Rev. Francis Maurice Runyon was born at home in Grinnell, rural Gove County, Kansas on June 25, 1925. His parents were Orda Abel and Edna Mae Beougher Runyon. He was the sixth of seven children. He passed away at the age of 97 on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, at Smith Center Health and Rehab.
Francis attended West Sunny Slope grade school and Grinnell Rural High School. He was converted at an early age and attended and joined the Grinnell Grace Church of the Nazarene. While in high school, Francis felt the call of God to be a minister of the Gospel. However, his formal education was interrupted by Uncle Sam for World War II. The farm boy “saw the world” by serving in the U.S. Navy as a crew member of the USS Rockingham (troop transport ship), amphibious forces in the Pacific, 1944-46. He was ranked a Motor Machinists Mate, 3rd Class Petty Officer and a veteran of Okinawa and initial occupation landings in Japan. Upon discharge from the navy the discharging officer asked him what he planned to do once he was out of the Navy. Francis firmly stated that God had called him to be a minister. He returned home to complete his high school education and graduated in 1947. He then attended Bethany Peniel College (now Southern Nazarene University), Bethany, Oklahoma, and obtained degrees of Th.B. and B.A.
While in college, Francis met Betty Marie Powers of Henryetta, Oklahoma. They were married on August 12, 1949. They were blessed with three children, Charlotte Ann, Kenneth Allen and Joanna Marie. Upon his second graduation from college in 1952, Francis & Betty began a 40-year ministry serving together with the Churches of the Nazarene in Severy, Atwood, WaKeeney, Smith Center and Scott City, all in Kansas, and in Crawford, Nebraska. Upon retirement, they returned to Smith Center, where Betty died two months later, in July of 1992. They were married almost 43 years. Francis did pulpit supply and served as interim pastor in Smith County, held revival services, served as hospital chaplain and American Legion Post 220 Chaplain and was a member of the local American Legion and Lions Club.
While “filling in” for a funeral at the First Presbyterian Church in Smith Center, he became re-acquainted with Joanne Hill, who was to play the piano for the service. He “liked what he saw” and surprised himself, Joanne, and all their Runyon and Hill children when they decided to try dating. He wasn't sure how close they were in age. So, since it is never okay to ask a lady her age, he checked her birth date on her tombstone in the Crystal Plains Cemetery! On November 26, 1994, Francis married Barbara “Joanne” Dick Hill. They spent 27 years together, fishing, hunting (once!), visiting “the farm,” and pulling the camper to various locations and seeing the sights. They both loved visiting the Crawford, Nebraska area and that “church family” and going to the Black Hills. They also each enjoyed the family reunions held by both families. When camping and road trips were no longer possible, they were still always busy with coffee, clubs, church activities and their “daily appointment” at the “center table” at Jiffy Burger. They took great enjoyment with visits from the nieces & nephews, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After he became a resident of Smith Center Health & Rehab, Francis continued to be “Pastor Runyon” for the Sunday services during the Covid shut down. He looked forward to his daily phone calls with Joanne and evening visits, even when they had to be by Walkie-talkie through the front door.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his siblings, Noel Ray, Naomi Ruth Hartzler, Virgil “Paul,” Neva Leola Broggi, Eunice Louise Jones, and Justus “Leroy.” He was also preceded in death by wives Betty Marie Powers (1992) and Barbara “Joanne” Dick Hill (2022), daughter Charlotte Ann (2007) and son Kenneth Allen (1983).
He is survived by daughter Joanna, brother-in-law Paul Harper, stepchildren Alan (Lynne) Hill and Patricia (Darren) Meyer, all of Smith County, and Mary Jane McIntire of Salina. Other survivors include 8 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, 1 great-great grandson and many nieces and nephews from the Runyon, Harper and Hill families.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, August 20, 2022, at the Church of the Nazarene, 117 E. New York St., Smith Center, KS, with Pastor Jeremy Carr officiating. Visitation will be held on Friday, August 19, 2022, 3:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. with family present to greet friends and family from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. until service time all at the Church of the Nazarene. Burial will take place in Fairview Cemetery, Smith Center, KS. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Church of the Nazarene Agape Fund or Alabaster Offering or a memorial in his name and can be sent in care of All Faiths Funeral Chapel, 113 S. Madison St., Smith Center, KS 66967.