Sweet, little Minna was born to Abram & Katharina Kornelsen on October 17, 1928, as their fifth child. On the farmlands of Heuboden in the RM of Hanover in Manitoba, Minna would get to be a big sister to 10 more siblings that would come after her, making for a home filled to the brim with adventures of all sorts.
In 1948, Minna’s younger sister, Tina, got married, which was a bit of an injustice in Minna’s eyes as she was the older sister and, certainly, should have married first. But wouldn’t you know that God has a way of working these things out. Tina’s groom happened to have a handsome cousin on the guest list & a lovely young 19-year-old Minna met the love of her life in Andrew Plett.
Political turmoil between the government and the Mennonites of southeastern Manitoba at that time caused an exodus to Mexico and the young, now-engaged couple were told that they must hold off their wedding until the move had been made. On December 12, 1948, Andrew & Minna’s was the first wedding celebrated in the new Kleine Gemeinde Church on the Quellen Colony in Mexico. Minna didn’t get a new dress to wear at her wedding like her sister Tina did, and not only was it not new...it was brown. Another bit of injustice.
Starting out a whole new life in a whole new country in an undeveloped colony brought with it many hardships. Especially, when adding nine little humans (and a couple of heartbreaking miscarriages) into the fray in under 11 years. How their next meal would make it to the table was a regular question. Minna always had a big garden & would sew the girls’ dresses herself, doing her part to make ends meet and help provide. She made the best of what they had and was proud to have introduced the Plett family to je’brode eadschocke (fried potatoes) as they always just had beans.
Andrew dove into ministry, eventually being ordained as deacon and then minister. His mission work often required travel which meant that the bulk of the responsibility of rearing nine children fell on Minna’s shoulders.
In 1963, Andrew & Minna packed up their family and journeyed back up north to Blumenort, MB, and, ultimately, settled in Arborg, MB in a two-story house on a pig farm in March of 1965. Times did not get easier for Minna as it was still a stretch to provide for their large family and her teenage boys began to spread their wings a bit further than was wise or prudent. Andrew struggled with health issues & spent time in the hospital for a period which, again, left Minna with the weight of raising the children on her own. Unfortunately, as the growing children tested out the ways of the world, the pig farm duties began to fall to the wayside & Minna had to step up to the task of dealing with the pigs amidst the worry over her children’s choices.
As a mama, worried and constantly in prayer over her kids that weren’t safe at home at night where they should be, she kept the yard light on and the front door unlocked to make finding their way home a little easier. One night in her sleeplessness & worry over her wayward ones, she heard a sound that niggled at the back of her thoughts as she prayed & cried. Thinking it must be the barn fans, she went outside to investigate only to discover that she was hearing music. In her distress, God had sent angels to sing to her and bring her peace.
In November of 1977, Andrew & Minna were commissioned by the Morweena EMC to start a church plant in Seminole, TX where an influx of Mennonite families from the colonies had immigrated to in search of something better than the hard life that Mexico had to offer. Though she had never really loved cooking or baking before, as a preacher’s wife in Seminole, she thrived as the most gracious & generous hostess with the little they had. Everyone & anyone had a welcoming spot at her table or a warm bed in her humble abode for the night. As Minna was one that loved to journal, she also took note of her guests on her calendar. Those notes revealed that she had hosted over 1,000 in one year, which equates to many a meal cooked and many a sheet washed to have clean bedding in preparation for the next unexpected guest.
When she wasn’t hosting or preparing to host, Minna was in search of the next great bargain at the local garage sales. Every scrap of material caught her eye, and she would scoop it up in trade for her few coins, already imagining what project it might become part of. Among other things, Minna sewed many quilt tops to be brought to the Sewing Circle group that she directed for the Seminole Mennonite Church ladies to quilt together.
Minna left quite a legacy among the Mennonites of Seminole with her generous, loving heart and bore the role of preacher’s wife well. She desired to serve her Jesus, alongside her husband, and was fully obedient to God’s call on their lives. This was not without sacrifice on her part, as it meant being far removed from her growing family in Manitoba as her oldest grandson, Ian, was only four when they left and there were many more grandchildren to come that she did not get the opportunity to know closely in their younger years. Though almost all of them recall playing games with Grandma, which she did with them at nearly every opportunity!
Another part of their ministry included 500-mile monthly round trips to the church plant in Monclova, Mexico, to participate in three-day services. Here & in other small church plants in Mexico, Minna was ever the caring & compassionate soul, engaging with all.
After 15 years of ministry in Seminole, Andrew & Minna moved back to Steinbach, MB, in 1993 to retire & where she got to celebrate her 65th birthday. Over the next number of years, they continued to travel south during the winters to Seminole, TX, and Copeland, KS, to minister to the churches there & even remained in Copeland on church assignment for a year in 1995.
Minna always loved to walk, whether it be to garage sales down the block or just to get out. As she aged, her hips began to betray her, and she became more & more overcome by pain. Strong-willed as she was, it became more than she could bear, struggling to walk, she had to begin using crutches. In her Steinbach home, she would even slide down the stairs, one step at a time, to get to the basement to do the laundry. Once she got it in her mind to do something, there was no stopping her! She was on a long waiting list for hip surgery, but ended up confined to a wheelchair before that day came. This dependency on a wheelchair was a struggle for Minna. In 2002, Andrew & Minna made the move to Oakwood Place in Blumenort where it would be easier for her to get around.
