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Joel Dean Kauffmann

August 7, 1950 - May 8, 2015


Author. Humorist. Screenwriter. Churchman. Cartoonist. Teacher. Father. Husband. Friend. It’s rare when a single individual can lay claim to all those descriptors. Joel Kauffmann was such a rarity.


A preacher’s kid from Hopedale, Illinois Mennonite farm country, Joel lived most of his adult life in Elkhart County, Indiana. His life was anchored to his spouse, Nancy (Geiser), and their children, Justin and Claira, and to the Mennonite Church, where he was a lifelong participant.

Joel was best known across Christian churches for Pontius’ Puddle, the cartoon strip that featured a wise-cracking, theologically astute frog. But his professional passions included authoring several books, writing screenplays for film and television, and overseeing development of several major exhibits, notably the Nazareth Village living museum in Israel and the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

Joel is gone, but his creative work lives on – on the printed page, on movie and television screens, and in museum experiences across the world. His work also serves as inspiration for communication students who, like Joel, have passion and an idea worth sharing.

The Mind of Joel


Joel Kauffmann had a deep faith, a passion for communicating, a joy for living and a string of one-liners to crack up any audience. He thought Christians shouldn’t take themselves too seriously to counter the pollution of conflicts in the church that tended to harm its people and God’s mission in the world.

Joel had the ability to see what was possible and to make things happen. He was a keeper of family stories. He was a keen listener to others’ stories and possessed an innate ability to translate those stories into powerful communication. He loved to laugh, write, create, go to movies, collect Native American art, read, travel – and spend time with family and friends.

Most of all, Joel wasn’t afraid of differences of opinion on faith issues, but engaged in conversations to learn and grow, while trusting God to sort it out. He believed it was better to err on the side of grace and give God space to work in and through people.

“Joel had an uncanny ability and gift to communicate simply and clearly deep theological truths and social realities. Pontius’ Puddle was only the tip of the iceberg.” –Ron Byler]

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