Hurst, Simeon Weber (1913-2014)

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Simeon and Edna Hurst and family, 1965. < />Courtesy: David L. Hunsberger/Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Simeon Hurst: missionary and pastor, born 23 April 1913 to Old Order Mennonites Daniel Horst (4 August 1876-9 August 1955) and Annie Weber Horst (7 May 1878-23 February 1953) on a farm close to Elmira, Ontario, Canada, the seventh child of nine sons and three daughters. Simeon married Edna Schmiedendorf (10 January 1913-1 November 1982) on 27 December 27 1939 at Preston Mennonite, her home church. They became parents of three sons and three daughters; one son died in infancy. After Edna's death, Simeon married Jean Davis of Clarence, New York on 19 January 1985. They spent 25 years together before her death in February 2010. Four years later, on 7 January 2014, Simeon died at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. He was in this 101st year. The funeral was held at Elmira Mennonite church, the congregation in which Simeon had grown up. Interment was at Hagey Cemetery in Cambridge, Ontario.

At age 15 Simeon worked at the Phenol Furniture Factory in Elmira. He’d graduated from eighth grade at North Woolwich #9 school, located beside the orchard on his family’s farm. At age 18 his father needed his help on the farm. Three years later he was employed by A.L. Shantz, a dairy farmer in the Kitchener area. Now 21, Simeon could keep his wages, so he purchased a car for $150 from his brother Elias.

Simeon began a relationship with Edna Schmiedendorf, a student nurse who felt called to serve in Africa. Edna and Simeon made plans to go to Africa as a team. Simeon took a correspondence course from Eastern Mennonite College, while also attending Preston High School. He went on to study for two years at Eastern Mennonite College. Edna took a one year Bible course at the same institution. Both graduated in November 1940. That same month Simeon and Edna began a 45 day voyage on an Egyptian ship from New York City to Mombassa, Kenya, East Africa. They travelled 600 miles (1000 km) by train, arriving at the Bukiroba mission station close to Musoma, Tanzania, the home of Mennonite missionaries. Their final destination was the Nyabasi Mennonite station in Shirati, Tanzania off the shore of Lake Victoria.

Evangelistic work and pastoring were Simeon’s work. Edna served as a nurse in a primitive hospital. Both learned the language of the Kuria, the tribe among whom they worked. They went on safari to members of the tribe in distant villages offering medical care and the message of Christianity.

Following two years on furlough in Ontario, Simeon and Edna returned to the Nyabasi station in 1949. Six years later Simeon was appointed bishop. In the summer of 1960 the family returned to Ontario. But about a year later they went back to Shirati where they continued their ministry of medical care and evangelism.

Edna and Simeon retired from the mission field in 1964. A year later Simeon was called by the Hawkesville Mennonite congregation to be their pastor. He also took courses at Wilfrid Laurier University and drove a school bus for Rockway Mennonite School. In 1971 he left the Hawkesville congregation to become pastor at Bethel Mennonite, close to the town of Elora, Ontario.

The church in Tanzania requested that the Hursts return so Simeon could assist in teaching in a Bible School. With the Bethel congregation’s blessing, Simeon and Edna arrived in Nyabasi in September of 1971. Eighteen months later they returned home and settled in Elmira, Ontario. Simeon took over pastoral care at Fairview Mennonite Home in Cambridge. It is also the place where he spent his final years alone, but happy to have his sister Lydia Ann and daughter Mary close by.

Thanks to Simeon and Edna Hurst and others, the Mennonite Conference in Tanzania grew to almost 300 congregations with more than 50,000 baptized members. The Hursts had ministered in Tanzania a total of 26 years.

Simeon’s time in Africa was not without adventure. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, an elevation of 19,341 feet; swam in a river with crocodiles nearby to tie a rope around the leg of a hippopotamus stuck in the mud; shot a long and poisonous mamba snake that had entered his neighbor’s grass house; and remarkably, walked up to 30 miles between mission stations.

Whether on the African mission field, pastor of an Ontario congregation, or taking on unusual challenges, Simeon’s gentle manner and respectful approach endeared him to many on two continents.


Frey, Harvey and Mary Hurst Frey. Interview by Del Gingrich. Cambridge, Ontario (February 2015).

Hurst, Simeon. Walking With Jesus-A Journey of Faith. Self published. Undated.

Hurst, Rev. Simeon W. Waterloo Region Record (8 January 2014). Web. 26 October 2015.

Author(s) Del Gingrich
Date Published October 2015

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MLA style

Gingrich, Del. "Hurst, Simeon Weber (1913-2014)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2015. Web. 24 Mar 2018.,_Simeon_Weber_(1913-2014)&oldid=132742.

APA style

Gingrich, Del. (October 2015). Hurst, Simeon Weber (1913-2014). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from,_Simeon_Weber_(1913-2014)&oldid=132742.

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