Ronald Korver ’48
Surrounded by his wife and children, Ronald (Ron) George Korver, 92, died peacefully on May 8, 2018, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Ron was born in Orange City, Iowa, second of nine children, to the late William George Korver and the late Anna Birdella (DeCook). He spent most of his life in Japan as a career missionary with the Reformed Church in America (RCA).
Born on a farm in 1926, Ron made a confession of Christian faith in junior high school. During his youth, he was deeply moved each time he heard missionaries speak at his church (Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City) and began dreaming about serving as a missionary in Asia. However, he thought that this meant he had to become an ordained pastor or a medical doctor, neither of which seemed to be his calling.
It wasn’t until he was about to complete a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, having interviewed for a job as a high school math teacher, that God intervened in his life. When the director of overseas missions for the RCA came to the campus to recruit short-term missionaries to teach for three years at Christian schools in Japan, Ron believed that this was a direct call to serve. Together with 50 other young American men and women, he was sent to Japan in 1948, shortly after the end of World War II and found a country in ruins. For his initial three-year service, he was assigned to Meiji Gakuin University, a school founded by RCA and Presbyterian missionaries early in the Meiji Era (1868-1912). While at Meiji Gakuin, Ron took under his wing a “shoe-shine boy” whom he found working at a train station and mentored him through high school. With the support of Ron and other RCA missionaries, this young man completed his education and entered seminary to become an ordained minister. He remained a close friend of Ron’s family for the rest of their lives.
It was also during Ron’s initial assignment in Japan that he met Ruby, the daughter of a German businessman and a Japanese woman. Ron and Ruby’s friendship grew with their faith and they both made their commitment not only to each other, but also to Christ, and when Ron returned to the U.S. after the three-year assignment, Ruby followed him. Ron studied at New York University‘s Biblical Seminary and after one year, he received a master’s degree from NYU in Christian Education. In 1952, Ron and his fiancé Ruby were sent to Japan as missionaries by the RCA. They were married in September of that year at Kamakura Yukinoshita church (Ruby’s home church). A long-term RCA missionary, Rev. John DeMaagd, officiated at their wedding. Ron was assigned to teach at Meiji Gakuin University, high school, and middle school, where he taught English and coached basketball. He was happy when one of his basketball players became an Olympian.
Ron spent most of his teaching career at Meiji Gakuin Higashimurayama High School. He strongly supported bilingual education and was instrumental in starting a student exchange program where his high school students experienced Christian family life in the U.S. Their American host families, in turn, learned about Japanese culture from the students; many of them were later invited by Meiji Gakuin to visit the school and their students’ families in Japan.
Ron and Ruby had four children, all born and raised in Japan: Kathy (Green Bay, WI), Michael (Tokyo, Japan), Mark (Seattle, WA) and Kristy (Earlysville, VA). The entire family traveled back to the U.S. on furloughs every four or five years to visit their supporting churches.
Ron’s faith grew and developed with the loving support of the Christian community in Japan. Although Ron and Ruby officially retired at age 65, they continued to teach in their respective schools as volunteers. Ron also led bible study classes at Kamakura Yukinoshita church and initiated several exchanges between Japanese and U.S. churches, he and Ruby traveling back and forth between their homes in Japan and Wisconsin. Ron would say that if he hadn’t become a missionary, he would have become a farmer. He handpicked weeds, planted seeds, and climbed ladders to trim trees until his late 80’s. Using sustainable methods, relying on his skill, strength and diligence, Ron took great pride and joy in caring for the gardens/landscape wherever he lived.
Ron and Ruby made their final trip to the U.S. in 2011. They have resided in Green Bay ever since. Their Green Bay home was the site of many memorable family gatherings, including their wedding anniversary celebrations of 50 years and, most recently, of 65 years last September. Ron and Ruby formerly attended Preble Park Presbyterian Church and are currently members of First Presbyterian Church of Green Bay. In the fall of 2017, they moved to an apartment at Age Well Assisted Living where they could stay together while Ruby received more help to care for Ron.
Ron is survived by his wife, four children and their spouses, eleven grandchildren, two great-granddaughters, one sister and five brothers. He was preceded in death by his parents, two sisters and their spouses, a brother-in-law, and a sister-in-law.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 pm Saturday, July 28th, 2018, at First Presbyterian Church, 200 S. Ashland Ave., Green Bay, WI 54303, with a reception to follow at the church. Memorial donations may be directed to First Presbyterian Church Green Bay for their mission work in the community. Online condolences may be expressed at www.prokowall.com.
Ron’s family extends special thanks to Unity Hospice, Age Well, Home Instead, N.E.W. Curative and the Brown County ADRC for their support near the end of his life.