Sunday, November 6, 2011


We can't help it, we three boys, three sons of a woman who was born in Montana and brought as a toddler to Saskatchewan. This is one of those days in every year when we remember her. I am glad that we can do it with fondness and gratitude. We remember her with reference often to this photo of her, mature, with cognition and joy and love shining from her blue eyes. Her mind and her eyes fogged in later years.

Her daddy had just died, so young, too young, 29 years of age. Doerksen was his surname. Her mom and her brother Peter two years older than she, were transplanted into another family, the Willems family. Marie married Abram. He had lost his wife and he already had six children. Opportunities did not abound on the prairies in the twenties and thirties, specially for a girl. Mom completed grade 9 before needing to work. She met Edward Richard Unruh, dashing young man, with a pencil mustache, balding dark hair, whistled everywhere he walked, well liked by everyone, a gentleman, a gentle man. She loved him. He was 4 years older than she. Although living in a distinctly Mennonite Christian community, Hepburn, he was not practicing the faith of his parents. His personal commitment would come later, ten years later, but Tina married Edward. I (Ron) was the first to be born to them.

He ran a gas station and then he went to war, enlisted, and that was unheard of. Conscientious objectors they were, these Mennonite settlements, but he was a Canadian and proud of it. He was an enlisted member of the Royal Canadian Royal Air Force, Force mind you, not Farce. So on this weekend, Remembrance Day, is also a time when memory of Dad re-emerges. And then the war was done and mom and dad started up a coffee shop, and then moved east to Ontario, and Murray (son #2) was born, and I was 5 years old. Dad worked hard at factories and mom was busy with children and work at home projects, sewing for others. She cleaned other people's homes. She worked in a restaurant as a waitress. And son #3 was born, Neale, named after Dad's eldest brother, and I was 11 years old. A coincidence that has intrigued us was that in dad's family there were three sons as well, and they born at the same time intervals, the first five years older than the second who was six years older than the third son.

And in 1954 Tina and Ed bought their first home and dad was 39 years of age and mom was 35. It was a small home and all three sons grew into adulthood there. Mom had basic life skills which because she was entrepreneurial, she turned into a livelihood. Many figure skaters wore her garments. Thousands of people ate her food. She ran her own occasional catering business. She served her food for coffee breaks in a corporation office building. She was head chef for many summers at a Christian Conference campus. She wrote a cook book in which Neale's and my drawing appear. She led women's groups at church and regional women's meeting in many places surprising herself that she could stand in front of others with adequate thoughts and words from which others would benefit. Those latter responsibilities compelled her to read and to study the Bible among other books and she grew spiritually and intellectually. And in all of these pursuits she was encouraged and assisted by the gentle man whom she had loved when she was a stunning young woman of 22. Sometimes it seemed that he had no greater ambition than to see her succeed.

I have written in memory of mom today, but as all of us have witnessed through our experiences with mom and dad, you could hardly think of the one without thinking of the other. So, on this day of remembrance of Mom's departure from here, I know that it won't be long, six months from now when we will remember Dad's departure. At 93 years of age he spoke to her still body and said, "good night sweetheart, I'll be seeing you soon." He too, could not think of life without her, and then he too was gone. We are all okay with this. This is life and theirs was a happy and contented life. They were married for 66 years. Her eyes convey to you why we loved her so much.

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