During this time, Andrew’s health took a turn for the worse and by the time Minna got her first hip surgery, she was in Winnipeg in the hospital recovering, celebrating her 75th birthday, and the love of her life was in the Steinbach hospital on his death bed. On November 28, 2003, Andrew’s work on earth was done and his Saviour called him home. Losing her life’s partner was extremely hard on Minna. She would never even think to remarry or try to replace this man, because there was no way anyone could measure up to her Andrew. She had longed to join him in glory for almost 20 years now, and it was quite fitting that she arrived in Heaven on January 28th, his birthday.
Minna hadn’t quite understood the need to move to Oakwood Place, but after Andrew passed away, she realized what a blessing it was. She received her second hip surgery & began to walk again, thriving in this place where she could constantly socialize with the other residents, playing her beloved games and doing an unimaginable number of puzzles. With meals available to her every day in the lunchroom with her friends & the ability to enjoy walks to the store to check the mail, this Oakwood life was a full & happy one. Unfortunately, this “up” season of life was not without its downs. She ended up breaking each of her shoulders, six months apart, and this caused her increasing pain until the very end. She also began having spells where she would pass out in the middle of doing a puzzle or some other activity.
In January of 2018, Minna was admitted to the hospital where she stayed for some time. Being no longer safe for her to move home & live independently, she was moved to an assisted living facility called Greendale Estate, which is attached to the Menno Home in Grunthal, MB. While she received great care there & loved to join in the Singalong hour each week, she never felt settled or content as she wanted to be back in Steinbach. A room opened for her in the Cedarwood care facility, and her prayers were answered! Being back in Steinbach, she felt at peace and was able to get back to enjoying her social life, making a whole new set of friends. She could often be found playing table games and loved winning bingo games & the treat she would get as her winnings.
The shutdown of Covid came in March of 2020 and stole that peace. Minna was now confined to her room, living a solitary life. For a woman made in the image of God who was blessed with a gift of beautifully reflecting His character of unconditional love and relationship, this prison of solitude and no one to engage with took the life right out of her. It was especially hard losing her oldest son, Allan, just after the shutdown began and having to grieve alone without the closure of seeing him or having a funeral. She was not allowed out and no one allowed in to comfort her or grieve with her. By November, the decision was made that her daughter, Marlene, would take her in so that she might be freed from that torture.
Her health continued to deteriorate, and dementia started to set in. Yet, even as she lost more & more of her independence, having to be bathed, combed, and dressed, she always had a song of praise to Jesus on her lips. Well... when she wasn’t repeating a story about her chairs or the black bird (security camera) that was always at the window... or retelling her story of those injustices surrounding Tina’s wedding. Though her mind suffered, she still would have her signature laughing fits when beginning to share a funny story where she would laugh so hard she couldn’t continue talking, or even breathing! You could not help but end up with tears rolling down your cheeks yourself, even if you never actually got to hear the story.
Her mind often lived in her younger years, so those memories became fresh in her mind as though they were only a few years old, as opposed to many decades. With her thoughts getting confused and her actions becoming less rational, her care became so demanding that she required professional care and was placed on an urgent list to be put into the first available care home. In September 2021, she moved to the Menno Home, and then eventually to Rest Haven in Steinbach in July 2022 where she spent her last months suffering as dementia took its toll and, ultimately, her life.
After Andrew passed away, Minna often questioned why she was still here on this earth, especially, having also had to grieve the loss of four of her precious children, Naomi, Allan, Vernon, & Dennis. She would always quickly respond to her own question … “I am not done praying for my family”. She prayed fervently for every member of her family. Though her body was no longer able to serve in her later years, her ministry of prayer never faltered and continued until the end. Her deepest relationship was the one with her Lord, starting every day in His Word, even with failing eyesight. She used a giant print Bible and magnifying glass, eventually seeing only one letter at a time and figuring it out from there. That strong will of hers was a force to be reckoned with.
When Minna talked about her family, it included more than most people might assume without knowing her. She accepted and loved everyone! Once you were part of her family, there was no getting out if she had anything to do with it. Even with the dynamics of divorce, remarriage, stepchildren, and the like, she considered each person family, even if they were no longer part of the life of her child. You especially knew that you were part of her family if you received an annual birthday card with a loonie or toonie in it! Minna was a woman filled with generosity; generous with her time and attention, making each one feel loved and cared for.
As she stepped into heaven on Saturday, January 28th, 2023, she was most certainly welcomed with a warm embrace from her Jesus and ushered to a table of joyful celebration with her loved ones gone before her; her husband, Andrew; one daughter, Naomi; three sons, Allan, Vernon, & Dennis; one granddaughter, Hannah; one great-grandson, Malachi.
Minna leaves behind to cherish her memory her children; (Harold & Justina Wolfe), Elsie Enns (Peter), Florence Klassen (Harold), (Thelma Plett), (Rose Plett), Doris Petkau (Wilbert), Marlene Friesen (Ken), Kathy Kornelsen (Eddy); 25 grandchildren, 41 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great-grandchildren; three sisters and three brothers.
Viewing will take place on Thursday, February 2, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. at Birchwood Funeral Chapel, Steinbach, MB.
A service to honour the life of our precious mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and dear friend will be held on Thursday, February 2, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at Birchwood Funeral Chapel, Steinbach, MB. To join the family via livestream, please click HERE shortly before the start of the service.
A light lunch will be served following the interment. All friends and family are welcome.