Julius Belsen was born March 15, 1931 in the small town church of the Brethren community in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. The bright arc of his compassionate life passed through the West Side Christian Parish during the civil-rights era, and then settled for fifty years of productive Servant leadership in the Mennonite international Christian Community of Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston, Illinois.
In his South Evanston neighbor, Julius was legendary for his ability to listen compassionately to anyone in crisis, to come alongside to solve problems, and to restore dignity and hope. For forty-six years he was a co-leader in the extended family household called “The Clearing”, where his generous heart was always ready to add one more plate to the table of twelve and to make a home, if possible, for one more person in need. Julius was also a remarkable mentor of younger leaders with scores of spiritual descendants. He was widely known as an innovative founder of community-sized institutions to meet human need.
The list of organizations Julius helped launch and support over the years include: Church of Hope on Chicago’s West Side (1959-1966); the Clearing communal household; the nation-wide Overhround Railroad Central American refugee asylum project (1983-1992); Reba Place Development Corporation, offering affordable housing in the south-east Evanston neighborhood; Evanston Community Development Association, which was initiated by a few African-American pastors and Julius to develop affordable housing elsewhere in the city; Senior Connections, which organized and trained volunteers to build community with isolated seniors; and L’Arche Chicago, a local chapter in the worldwide network of communities gathered around the needs for persons with disabilities.
Julius’ ode Peggy is grateful for his gentleness throughout their sixty-seven years of marriage, and his steadiness in relating to countless other people who passed through their home.
Still following in Julius’ footsteps are his wife Peggy; his son Nevin and wife, Judy; daughter Nina and her husband, Ronn Frantz; daughter Ann and husband Tom Brown; Sister Ruth Anne Friesen; brother John and wide Laura; eight grandchildren, plus nine-and-a-half great-grandchildren.
Arrangements entrusted to Thompson Funeral & Cremation Services, Inc. Mr. Philip L. Gillette ~ Funeral Director