2016 Robe of Achievement
Some people are called home before we think it is their time. That is the case with one of the women who was nominated for the Robe of Achievement this year. Janet, Marcy and I carefully considered the nominations and decided to give this award to two women this year; one who has already gotten her eternal reward and one who is still with us. They have several things in common. For instance they are both musical, pastor’s wives, served on the Women’s board and served on the Board of Christian Education.
I’ll share with you the information of Yvonne Louise Swanson Stephan first. We only regret that she wasn’t nominated sooner so she could receive this Robe of Achievement in person. Mel, would you please come forward to receive this plaque on Yvonne’s behalf?
How did a Scandinavian-American girl end up with a French name? It happened like this: Her grandmother, recently emigrated from the Old Country, was hearing about the Dionne Quintuplets on the nightly news and thought Yvonne was a “pretty American name.” Thus Baby Girl Swanson became known as Yvonne Louise Swanson.
Yvonne grew up in the Chicago area but graduated from The College of Emporia (Kansas) in 1963 and then received her teaching credentials from Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia.
One fateful day as Yvonne was setting up a third grade classroom in Leavenworth, Kansas, a young Army soldier turned up in her presence. “Aren’t you going to help me?” she asked Mel Stephan. Mel and Yvonne were married on April 24, 1965, giving Grandma the last laugh as she had tried to convince the family that “Saturday is the real Sabbath, not Sunday,” which subjected her to some ridicule!
Mel and Yvonne remained “steadfast” for 48 years, raising two sons, and proving a home for numerous foster children.
“Whither thou goest I will go” must have been Yvonne’s motto, for she accompanied Mel when he was deployed to Germany and gave birth to Karl there, thousands of miles from family and friends.
Returning to the states, Mel finished his degree at Milton College while Yvonne was active in the Milton Church. There, they welcomed son Richard into their family.
During Mel’s years of seminary, Yvonne was greatly involved in Christian education and the music ministry of the Bell SDB Church in Salemville, PA. During that time Yvonne worked at Camp JOY, led Junior Youth Fellowship and was a youth leader. They shared their love of Christ in the pastorate of Alfred Station, NY, and the Marlboro SDB Church near Bridgeton, NJ. Upon leaving the active pastorate, they joined the Shiloh, NJ, SDB church where Yvonne continued sharing her strong alto voice as well as talent on a variety of musical instruments. There were even times when Yvonne accepted the challenge of pinch-hitting for a soprano soloist on short notice. However, Yvonne’s musical talent was not limited to our SDB churches, as she traveled overseas with the Rowan University Choir and sang in other church choirs on Sundays.
Her storytelling skill, enhanced by an ability to imitate almost any accent, was put to good use with children and adults alike. She cheerfully took her turn as Shiloh’s Benevolent Society President and used her sewing ability to craft banners for special occasions.
Upon retiring from a period of secular employment, the Stephans moved to Rensselaer, NY to be near family. During those years, Mel served as part-time pastor to Raritan Valley SDB Church in Bridgewater, NJ.
Yvonne’s ministry to children continued outside the home and the church as she was a certified substitute teacher in every state where she lived—sometimes long term and sometimes in subjects (such as Spanish) where she had to study along with the students.
On the denominational level, Yvonne served on the Host Committee for General Conference at least once, and was an active member of the Children’s Committee for the Board of Christian Education in Alfred Station. Yvonne also took a turn directing Junior Conference and associated conference music. She directed Young Adult Pre-Con and participated in a Post Conference retreat. Yvonne compiled the BEACON 50th Anniversary section of the Sabbath Recorder. Later, during the 90s, she chaired the Robe of Achievement Committee for the Women’s Board; in fact, she crafted this beautiful Robe in 1993 to replace the long-lost original Robe that had come to us from China many years ago. Always going the second mile, Yvonne even crafted a coordinating carry-on garment bag to protect the Robe on its travels. During this time she conducted a round table discussion at the Women’s Society banquet.
In 1987 Yvonne participated in Pastor’s Conference and if you know Yvonne, you know she wasn’t a silent participant.
Yvonne fought a courageous battle against cancer for about six months before God called her home on December 11, 2013. She is missed by her family, as well as many brothers and sisters in Christ.
Mel, with love and appreciation for the life you introduced to our denomination, we are pleased to present this plaque to you for our first recipient of the 2016 Robe of Achievement, Yvonne Louise Swanson Stephan.
And now for our second recipient.
Here are a few more hints for you to see if you can guess who we are also awarding the Robe of Achievement to this year. You know she is a pastor’s wife, she is also a mother of four children and a grandmother.
Here is where she will recognize herself – her high school nickname was Chuck.
Charlotte Chroniger will you make your way down to the platform as I continue to read what else was said about you in the nomination we received from you home church?
Charlotte Anne Mennen Chroniger was born in Aplington, Iowa to Jesse and Joan Mennen. She loved doing things with her younger brother, her mom, grandparents, her church family, and her 4-H group. She also loved going to church camp. Her favorite subjects in school were reading, math- especially geometry- geography and language arts.
