Sunday, June 4, 2017


My mom, Tina Martha Doerksen, was born in rural Montana on June 4, 1919 at the end of WWI. She lived 88 years and passed away in November 2007. During her last five years dementia obscured her clarity and memory. As a boy, adolescent and young adult I appreciated my mother for all the customary reasons within happy families. My reasons for missing her today are explained by her history that I understood later in my life. An illness claimed her homesteading father's life when she was two years old and her sibling brother Peter was four. With her two children, her mother Marie emigrated to Saskatchewan and soon married Abram Willems who had been recently widowed and left with the care of his six children. It was a marriage of mutual convenience. Over time, this couple had five more children. Farming small acreage was a grim way to support a large family. My mom was able to go to school as far as grade 9 after which she had to find work, house keeping and childcare to farming families. She met and married Edward Richard Unruh, the youngest of four children. She was then 22 and he 26. I was her firstborn in 1942 and very soon as WWII involved Commonwealth countries, my Dad was enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. When the war ended, Mom and Dad made the decision to move to St. Catharines, Ontario where factory jobs were available and where many Mennonite friends and some family members already lived. Mom bore two more sons, Murray in 1947 and Neale in 1953. She lost twin girls years later when I was in my early teens. Dad's employment as an assembly line worker required my mother's supplementary labour at anything that paid. In the early years she was a housekeeper, and a seamstress. She made costumes each year for the St. Catharines Figure Skating Club. In time she became known for her cooking and from that developed a business, catering to small and large gatherings, serving coffee and baked goods daily at the Ontario Paper Mill Home Office, managing food services at Fair Havens Conference and Camp in summers. She assembled her recipes and published a cook book. She was always a woman of faith, and over time became respected and valued as a leader. She was humbled and amazed that she, with her grade 9 education was given responsibility to speak publicly and to lead a province wide women's organization for her church denomination. My mind still sees her distinctive handwriting with which she wrote her notes and letters and recipes. I would like to write this to her today, "Well done Mom. I love you."

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