Obituary of Abe Guenther Banman
On Saturday, November 26, 2022 at 7:00 pm at Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg, Abe Banman, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, passed away. After 30 years of health issues Abe was ready to see Jesus.
Abe was born in Landmark, Manitoba to Jacob and Anna Banman. He was the youngest of seven children and enjoyed the attention from his parents. He had a very close connection with his mother who loved him dearly and who fostered his love of music. When he was born there were health concerns --the doctor told his mother he would not survive long and if he did, he would not amount to much. In his later years, Abe often told this story and laughed at how he had proved the doctor wrong.
Out of the seven children only Abe and his sister, Katie, were born in Canada. His older siblings Anna, Nettie, Helen, Jake and John were born in Russia, presently Ukraine. Dad’s family, like so many others, left when they were threatened with the possibility of being sent to work camps in Siberia or death. His father Jacob had been enlisted in the white army during the Russian Revolution but deserted. Instead his father went to buy tickets from Moscow for family members and was told not to come back or he would be arrested. The final decision to leave came in mid-winter when a Russian soldier stopped Jacob on the side of the road at gunpoint and demanded he give him his boots. Jacob was left with wrecked boots that could not possibly keep him warm.
After they emigrated to Canada, Anna and Jacob took over a farm in Landmark, Manitoba from a Mennonite family who had left for Paraguay. Dad spent his childhood and adolescence on the farm. He often shared stories of Buster the dog who stayed at his side as he milked cows, hunted jack rabbits and fed pigs. “If you were late to feed the pigs, they got wild. You just had to run to stop the squealing.”
As a six year old child Abe was expected to take his sister Katie to school by horse. He often told the story of one particular horse who had a tendency to be difficult on their way. If he was not paying attention the horse would run up the neighbor’s driveway, turn around and head back home where Abe would then have to try to get to school again. This was especially difficult on the sleigh in the winter where there was little shelter from the cold prairie wind. Without warm gloves and adequate clothing, he nearly froze. Almost every winter when the snow began to fly he told this story. He dreaded the cold.
Abe struggled early on in school until a substitue teacher, Mr. Peters, realized Abe just needed glasses. Initially Abe was confused when children marveled at the airplanes in the sky but when he got his glasses he finally understood their enthusiasm. He could see the airplanes the others saw!
The glasses improved Abe’s quality of life considerably. He was now able to find the cows out in the field and bring them back to the barnyard. He could see the words written on the chalkboard which helped him learn to read. Previous to the glasses he had only seen scribbles. When he tried to copy them down on his own slate he got in trouble for being obstinate and often had to stay after school. Mr. Peters also realized Abe enjoyed poetry and rhymes. He had a great sense of humour and loved to tell stories. Mr. Peters gave Abe the opportunity to share his talents in the class and this boosted his confidence.
As a young person, Abe listened to the Western Hour on the old radio. He sat with his ear near the speaker and took in the music of Wilf Carter and Hank Snow. He learned to play guitar and sang their songs at the top of his voice as he plowed the fields on the old tractor with the steel wheels. He had a beautiful tenor voice which both of his sons have inherited. At one point he even practiced for a Talent Show that was taking place in the big city. He never made it to Winnipeg for the audition. And we’ve all wondered what it would have been like for Abe to have hit the big time. His curious nature and adventurous spirit might have taken him far.
At the age of 14 Abe’s aging parents sold the farm and moved to Steinbach where he attended the local school. There in grade 9, instead of taking his studies seriously he joked with his classmates. He also kept his eye on a particular girl, Marian, a beautiful refugee from Ukraine. Marian remembers Abe sitting behind her. While she tried to study he teased her by dipping her braids in the inkwell or hooked his foot into the leg of her chair and scraping it along the floor. One time she was given a stern look by the teacher until he spotted Abe smiling gleefully in the back of the class. He knew who the real culprit was. It certainly wasn’t Marian!
When he was old enough Abe began to drive a transfer truck for his brother Jake. He hauled milk from various farms to the city. Depending on the season, the transfer truck often got stuck in the snow or mud. He became an expert at getting out of difficult situations and learned the art of managing his temper and patience. The heavy milk cans he hauled made him into a strong young man as he loaded them onto the truck. He had a powerful grip of which he was proud of right to the very end of his life. In the hospital when he shook hands with his dear friend and brother-in-law, Ted Froese for the last time, they laughed at how robust his grip still was.
In his teens and early 20’s he also worked for his brother John on the farm. He tried to farm his own land as well but it was too lonely an endeavor. He decided instead to sell the acreage and go to work at his brother Jake’s service station.
