Obituary of Marie Plett
Marie Bartel Plett, aged 95 years and 10 months, of Steinbach, Manitoba passed away on September 4 at the Bethesda Regional Health Centre with her two daughters by her side. She is survived by five sons: Marvin (Alviera) of Winkler, MB, Eldin of Steinbach, MB, Leroy (Liz) of Springfield, MB, Wayne (Patsy) of Grande Prairie, AB, and Eddy (Erna) of Port Colborne, ON and two daughters: Lynette of The Pas and Winnipeg, MB and Sharon (Sylvain Martel) of Laval, QC; eleven grandchildren: Barrette (Sandy), Rachel (Russ Friesen), Dale (Michelle), Kim (Steve Van Muyen), Ryan (Heather), Richelle, Sam (Tara), Tim (Tiffany), Nico (Jennifer), Yannick Martel (Justine) and Jessica Martel; eighteen great grandchildren: Orie and Meredith Plett, Brody and Bryce Friesen, Malachi, Jayla and Sevin Plett, Ava and Cole Van Muyen; Hana, Amelia, Isabella, Dahlia and Matilda Plett; Lucy Plett, Mia Plett, Micah and Aria Plett. Marie is also survived by two brothers Henry (Anne) Bartel of Rosenort, MB and Pete Bartel of Meade, KS, three sisters-in-law, two brothers-in-law, as well as many nieces and nephews.
Marie was predeceased by her husband Jake Plett, parents Peter B. and Sarah Bartel, sister Lena Friesen, brothers Menno and Ben Bartel, parents-in-law, Abram R. and Elizabeth Plett as well as many Plett and Bartel in-law family members.
Mom, Marie Bartel Plett, was born in rural Meade, Kansas on November 1, 1925 to Peter B. and Sarah Doerksen Bartel. She grew up working alongside her mother and sister in the kitchen and helping her father and brothers with work outside on the farm. Mom often worked as a Kjäakjsche (maid) for family and friends in the community and later worked in the laundry at the Fowler hospital. In 1943 Mom was baptised and joined the Emmanuel Church in Meade. In 1946, Mom’s family traveled to Manitoba where she met, Dad, Jake Plett. An on-again-off-again courtship started, much of it via letter, and eventually in 1949, Mom returned to Manitoba to marry Dad. They were married for almost 64 years.
Mom and Dad started out in a modest house in Greenland, MB where their first son, Marvin was born. In early 1952, Eldin joined the family while Mom and Dad were in Meade enroute to the Quellen Colony in northern Mexico, a move they made along with Dad’s parents, many siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins. During their 7 years in Mexico, three more sons were born: Leroy, Wayne and Eddy. In 1959, Mom and Dad and the five boys moved back to Manitoba, and in 1961 the family moved to a farm in the Interlake region where the girls, Lynette and Sharon were born.
In 1978, Mom and Dad sold the farm in Morweena, then lived in Steinbach until their lifelong desire to become missionaries became a reality. From 1984 to 1991, Mom and Dad served Mennonites in Campo 67 in northern Mexico where they formed many meaningful and enduring friendships. After their return to Canada, Mom and Dad first settled in Steinbach again before downsizing to a suite in Blumenort in 2004. A deacon couple from the Blumenort church, Garnet and Betty Reimer (Dad’s niece), became Mom and Dad's beloved supporters, and Mom was deeply grateful for her faithful "mentors" who continued to uphold her even after she was admitted to the Bethesda Hospital.
Mom was an engaged member of the Blumenort church until recently, watching church services streamed into their home in Blumenort or watching the services on her iPad when she moved back to Steinbach to be closer to Dad in the Rest Haven. She treasured her phone calls and visits from Pastor Barry Plett. Mom’s iPad made it possible for her to expand her worship options as she searched YouTube and watched many an hour of Low German church services from Steinreich Mennoniten Gemeinde, Chihuahua, Mexico and Ekj Ran, a Low German Christian Ministry series from Bolivia.
The iPad had become a key part of Mom's life after Dad passed away in 2013. On it she read Ebooks, did jigsaw puzzles, painted by number, watched episodes of Dietsche Groosmame and, most importantly, kept in touch with family and friends. Mom's "toy", as she called it, was the only hobby left to her when, after embroidering billions of beautiful stitches from her teenage years on, she had to give up her beloved pastime in 2020 due to neuropathy in her fingers. As Mom’s activities continued to become more limited, she was so thrilled when she could sometimes see her beloved robins from her recliner, and during her last months at home, she delighted in the many gold finches that came to her bird feeder.
These sedentary occupations were quite a contrast with Mom's many years of intense labor, first as a young woman in Meade, then as a mother and farm woman in Mexico and Morweena. Mom’s work with her own large family included gardening, freezing and canning food for the winter months, washing and hanging out the laundry in all seasons, sewing and mending her children's clothes, and of course endless cooking and baking for nine. She became known especially for her twiebach, a delicious golden double bun. At the same time as Mom worked long hard hours to care for and feed her family, she also worked with Dad in mission efforts in Mexico in the 50s and in the Interlake in the 60s and 70s, as well as being involved in women’s Sewing Circle and teaching Sunday School. In Steinbach in the 80s, Mom frequently led and hosted Bible Coffee for neighbour women on Giesbrecht Street and devoted a great deal of time and energy to the Steinbach MCC Thrift Store for many years. In the 90s in Mexico, Mom always had a blanket ready for the girls she hosted for Sewing Circle to quilt. Still, Mom always found time for her own handwork, especially knitting and lots of embroidery.
Mom was an introvert and not totally in her element in large groups. However, she shone in smaller groups or in one-on-one conversations, whether in person or on the phone, and left an indelible impression on her offspring, young and old, as well as on many relatives, friends and caregivers. It was easy to share thoughts and concerns with her, and she was indeed a very good listener. From the tributes we have already received, we know that many of you experienced Mom’s empathetic support and kindness.
In addition to being a great oral communicator, Mom was also a translator, and especially a writer. In the 90s, she spent countless hours translating her parents-in-law's diaries from old German script to English. As for her own writing, after she got her iPad, many of her email replies were extremely witty, often containing hilarious zingers, as the family began calling her clever repartee. Mom kept a written record of her and her family's daily lives and key life events starting on January 1, 1945 and ending on July 31, 2021 when her fingers could no longer put letters on the page, and her words sometimes slipped away before she had them recorded. Mom actively participated in the transcription of her diaries: once Eldin had scanned them and Sharon had transcribed them with a voice recognition program, Mom checked each and every printout for accuracy. With her diary books, Mom leaves behind over 1.9 million words spanning nine decades. This is an incredible written history that the family will treasure forever.
Mom had an amazing ability to adapt and learn, even if she did not always accept change easily. She adapted to new homes, new communities, new cultures and new countries multiple times in her life. After Dad died, she adapted to a fairly solitary life, learning how to use an electronic device and spending hours on the phone every week with her children and Geschwista. During the Covid-19 restrictions, her ability to connect with her loved ones in these ways kept her from feeling totally isolated. Her willingness to adapt also allowed her to be fully engaged with her family on Zoom for Mother's Day and for her 95th birthday celebration "attended" by 38 family members.
Most people would not have known about Mom’s more challenging and difficult life experiences, for example miscarriages in the 60s, her battle with depression in the 70s and the extent of the suffering she endured from back pain starting in 2004. In 2019 she recovered surprisingly well after a mastectomy. In February 2021, a trip to emergency for a stomach ailment ended up revealing cancer in mom's lungs. With the help of Eldin and Lynette and numerous caregivers, the guidance of the Palliative Care team and eventually round-the-clock care by devoted family members, Mom was able to remain in her home at Bridgepark Manor until just three weeks before she passed away. In hospital, when her discomfort was somewhat managed, Mom continued to delight her family with interesting conversations and the occasional well-timed quip.
Mom's passing will leave an unimaginable void in our lives. We had a tendency to rely on her – perhaps a little too much – for up-to-date news of our siblings' busy lives in which she took a great interest. We all experienced her unconditional love and support. She often expressed her pride in each of her children and grandchildren. We will miss her bright smile, her hearty laugh, her intelligent conversations, her curiosity, and her concern for our overall well-being. However, we will continue to hear her voice every time we read a passage from one of her diaries and feel her warmth from one of the many quilts she embroidered.