KANSAS CITY – Former Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director Donald V. Wideman died, May 3, at the age of 95. A Celebration of Life service is scheduled for this Saturday, May 27 (further details provided below).
Wideman served as MBC executive director from 1987-1997.
“Don Wideman was probably the nicest and kindest man you would ever hope to meet,” said longtime MBC missionary Spencer Hutson, who served with the MBC during Wideman’s tenure. “He gave attention to all of the MBC staff, which was quite large at the time. He knew the spouses and the children and took a special interest in people in general.
“Don served for 10 years, most of which I was a contract worker and not full time on the MBC staff,” Hutson added. “He had a phrase that he used with the staff and what he wanted them to apply in working with the churches and associations: ‘Whatever it takes.’ What he meant was, ‘We work for the church, let’s do what it takes to serve them well as they serve their congregations and their communities.’”
Longtime Missouri Baptist Pastor Bill Dudley similarly shared about the interest Wideman took in other people and their concerns.
“I always found Don to be a gentleman of kindness,” Dudley said. “When we disagreed on any issue, it was friendly disagreement. If Don heard of any difficulty in my life or ministry, he would call and express his love and concern.”
Prior to his service as MBC executive director, Wideman served the denomination as MBC president from 1979-80 and as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) from 1984-85.
He was also a trustee of Baptist Memorial Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri, William Jewell College, Liberty, Missouri, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
Wideman was also a longtime, committed pastor, having served at four Baptist churches in Missouri: Oakland, De Soto (1955-61); First Baptist of Oakville, St. Louis (1961-66); Liberty Manor, Liberty (1966-73); and First Baptist of North Kansas City (1973-87).
Through his ministry, he was highly involved in missions work, including the Missouri Baptist Convention Bold Mission Taiwan project in 1982 and in the Partnership Missions: Belarus and Wyoming.
Wideman was born to Emil and Katheryn (Moore) Wideman in St. Louis, Missouri, on Aug. 13, 1927. Growing up during the Great Depression, he attended six different elementary schools in the city before his parents and six younger siblings moved to the country in Jefferson County, Mo.
While working various jobs and attempting to help his dad turn their plot of dirt and rocks into a farm, he also managed to graduate valedictorian of his graduating class at Crystal City High School in 1945.
Following graduation, Wideman volunteered for the Navy during World War II. He often liked to boast of ending the war as his deployment date began just prior to Japan’s surrender.
After his time in the service, he moved back to Jefferson County where he met his future wife, Marian Kiepe, at a young people’s “Singspiration” at Zion Methodist Church. During their courtship and early marriage Don founded and led the Gospel Union Band, a group of 20-plus local young people who traveled throughout the region performing gospel music in churches and on the radio.
He and Marian were married on Jan. 27, 1951, at Rush Tower Methodist Church during an ice storm. Soon afterward, he sensed a call to ministry and began attending St. Louis Baptist College. He later graduated from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri, all while rearing their four children, David Mark, Katheryn Elizabeth, Thomas Wayne, and Rebecca Jo.
Wideman also received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from William Jewell College in 1980 and an honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar in 1989.
After his retirement in 1997, he and Marian moved to Liberty, Mo., where he became executive director of the Partee Center for Baptist Historical Studies at William Jewell College until 2003. During that period, he also served as the college’s interim chaplain and vice president of religious life.
In 2017, he and Marian moved to McCrite Plaza at Briarcliff in Kansas City, Mo., where they enjoyed an active lifestyle with their new neighbors and friends. He continued to teach his Sunday School class at FBC of North Kansas City until the age of 90.
Wideman was proceeded in death by his parents, his brothers, Bill Wideman and Charles Wideman, and his sisters, Nadine Cook and Doris Whiteside. He is survived by his “trophy” wife of 72 years, Marian; his son, David (Jenna) Wideman of Charlotte, North Carolina; daughter, Kathy (Alan) Mazi of Liberty, Missouri; son, Tom (Sally) Wideman of North Kansas City, Missouri; daughter, Becky (Brian) Holt of Lawrence, Kansas; 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, and his two youngest brothers, or as Don called them, “the little kids,” Bob and John Wideman.
A private family graveside service was held at Glenridge Cemetery. His Celebration of Life will be 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 27, at First Baptist Church, North Kansas City (2205 Iron Street, NKC, MO 64116). Visitation will begin at 9:00 a.m. in the church worship center.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Don’s memory to First Baptist Church of North Kansas City (fbcnkc.org) designated for the “Wideman Fellowship Hall Fund.”
For more information, visit the Park Lawn Funeral Homes website at https://www.parklawnfunerals.com/obituaries/donald-wideman.