Famed food service director remembered

Emil cinnamon rolls

Emil Yoder, a cook in Food Service from 1952-58 and director of Food Service from 1963-78, passed away Monday, March 12, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz., at the age of 90.

Yoder is fondly remembered for his cinnamon rolls, which were always met with rave reviews. During the college’s centennial celebration in 2009, Emil prepared cinnamon rolls, along with his wife Minerva and Bob Nunemacher, who succeeded Emil as food service director, for the college’s weekend guests. He is also remembered for switching from family-style meals to buffet-style dining in 1968 following a food services seminar at Central Michigan University, and saving the college $40,000 in the first year of the change, the equivalent of more than $290,000 today.

A passage in A School on the Prairie: A Centennial History of Hesston College 1909-2009, by John Sharp described Emil’s path to Hesston:

“Emil, appreciated by the thousands of students he served, was recruited to Hesston in 1952 by Business Manager Dan Kauffman. His cooking career had started in Civilian Public Service in Colorado, where Pearl Hershberger Rodgers asked the nineteen-year-old ‘green’ Amish farm boy to serve in the kitchen. He was then transferred to Mennonite Central Committee headquarters in Akron, Pennsylvania, where Edna Byler took him under her wing and taught him more about cooking and about managing a kitchen. When Dan Kauffman asked Byler whom he could hire for Hesston’s kitchen, Byler immediately recommended Emil. Emil cooked for Hesston students for six years during the ‘family style’ days….After six years, Emil and Minerva left to farm near Kalona, Iowa, with Dan Kauffman’s parting words to consider: ‘You’ll never be happy on the farm.’ Kauffman turned out to be right. The Yoders returned to Hesston in 1962 and bought a nearly ‘dead’ Hesston Café on Main Street…Within months they had won a loyal clientele, turned the business around, and were making a profit. A year-and-a-half later, in 1963, President [Tillman] Smith asked Emil to manage the college food services. The reluctant pair became willing when their ‘fleece’ laid before God was quickly answered: if someone offered to buy the café soon, they would sell. Within a week the offer came.”

Yoder is survived by his wife, Minerva Yoder ’48, and sons Keith Yoder ’72 and Royce Yoder ’74.

A Celebration of Life service will be at 10 a.m., Saturday, April 7, at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz.