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By The Mercury

Robert Devon Bontrager, 91, longtime Manhattanite and former K-State professor, died Thursday, July 31, 2014, in hospice at the RiverWoods Nursing Care Center in Lewisburg, Penn.

Mr. Bontrager had retired to Lewisburg in 1992 with his wife, Mable Bontrager. The cause of death was complications from kidney and heart disease following surgery to repair a broken leg.

The family provided some of the following information.

Mr. Bontrager was born Nov. 11, 1922, on a farm near Elkhart, Ind. He was the second of what would be six children. He and his family weathered the Great Depression through farm life and Mennonite faith. As a student at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., he met Mable Busch; they were graduated from Taylor in 1945 and married June 13, 1946.

Mr. and Mrs. Bontrager attended Biblical Seminary (now New York Theological Seminary) in New York City from 1946 to 1948.  After receiving their master’s degrees, the couple served abroad under the auspices of the Congo Inland Mission, a Mennonite organization. Their program took them first to Brussels, Belgium, where they studied the French language and Belgian history and government. They then traveled by ship to the Belgian Congo (later Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo), where they worked over the following 15 years as educators and publishers.

The couple returned to the United States in 1965 during a political crisis in the Congo. They adopted two boys, Thomas and Timothy, moving first to Syracuse, N.Y., where Mr. Bontrager earned his Ph.D. at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. In 1970, the family relocated to Manhattan. Mr. Bontrager became a professor of journalism at Kansas State University, his wife an English teacher at Manhattan High School.

At KSU, Mr. Bontrager taught magazine production, journalism ethics and communication theory. He also served as interim chair on two occasions and mounted a successful re-accreditation campaign on behalf of the department, which later became the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

In 1992, the Bontragers retired to Lewisburg, Penn., to be near Chester and Margaret Jump, whom they had met in Belgium in 1950 and had worked beside in the Congo.

Mr. Bontrager is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Thomas and Laura Bontrager of New York; son and daughter-in-law, Timothy and Rose Bontrager and grandchildren, Devon Louis and Amy Rose Bontrager, of Lawrence; a sister-in-law, Alice Hanson of Bismarck, N.D.; and a brother-in-law, John Busch of Las Vegas. His wife, Mable Bontrager (nee Busch), preceded him in death in 2011 from complications of Alzheimer’s.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund ( Please also visit Mr. Bontrager’s memorial page at

The family is being assisted by Cronrath-Grenoble Funeral Home, 106 S. Second St., Lewisburg, Penn.

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