Memorial of Sister Dawn Funfsinn, from Yorkville, Illinois


Dear Friends,

It is with deep sadness, but with great joy for our dear sister Dawn I am writing about her last days in Israel before she was taken home to be with the Lord. 

Those of us who had the privilege to be with her on her first trip to Israel have no doubt she was a faithful servant and heard “well done” from her Lord.

Dawn was joining 29 brethren and other volunteers on the very first Bible Students Faith and Works Retreat/Tour to Israel which would include 5 nights in Biblical Tamar Park and 5 nights in Jerusalem and Tiberias.

We left the US on November 11 arriving in Tel Aviv on the evening of Monday the 12th. We were transported to Biblical Tamar Park 30 miles south of the Dead Sea arriving around 10PM where we enjoyed our first night in the holy land.

On Tuesday morning we were given our assignments to help improve and beautify the park.  Sr. Dawn, along with another sister chose to work in the new Abraham Exhibit doing maintenance work.  Later in the day she helped fill holes around some of the caravans made by the brothers who leveled the structures in the morning. She also worked in the kitchen in the evening washing dishes.  Sr. Joyce enjoyed sweet fellowship with her that evening in the kitchen.

On Tuesday evening 18 Polish and French brethren arrived.  We had dinner all together and then our first evening vesper with Ty Henderson from Blossoming Rose giving us a presentation about the history of Ir Ovot and Biblical Tamar Park.  Before Ty talked we went around the entire room of the Sukkah where we gathered, each one giving their name, where they are from and why they wanted to visit Israel and Tamar Park. It was a very beautiful service.  Dawn talked about the privilege of being able to both work and visit Israel on the same trip and the blessing of having her husband Richard and her brother Jon with her.

On Wednesday morning after breakfast, again we were given our work assignments. This time the 18 additional brethren from Poland and France who have joined us made the park buzz with excitement.  Sr. Dawn along with 6 other sisters decided they would tackle the assignment to clean the floor of the Roman bath house in the ancient Tel of Tamar.  Shortly after starting their work, Ty Henderson who gave the assignments was approaching their site.  The sisters were laughing together about just standing around idle and drinking water so Ty would think they were slacking.  Ty talked and joked with them and walked a short distance away. At that moment the sisters saw Dawn put her head down on one of the stones. She fainted and then slid down onto the ground.  The sisters after realizing what happened called Ty back and an emergency situation was called in to the local medical center for an ambulance.

Dawn was not breathing very well at the first, but one of the sisters from Poland working with Dawn is a nurse.  Ela and Roma immediately created an airway and Dawn began to breath better, but everyone knew this was a very serious event.

The ambulances arrived and it was decided Dawn would be airlifted to the nearest major hospital - Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.  By the time the military helicopter arrived, Dawn was intubated and on life support.  There were at least 10 medical and military personnel involved in the operation.

Before the helicopter left Tamar Park Paul, Jon and Richard started the 1 hour drive to the hospital to meet Dawn.  The helicopter ride would take less than15 minutes.

By the time we arrived at the hospital Dawn was in the operating room and detailed tests were completed including a conclusive test using a radioisotope scan to look for blood flow in the brain.  If the doctors thought there was any hope they would have operated immediately, but after looking at the test results and all the clinical evidence they were convinced Dawn had suffered a massive brain aneurysm. The extensive bleed was deep in the center of the brain.  They were convinced she was completely brain dead and an operation would not be successful.

The three of us prayed for wisdom and then we met with the  doctors a second time. Richard and Jon made the difficult decision to let Dawn go.  Options would be given to them the next morning (Thursday) concerning the next steps.

On that same Wednesday evening, Rabbi Tuly Weisz from Bet Shemesh was scheduled to come to the park and give our group a presentation and insights into his work with Israel365, Breaking Israel News and the new Israel Bible.  He was on his way with his 9 year old son David and called to ask about Dawn.  After finding out how severe her condition was he asked if he could stop at the hospital and make sure Richard and Jon were not missing anything that might be better explained by a native English speaker who is fluent in Hebrew.  He arrived at the hospital less than 30 minutes after he called and spent much appreciated time with Richard and Jon.  He helped with some concerns they had and prayed with them before leaving.  He later told me he was very impressed with their deep faith in the promises of God and their calm demeanor under these severe circumstances.  It was a blessing and a privilege for him to visit.

At the time he was in the hospital a very severe storm hit south of the Dead Sea and there was flash flood warnings in the area of Biblical Tamar Park.  If Rabbi Tuly had not stopped at the hospital he and his son David might have been caught in this unusual desert storm.  Some of the local roads were closed as a result because of flooding.

Richard and Jon overnighted in Be’er Sheva after the last ICU visiting hour at midnight and after little sleep were at the side of their wife and sister at 7:30AM when visiting hours started.  I arrived back at the hospital around 9AM.

After meeting with a special nurse named Liat, Richard and Jon accepted the recommendation of the doctors and nurses to take Dawn off of life support.  According to Israeli law two tests must be completed to determine the brain is clinically dead.  Angiography is the first test.  In a cerebral angiogram, a contrast dye is injected into the vessels of the body, and the brain is observed on a monitor while the patient undergoes a series of X-rays. This allows for close examination of how blood is moving through the body. In brain death, the vessels of the brain do not fill as they normally would.  The second test is conducted by a special committee of doctors who together have to agree and confirm by specific clinical tests the diagnosis and recommendation of the attending doctors.

The head doctor of ICU met with the three of us in a private room after each of the tests were complete.  The committee pronounced Dawn as dead at 3:15PM, November 15 and the head doctor came back in to the room shortly after.  As he walked in to give us the news, I received a text from Joyce asking “is everything ok.”  I texted back  saying the final meeting is starting - “Dawn is dead”.  At that moment Joyce noticed in the northern sky at the park a beautiful rainbow and took a picture with her phone and immediately texted it with the message “Right now”.  I thought of the Scripture from Revelation 14:1And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.

I believe that our great compassionate God gave sister Dawn her first heavenly work - to give us all and especially her family an assurance of his love.  Rainbows are very rare in the desert, mainly because rainfall is also rare, but for the last 2 weeks at Tamar there has been rain at least every other day which of course helps to fulfill the prophecies that “the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”

Dawn had prepared extensively for any medical emergency on their trip including giving Richard the permission to donate her organs.  In Israel it is very rare for people to do this.  We were told, there are over 450 people currently waiting for a kidney transplant in Israel.  The nurse also said, to get a donated heart for transplant is almost non-existent in Israel.  As of this date, there are 7 families in Israel who have the hope for a better life because of Dawn’s generosity.  The doctors and nurses couldn’t stop thanking Richard and Jon for this decision.

Richard and Jon were able to come back to the park for one more night and receive the condolences, hugs and love of the brethren, staff and a group of 7 visiting from South Africa.  They flew back to the US the next day to be with their family.  The flight was arranged by Sr. Maayan Campbell from Arad who asked if there was anything she could do to help.

This was the first time in the 35+ year history of Biblical Tamar Park that such a tragedy has occurred.  Richard and Jon insisted that they and Dawn would want us to continue the work and the tour, so the 7 of us who were left behind continued and fulfilled their wishes.  We remember our dear sister Dawn and her family every step of our journey.

Please keep the family in your prayers.

With much Christian love,

Paul Lagno

US Tour members:  Joanna Blecharz, Paul Brereton, Lee Manzuk, Sonya Morris, Jim Shucker, Joyce and Paul Lagno (Br. Michael Colletti joined us in Jerusalem and was not at the park)