Skip to content

Cleola Franz – Metz Mortuary

    Cleola Franz
    Cleola Grace Pankratz Epp Franz, age 100, died February 6, 2022, in Schowalter Villa at Hesston, Kansas.  She was born June 29, 1921 to Peter F. and Bertha (Smith) Pankratz on a farm near Henderson, Nebraska. As a youth she was baptized by Rev. A. W. Friesen and a lifelong member of Bethesda Mennonite Church at Henderson.

    Cleola was a graduate of Henderson High School in 1939 in the same class as her future husband and partner, Edwin J Epp.  She received her Nebraska School Training Certificate from York College, York, Nebraska in August, 1941. She taught elementary school in country schools in rural York County before transferring to the Henderson area where she taught two addition years in School District 73 West.  Her formal teaching career ended when she was married to Edwin J Epp at Bethesda Mennonite Church on August 30, 1945.

    Cleola and Ed established their first home on a farm south of Henderson. At that point in her life she committed herself to being a housewife and mother.  After twelve years of farming, she and Ed moved into Henderson when Ed changed his own career from farming to teaching at Henderson Community School. During those teaching years Cleola worked at the school cafeteria and as administrative assistant in the superintendent office. Later, Cleola helped her parents by managing their retail business, the Henderson Dry Goods Store.

    Cleola was dedicated to being a mom, however, maintained her interests in education and business. She contracted with Field Enterprises, Worldbook Company, as an area manager and later with the Successful Living book company as district manager. These adventures were in her words, “contributing factors to a fulfilling life.”

    On November 19, 1998, Cleola married George Franz at Bethesda Mennonite Church, following the death of her husband, Ed, in February 1985. She enjoyed eleven years of marriage to George who provided enriching companionship as they aged together.  George died in May of 2009.

    Cleola is survived by one sister, Allegra Pankratz Gunn; one daughter, Verlene Ruth Epp Garber (Ron); and two sons, Edwin LaVerne Epp (Marilyn) and Galen Wynn Epp (Cindy).

    In addition, she is survived by one step-son, Greg Franz (Janet), and one step-daughter, Kathy Ripley (Roger).

    She leaves to remember her eight grandchildren, Gyles (Kathy) Garber, Joel (Laura) Garber, Jarrett (Jennifer) Garber, Tyler (Melissa) Epp, Paul Epp, Susan Epp, Michael Epp, and Annie Epp.  Also four step grandchildren, Daniel (Andria) Ripley, Andy (Amanda) Ripley and Christa Franz Fulmer (Shaun) and Lars Hakensen. These families provided Cleola with 17 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, all of whom survive.

    Cleola was preceded in death by her parents; husbands, Ed and George; one infant son, Mark Alan; sisters, Sadie Friesen and Dorthy Goertzen; and brother Harlan Pankratz.

    Cremation is planned with a graveside service to be held at 9:45 a.m., Saturday, February 12, 2022 at Bethesda Cemetery, Henderson, Nebraska.  Memorial services will follow at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, at Bethesda Mennonite Church, Henderson.  Memorials may be sent to Bethesda Live Stream or Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park.

      Leave condolences for the family below.