Obituary of Mary Friesen
Mary Giesbrecht Friesen died peacefully on Saturday, April 29, 2023, one month before her 99th birthday. She was born May 30th, 1924, in the village of Neuenburg, just south of Winkler, Manitoba. She was the youngest of three children born to John M. Giesbrecht and Aganetha Toews.
Mary is survived by her children: Calvin (Bev), Waldo (Donna), Milton (Janice), Albert, Darcy (Pauline) and Anita; 15 grandchildren: Patrick (Cheryl), Andrew (Rheanne), Michael (Lori), Michelle, Joshua (Marie), Nicole, Megan (Alec), Daniel (Danielle), Tatiana (Shawn), Vanessa (Kurry), Karl (Dizhu), Kate, Adrianna (Marcus), Mikah, and Cailin; and 13 great-grandchildren: (Logan, Rowan, Emerson, Noah, Elliott, Jace, Everest, Asher, Chloe, Caleb, Norah, Jacob, and Amias). She is survived by her sisters-in-law Mary, Annie Wiens, Laura, and Margaret and brother-in-law Rudy.
She was predeceased by her twin and five full term newborn siblings, sister Anne, brother John, sisters-in-law Heidi Giesbrecht, Frieda Friesen, Luise (John Voth); brothers-in-law: Peter, David, Nick Friesen and Nick Wiens; niece Heidi Giesbrecht, daughter Linda, grandson Jonathan, and by her dear husband John, after 67 years of marriage.
Mary attended Birkenhead, a one room school until grade eight. It was unusual for “farming children” of that time to attend high school, but education was valued in her home and she sought a career. She completed high school in Winkler, then after three years at Winkler Bible School attended the St. Boniface School of Nursing. Mary earned a Diploma in Registered Nursing in 1949.
Mary credits her attending summer camp in 1935, as the experience that was the start of her strong Christian faith.
Mary worked a year at the Old Grace Hospital in Winnipeg. She then went to Mexico for a year, taking a Voluntary Service term under MCC, including Pioneer Nursing in one of the Colonies. Returning to Winnipeg she worked a year at the Misericordia Hospital. Adventure called and Mary headed to Bethel Deaconess Hospital in Kansas. She decided to upgrade her training and took a post-grad course in obstetrics at Chicago-Lying-In Hospital. Back in Winnipeg Mary settled into an apartment with her sister and into her career in obstetrics at the Women’s Pavilion, now Health Sciences Centre. Then Mary met John Friesen. Would her life be her career or a family?
After a brief courtship and small ceremony they were married August 27, 1955. Their first adventure as a couple was in Mexico under the Conference of Mennonites. They returned to the Colonies where Mary was the only medical help for many miles, often on washed-out roads. Their first four children were born in Mexico.
In 1960 they returned to Manitoba. They had three more children. It was a happy boisterous household with five boys and a girl. After a refresher course Mary returned to her nursing career, this time seeing the other end of life. She was employed at Holiday Haven Nursing Home until her retirement in the 1980’s.
In retirement Mary did a lot of volunteer work in church committees and at MCC Thrift stores, and it was her suggestion that got her husband involved. They were managers of the Sargent Thrift Store for five years. Mary and John travelled extensively, always with a tour.
Mary was a writer, self publishing four books of her memories, thoughts and stories she had collected over the years. She had a regular column in Die Mennonitische Post for 20 years. She was known for her strongly held opinions.
Mary and John lived independently until illness and aging would no longer permit, and extra visits and services were insufficient. Deep gratitude to their granddaughter Nicole for taking them into her home, skillfully caring and fiercely advocating for them.
Thank you Nicole and members of your family, for your caring and compassion, and to your two children Chloe and Caleb who brought much joy and life to the household.
Thank you to Michelle, Waldo and Donna, and Milton, who stayed with Mom to the end during her last few days.
A Service of Celebration will take place on Monday, May 8th, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at Bethel Mennonite Church, 465 Stafford St., Winnipeg, MB. A private family burial will take place prior to the service.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the relief work of Mennonite Central Committee online at www.mcccanada.ca or by mailing a cheque to MCC (in memo line: Relief), 134 Plaza Dr., Winnipeg, MB R3T 5K9