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Luke Amon Birky ( Missoula 1945 )

posted: Sep 7, 2022

Luke, 100, died September 3, 2022. He was born January 8, 1922, on a farm near Airlie, Oregon. Luke is the descendent of Swiss and German Mennonite grandparents that came to the U.S. in the 1700s. He remembers being beaten up several times during school by bullies testing his faith and belief of “non-resistance.”

He worked on the family farm until he was drafted in the CPS in 1943. He started out in La Pine, Oregon, before joining the smokejumpers in 1945. Luke made seven practice, seven fire, and two rescue jumps.

Luke was discharged in 1946 and returned to Oregon where he worked as a mechanic/welder before enrolling in Goshen College in Indiana. He married in 1947 and he and his wife went to Puerto Rico at the request of the Mennonite Central Committee to do work for the needy.

They returned to the states in 1954 and moved to Colorado where Luke became a hospital administrator at LaJunta. In 1966 they move to Elkhart, Indiana, where he was Secretary of Health and Welfare for the Mennonite Board of Missions. Then back to Albany, Oregon, in 1979 where Luke assumed direction of a Mennonite retirement program. He retired in 1987 while working another program in Costa Rica.

“Smokejumping—I’d do it all again. Living with people of conviction but from varied backgrounds and perspectives became a time of evaluation and maturing. It was a time to increase vision of what it meant to be a follower of the Prince of Peace and become more socially responsible.”