Alumni Spotlight: Remembering Gretchen Johnson Biehle
Anyone who took classes at Nebraska Christian College while located in Norfolk will remember Professor Ralph Johnson who taught New Testament classes, Hebrew Poetry, and History of Missions – all while being blind. Despite his disability, there was very little that Ralph was afraid to try and consequently, his accomplishments were many. His daughter, Gretchen, was often a partner to his activities and displayed the same character and spirit as her father. In the words of her husband, Arlen, “she was her father’s daughter.”
From time to time, our Alumni Spotlight highlights individuals who have departed this world as strong supporters of Nebraska Christian College and significant Kingdom workers. Gretchen Johnson Biehle is one of those individuals. She left this world for her heavenly home last July (2018) after battling cancer for 29 years. Like her father, she refused to let anything keep her from doing all the Lord put on her heart or even slow her down.
After attending NCC in 1961-1962, Gretchen married Arlen Biehle and became a military spouse. Her NCC education served her well, opening doors for her to play the piano and/or organ for churches wherever they were stationed, including Texas, California, Florida, Puerto Rico. She was notably honored and proud to play organ for chapel services at Clark AB in the Philippines, and to direct the chapel choir at Yokota AB in Japan.
While stationed in Yokota, Japan, Arlen and Gretchen introduced themselves to the local minister’s wife as “the Biehles from Nebraska.” She said she knew of only one person in Nebraska, and that was Ralph Johnson, the blind professor at NCC. Gretchen exclaimed, “That’s my dad!”
Gretchen also taught English at the Japanese Ground Self Defense Intelligence School outside Tokyo where she had tea with the General before each class session. She also assisted in teaching English to Japanese grade school students. She was willing to use her God-given talents and knowledge that were enhanced and honed at NCC everywhere she went.
One of Gretchen’s fondest adventures took place when still a child. She and her blind father played a trick on their community by driving through town with her father at the wheel and Gretchen crouched beside him doing the steering!
In addition to her family, one of Gretchen’s greatest pleasures was traveling abroad, throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Latin and North America. She climbed both Mt. Fuji and Mt. Vesuvius. Like her father, Gretchen became an avid supporter and ambassador of NCC worldwide.
Nebraska Christian College puts an emphasis on training individuals for full-time Christian service. But many students, like Gretchen Biehle, find NCC was the perfect preparation they needed to become effective Kingdom servants in the secular world. As Arlen Biehle put it, “If I had been a minister, I’d want a hundred Christians like Gretchen as attendees and members in my church. Just give them a job and direction and get out of the way!”
Gretchen and Arlen have three grown children: daughter Michele Biehle Harbour Adams (husband Gary Todd Adams) of Corpus Christi, TX, and two sons, Christopher (wife Esperanza) of Austin, TX and Patrick (wife Shelly) of San Antonio, TX. The Biehles have three grandchildren.