Her walk with Jesus came as a result of the influence of her mother and some of her Youth Group leaders. She became a committed Christian as a youth.
After graduating from Aplington Community High School in 1969, she went to the University of Northern Iowa where she was an organ major. Playing the piano and traveling were two of her dreams, and one of them came true when she spent two summers as a missionary in Japan. In 1973 she graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and matriculated in Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. It was here that she met her future husband, Donald Chroniger, whom she married on August 30, 1981. From this union, God blessed them with four beautiful children- Tyler who has been licensed to preach and, with his wife, Jenn, gave her her first grandchild, Braydon, last August; Jordan who has his master’s degree in Personal Training and is a policeman and member of the National Guard; Bethany who is an administrative assistant at Rutgers University-Camden and has made several missionary trips including The World Race; and Jessica, a teacher and past Stained Glass member, who gave Charlotte a granddaughter in July. The title of “Wedding Planner” is still applicable as they prepare for Bethany’s September wedding to Phil Lawton. Pastor Don has called her the stability of the family, committed to organization, administration and ministration.
Charlotte has been a member of the Nortonville SDB Church, New Auburn SDB Church and her current church, Shiloh SDB, which she joined in 1989. Early in her career, she was a teacher and Minister of Music in Centerville, Iowa. It was in New Auburn that she received Ordination. She was also co-founder of The New Auburn Community Choir which is still in existence.
Charlotte has served the denomination effectively and tirelessly on the Council on Ministry, The Board of Christian Education, The Women’s Board as SCSC Chairman and Women’s Page Editor, Pre Con and Young Adult staffs, organist and pianist at Conference, conference choir accompanist, writer for The Helping Hand, and Director of Children’s Conference for nearly 20 years! At conference in 2015, she organized and directed a joint bell choir concert involving several church choirs. She has a servant’s heart and has done all to follow the Lord’s call and glorify Him, not herself.
Charlotte is currently a part-time, shared-services music teacher at Hopewell School, Greenwich School, Stow Creek School, and was past music teacher for Shiloh School. She organizes and directs the Christmas Concerts, Spring Concerts and plays at Hopewell and Stow Creek Schools, and the Side-by-side Concert at Cumberland Regional High School. She holds Joy (Jesus, Others and You) Club on Fridays at Hopewell School and directs their activities. She gives instrumental lessons, voice, piano and guitar lessons and plays accompaniment for Cumberland Regional High School musicals. She organizes Veteran’s Day programs at both Hopewell School and Stow Creek School. She is Coordinator for Teen Arts, and participates in Revive South Jersey, a program to bring the Gospel to underprivileged children in Bridgeton.
Charlotte has shared her talent with area churches. A quote from Nancy Cobb of the Emanuel Lutheran Church says, “Charlotte Chroniger is going on her 21st year as organist of Emanuel Lutheran Church. She started with us when she first moved into the area. We are an extremely rural church (cows living next to the cemetery on two sides and soybeans on another) and have a small choir of marginally competent ladies and gents. Every Sunday Charlotte brings out the best in us and makes us sound like a locally grown Mormon Tabernacle choir. When we participate in a New Jersey Southern district choir festival, Charlotte goes with us no matter where it happens to be. When attending other Lutheran churches, most times the music is not anywhere near the quality of Emanuel’s. Charlotte is God’s gift to Emanuel”
In the Shiloh Church, Charlotte is organist, pianist for the choir, frequent Sabbath School teacher, Youth Group Leader every Friday night, Bell Choir Director, and past director and staff member of Vacation Bible School. She is Vice-president of Ladies Benevolent Society and has served on numerous committees for Benevolent Society as well as for church. Since 1991 she has been Primary Camp Director and has reached out to many of the youth to be on staff to help them with their Christian walk. She also takes care of the Camp informational mailings for all three camps. Charlotte coordinates the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner and frequently volunteers to head up a monthly Fellowship Dinner. She faithfully takes time to write sincere thank you notes to all who help with dinners, camp, or to all who give of their time and talents. On most Sabbath Days, Charlotte hosts guests in her home for a Sabbath meal and she is the first to volunteer to host visitors coming for Association, Pastors’ Conference, or other occasions. She lines up the talent for the church’s Annual Gospel Festival and helps to emcee the program. With all this going on, she still finds time to make and deliver meals to those with illness in the family, new babies or those in need.
Charlotte is definitely an encourager to all to use their talents for God. She is very supportive and understanding of where each is in their walk with God. One of Charlotte’s favorite songs, “Blessed Assurance”, speaks of “praising my Savior all the day long” and this is certainly evident in Charlotte’s life and in everything she does. She is praising God and spreading the assurance that Jesus is hers and His salvation can be yours, too. Her impact can be seen and felt in her family, her church, her schools, her community, and her denomination.
We are very pleased to honor Charlotte Ann Mennen Chroniger as our second Robe of Achievement recipient for 2016.