Abe attended the Steinbach Mennonite Church. He enjoyed being a part of the youth group and loved singing in the choir. The youth participated in many Mennonite games and activities including driving to neighbouring towns for Saengerfest. On one such occasion he drove Marian and her friend. Unfortunately when his car broke down and Marian took a ride with someone else he knew he had to up his game.
One evening Abe decided to see if Marian was at home at her house on Home Street. Abe knocked on the front door and much to her surprise, and his, she invited him in. Her girlfriends scattered as the young handsome man came into the living room. After this initial visit Abe came to the house regularly with his guitar. While Marian’s younger brothers listened through the heat register from the upstairs bedroom Abe, the yodeling country boy, sang the old songs. “Are you mine rich or poor, tell me darling are you sure?”
Abe was baptized at 22 in the Steinbach Mennonite Church.
Abe and Marian were married on June 24, 1956. The scripture verse chosen by Marian’s father Frank Froese who was the minister, was Colossians 3: 12-14. (12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.)
Within a year or so they purchased their first home and moved to 303 Second Street in Steinbach. There was a good-sized yard with some apple trees and with a few improvements, like indoor plumbing, it made a cozy home to start a family.
With marriage came Marian’s large family, her parents, Franz and Elizabeth Froese, two sisters, Frances and Hertha, one older brother, Ted and five younger brothers, Frank, Eric, John, Peter and Jac. Over the years the brothers and sisters provided a beautiful support network for Abe and Marian. Abe especially enjoyed time fishing and outdoor adventures with Ted.
During this time Abe and Marian worked in a coffee bar at his brother Jake’s Esso station flipping burgers, selling homemade pies and providing bottomless cups of coffee. They started their own restaurant called “Abe’s Lunch” where they had many happy patrons.
Abe and Marian had two sons Ronald Abe, born November 2, 1957 and Irvin John on August 12, 1960. In Steinbach they spent many happy times together with both sides of the family and cherished their children.
On March 22, 1965, their daughter Sandra Anne was born. While Marian was in the hospital Abe moved the family possessions to Winnipeg. He hoped to do well as a car salesman. The family bought a house in North Kildonan to be closer to Marian’s older Geschwister.
Abe worked in sales and eventually with the help of his brother-in-law, John Froese, migrated to real estate. Abe was very proud of his real estate career and often encouraged his children and grandchildren to try it for themselves. He also invested and worked at Oma’s Bakeshop and at a store in St. Teresa Point. He loved going north and helping out in Garden Hill and St. Teresa Point. He got to know many members of the Cree community, some of whom still called him to chat.
Then came the grandchildren. “Seven grandchildren in seven years!” they often exclaimed. “Can you imagine?” Benjamin, Sophia, Alexander, Riel, Gabrielle, Pedro and Zane came one after the other creating a new generation of cousins. Jude and Judith arrived in 1996. When Irvin remarried, Isaac and Olivia joined the gang. Abe loved and helped raise the grandchildren. He played games, took them to parks, showed them how to filet a fish, demonstrated how to swing a golf club and told them many stories.
The grandchildren were very special to him. He lived vicariously through them as he got older. He always asked about each of them as the years progressed. He did not want to miss out on anyone’s life!
In these last few years he was blessed with five great-grandchildren, Lukas, Robyn, Athena, Ziya and Quest.
Abe valued and cherished all of his family including cousins, aunts and uncles. He often said, “There’s nothing more important than family.”
Abe was a part of the Mennonite community and enjoyed the years at Douglas church with his friends.
Over many years, Abe struggled with congestive heart failure and arrhythmia, eventually having to have open heart surgery, a valve replaced and a pacemaker put in. All the while his wife, Marian, stood by him and cared for him the best she knew how. She demonstrated extreme devotion and he benefited from her love, as she did his.
In the days before his passing he expressed his gratitude that God had blessed him with a rich life and a wonderful family. The last weeks were physically very taxing but his spirit was at peace.
Abe leaves to mourn his wife Marian of 66 years, their son Ron and wife Shirley, their children, Benjamin his wife Samantha and their son Lucas, Riel, Judith and her partner Brad; their son Irvin, his children Alexander, Gabrielle, her partner Jordan and her daughter Robyn and Pedro, his life partner Raina and their children Athena, Ziya and Quest, Irvin’s wife Dorothea and her children Isaac and Olivia; and their daughter Sandra, and her children Sophia, Zane, his partner Cheryl and Jude.
Forever in our hearts.
Funeral service will be held on Monday, December 5, 2022, at 11:30 a.m. at Douglas Mennonite Church, 1517 Rothesay St, Winnipeg, MB R2G 3G5 with a viewing prior to the service. Interment to follow at Heritage Cemetery, Steinbach, MB.
Donations in memory of Abe may be made to the Mennonite Central Committee.