Saturday, March 21, 2009


Rod Doerksen was my cousin. March 21st is the anniversary of his death in 2003. As far as his wife and two adult daughters and his sister were concerned, he was far too young to die. He was only in his middle years. Dying when he did, he missed his eldest daughter’s wedding. He wasn’t here for his first grandson’s birth. Because he was known as a good man by everyone in his community and church and family, he would have been a wonderful grandfather. All of us miss him very much.

I met him when we were both children. His parents lived in Minnesota. In following years I lost contact with both Rod and his sister. He resided in California. Then in 1991 Christine and I moved to British Columbia and I reconnected with both Rod and his sister. Now he and I were both adults, married and with grown children of our own.

Both of my brothers had opportunity to visit with Rod as well when they travelled west and for the three of us, the reconnection with these two cousins was like finding a long absent brother and sister. Rod’s father and my mother were siblings, the two children of Montana settlers who had come from Minnesota. When my mother was two years of age and her brother was four, their dad died, and their mother was alone without government assistance or any other help. She was directed to Saskatchewan where she met a widower with six children. Then together this pioneering couple had five more children. My mom’s brother (Rod’s dad) left the family home in his early teens to return to Minnesota. There he married and farmed and had two children. He died at an early age of forty or so and from what I recollect his death may have resulted from factors connected with the same genetic disorder that complicated Rod’s life and compromised his health.

Rod was strikingly tall throughout his childhood and youth and as an adult his height compared to some of the tallest NBA basketball stars. He suffered from Marfan syndrome (or Marfan's syndrome) which is a genetic disorder of the connective tissue. It was so named after Antoine Marfan, the French pediatrician who first described the condition in 1896 after noticing striking features in a 5-year-old girl. The gene that makes the protein fibrilin, and gives skin and connective tissue its stretchy feel, is faulty. Because connective tissue is found throughout the body, Marfan syndrome can affect the skeleton, eyes, heart and blood vessels, nervous system, skin and lungs. People with Marfan's are typically tall, with long limbs and long thin fingers. The most serious complication is defects of the heart valves and aorta. It may also affect the lungs, eyes, the dural sac surrounding the spinal cord, skeleton and the hard palate. There is no cure for Marfan syndrome which does shorten life expectancy which has increased significantly over the last few decades. The syndrome is treated by addressing each issue as it arises, and Rod lived through many procedures and corrective surgeries.

Wonderful husband, father, brother, son, friend and a good, good person. Thank you Lord for allowing Rod Doerksen to touch our lives.


  1. We too miss Rod. We attend the Mennonite Brethren Church in Dinuba where we met Rod and Delora about 14 1/2 years ago. We had just come back from being missionaries in Germany and became friends, along with the Sawatzky's. The three of us couples formed an accountability group which met a great need of ours. Thanks for this tribute to Rod. He was a great guy!

    John and Geri Warkentin

  2. John and Geri, I appreciate you leaving a comment in memory of Rod. I know that Delora will appreciate it too.