Dad passed away peacefully at Rest Haven Care Home on Friday, February 10, 2023, just one month shy of his 92nd birthday.
Dad was born March 11, 1931, to Jacob and Anna Woelke. He was the third brother and completely different from the other two. He always said his Mother would get him dressed for a special occasion and sit him on the couch but when it was time to leave 30 minutes later, he was completely dishevelled, unlike Rudy and George. He grew up in Grunthal and loved everything about farm life but disliked everything about school. After Grade Seven and a teacher he did not like, Dad decided that he was done with school. His father said, “Don’t come back in a few months and say you want to go back to school” and Dad never did. His first job away when he was just 13 was for his Aunt and Uncle for the spring, summer, and fall season of farming. The next few years he would spend those seasons at the Wall farm in LaSalle, MB. He loved the family and always spoke with fond memories of those times. But his favourite place was always at home in Grunthal.
He was a very outgoing and likeable person with many friends. He did not care if you were a Russlander or a Canadia or French or Ukrainian. His Mom and Dad had demonstrated and taught their children that everyone was worthy of your friendship. He often spoke of the hard time he went through when his Mother died. He grieved for a year wearing the black band on his arm constantly. Finally, Rudy and his Dad told him to hang it up. Dad had many jobs in his life and even spent a few months in Edmonton in his early 20’s. That for Dad was too long to be gone from home but most importantly family, so he told his boss that his Dad needed him back home. He never left a job on bad terms and was always told he would be welcomed back if he ever changed his mind. His favourite job was working as Janitor at Green Valley School. He enjoyed the work but even more he enjoyed the interactions with the students. He made bonds that would last his lifetime.
At age 27 his friend and later brother-in-law, Leonard Fuchs, set him up on a date with his younger sister Helen. It was a blind date and they went to Shanghai Restaurant and to see a Wilf Carter concert. It was her 18th birthday. A month later they were engaged and eight months later they were married.
They moved into a little house on Main Street in Grunthal and started their life together. The following July their first child Kenny was born. Unfortunately, he was premature and died shortly after. The next August Wanda was born in a record hot summer. Then two years later Judy was born in December and came home in the middle of a blizzard. Seven years after that, when Dad had been sober for a year, they welcomed Michael in the middle of one of Manitoba’s record hot summers.
To Dad, family was everything. We spent many an hour in the family vehicle riding the highways and byways. If Dad or Mom said who wants to go for a ride us kids were waiting in the back seat. Sunday afternoons with some bologna, cinnamon buns, and a jug of lemonade we would drive with no destination in mind. So many times on Saturday night, in the middle of a snow storm, Dad would ask “who wants to go to K-Mart?” We would yell “yes!” and he would say “get shovelling”. During the summer holidays we travelled with our fold down camper. Other times there were day trips to Grand Forks, suppers at Mr. Steak or Shanghai Restaurant, or going to Warroad with friends who had become our family.
Retirement did not slow them down. Dad’s bucket list dream came true when they drove up to Alaska. They also did many bus tours. They bought a place with a smaller yard and could spend more time driving around. They did not sit still and were never at home. Any excuse to go shopping or out to eat with friends or family and they were off and running.
The door to our parent’s house was always open and many people came as friends and then became family. We like to think that Mom and Dad just collected people along the way. Their hearts were huge and there was always enough love for everyone.
Dad sat at Mom’s side as she went through cancer. She was the love of his life and they always joked that they would celebrate 75 years together. When Mom passed away Dad was left feeling lost. They had almost 60 years together. He said that he left his Dad’s house to live with Mom and never wanted to be on his own. He moved reluctantly into Parkview Apartments, knowing this would be his new life. We were so thankful when he moved into Rest Haven Care Home and there were people around him 24/7. The joy of his last few years were the stories of his great-grandchildren.
After breaking his hip just before Christmas this last year, he was no longer the same man. And we slowly watched as he gave up on his earthly body.
He was predeceased by his parents Jacob and Anna Woelke, wife Helen, son Kenny, brothers George (Kathleen), Rudy, and Robert and niece Carol Bueckert. From Mom’s side are her parents Emil and Annie Fuchs, sisters-in-law Minnie (Steve) Chomokovski, Marianne (Walter) Begalke, brothers-in-law Abe, Leonard, Waldo (Marge), and Carl and great-nephew Eric Begalke.
Left to cherish his memory are his daughters Wanda, Judy and husband Terry Heckert with sons Nick and Daniel & wife Taylor with their children Finley, Ryllan, Oaklyn, & Colter, and son Michael and wife Eva with children Ella and Rowen Woelke & Brooke and Cole Reder. Special children of the heart are Herman and Carolle Reimer and Rose and Dan Klippenstein. He is survived by his sisters Marlies and Eric Berg, Helen and Jake Janzen, and Gertrude Bueckert, his sisters-in-law Viola Friesen, Agatha Fuchs, and Evelyn Fuchs. As well as many nieces and nephews on both sides.
How blessed were we to have had such wonderful parents and we are so happy that once again they are together. We are sure they are sitting together and holding hands.
We would like to thank all the homecare workers that looked after him at Parkview and all the many wonderful staff at Rest Haven Care Home.
The memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 25, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. at Elim Mennonite Church, Grunthal, MB. To join the family via livestream please click HERE shortly before the time of the service. Please call the church at (204) 434-6905 if you have questions regarding the livestream.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CancerCare Manitoba or Rest Haven Care Home.