Hilda Weber Carper, 94, died peacefully at home in Evanston on December 22, 2021. She was born on March 4, 1927 to Reuben and Eva Carper, the third of four children, on a farm in Lancaster County, PA. She credited her teacher mother and Mennonite Church education as important educational and spiritual influences in her life.
After her family moved to southeastern Virginia, she completed high school and attended Eastern Mennonite College for a year. She finished her college degree at Goshen College, Goshen, IN, in 1950, after taking time off to teach in Virginia and Detroit, MI. She then accepted an assignment to write the church curriculum for children in Basel, Switzerland, with the Mennonite Central Committee from 1953-1957.
From his contacts among Mennonite expatriates in Europe came an invitation from John Miller to become part of the intentional Christian community that forms at the Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston. But it turned out that her skills were more needed at a sister church in downtown Chicago, so she volunteered at Church of Hope in Chicago’s West Side Christian Parish as a teacher, choir director, and eventual pastoral assistant at Chicago. Rev. Julius Belser. Urban renewal forced the church to close in 1966, when the Belsers and Hilda moved to Reba Place. There Hilda organized the Reba Day Nursery (now known as the Reba Early Learning Center) at the church house at 727 Reba Place.
In 1976, she helped to grow the Reba Place Fellowship by assuming pastoral and administrative leadership as an elder and family leader. The worship life was enhanced by his work compiling a songbook, making worship tracks, and singing in the music group. She eventually reunited with Julius and Peggy Belser at the head of the Clearing Household in the early 1980s.
Contacting homeless people at the Clearing led Hilda to look for a more structured way to meet the needs of homeless people in Evanston. In 1984, her volunteer work making breakfast for guests at Lake Street Church led to her becoming the first director of Connections for the Homeless Shelter until 1992. Residents began to say they lived in Hilda’s Place. When she retired, the name became official. In retirement, Hilda designed paper collage cards for sale at Plain and Simple, supported various justice efforts, and continued to provide pastoral care.
She is preceded in death by her parents, brother James Carper and sister Ruth Eitzen, and leaves sister Jean Miller, Lititz, PA, and many nieces, nephews, and “spiritual children.” His memorial service will be held Sunday, February 6 at 2:00 pm at Reba Place Church, 620 Madison St., Evanston. Check rebaplacechurch.org for streaming details.