa and Gordon had a summer home. When Gordon moved his permanent residence to the lake home in 1999, a few years after Teresa’s passing, Gordon and Chris became something akin to local celebrities. They were a jovial and social pair, and had friends wherever they went (often hand-in-hand). Gordon and Chris had a deeply loving and special relationship until Gordon’s passing in 2013. Chris continued to be a beloved fixture around the lake with his sister Mary Sue and brother-in-law Steve. Chris’s favorite settings of all were First Lutheran Church and Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp. Chris is the namesake of a structure, Christopherhaus, at the Bible camp. He loved to sing, pray, and participate in services to praise Jesus with those he loved.
Chris’s life was pure in joy and love. He brought immense joy and love to others, and was adored by all who knew him. He was warm and friendly to all those he met. He was quick to shoot out his hand and say enthusiastically, “I’m Chris Mennen! What’s your name?” with his big, bright smile. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and liked to tease. He had a contagious laugh. At his annual birthday party (a social highlight for many) he would have the entire room of friends and family smiling and laughing from start to finish. He was gentle, sweet, and affectionate. He was not reserved in telling others that he loved them, and missed them if it had been a while since they last met. He was smart and a little mischievous too, finding a way to get an extra treat of ice cream or Diet Coke when he had the chance.
It was a privilege to know and love Chris. It came with great pride to be his brother, sister, nephew, niece, or friend. He made an incredible impact on the lives of others, who loved and accepted him unconditionally. He will be missed terribly, though his memory will be honored with great warmth, happiness, and gratitude.
Chris died of respiratory failure expedited by Covid-19 infection. Chris was preceded in death by his parents, Gordon and Teresa Mennen. Chris is survived by his adoring siblings, James Mennen and husband Joseph Palumbo, Gary Mennen and wife Lynette Kelsey Mennen, Diane Maresh and husband Dr. John Maresh, Mary Sue Moore and husband Dr. Stephen Moore; nieces and nephews, Amanda Maresh Honey (husband Kevin and children Payton, Cambell, and Ty), Nikole Maresh Roth (husband Aaron and children Laiken, Noelle, Ashton, Ryder, and Vail), Leigh Maresh Roth (husband Carl and children Parker, Wesleigh, and Rowan), John Maresh Jr. (wife Courtney and children Charlotte and John Ross III), Jeffrey Moore, Dr. Kelly Moore (partner Joe Konieczny and daughter Claire), Lissa Kelsey Lecy (husband Michael and children Finley, Auden, Benjamin, and Israel), and Landon Kelsey (wife Larissa); other extended family members; and countless friends.
Memorials may go to the Special Olympics, Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp, Village Northwest Unlimited, or a charity of choice.