Norma Barkman Toews, our beloved mother, grandmother, and great grandmother quietly slipped away at the end of the day on February 9, 2019 to wake to a glorious, eternal morning.
Norma was born in Steinbach to John and Margaret Barkman on April 3, 1939. She grew up on their farm in Kleefeld, learning to milk cows at the age of 9. She attended the small country school at Hochstadt. A story survives about a memorable baseball game where she brought in the winning runs in a game against the Gravel Ridge team. In her adolescent years, Mom accepted Christ as her personal Saviour and gave her heart and life to Him. It was a faith she embraced to the end. She was baptized into the Church on June 15, 1952 by John I. Penner.
At the age of 16, she got a job working at the Bethesda Hospital, before moving on to work at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Winnipeg. While working in Winnipeg, she lived together with her sister Verna at Mr. and Mrs. Marsh’s place. They became her lifelong friends.
On August 8, 1957 she married Donald Toews from Steinbach, Manitoba. Their family was completed over the years by four daughters and three sons.
For three years at the beginning of their married life, they ran a home for handicapped children followed by six years on the mission compound at Greasewood, Arizona, a place Mom longed to revisit in her last years, especially when Leone and Wayne took up residence at that same place last year. Mom cared for her young family here, three of which were born in Arizona.
After returning from their time in Arizona, Mom and Dad settled on an acreage in Kleefeld. Here Mom practiced her love of growing things, keeping us children busy in the garden for many hours each year. She watched over her produce, as well as the song birds that she loved. Any creature from the surrounding bush that was deemed a predator was swiftly taken care of with her .22 rifle. Bullets were seldom wasted.
After the children had grown and left home, they moved to Montreal and spent thirteen years pastoring a small city church there, living on the second floor of the church building. Here they made many friends and became unofficial parents to some. They filled this role for Ceti Zyko when he immigrated to Canada and Ceti, who now resides in Linden, Alberta with his wife and children, remains a part of our family. Francois Demers from Quebec also joined our family there and came back with them to Manitoba. He now resides in Grunthal.
Mom always held a fascination for other languages, studying and learning bits of Navajo, Spanish, Arabic, and Italian, and mastering German as well as French, which she practiced to the last. Another lifelong hobby was birdwatching, and her binoculars where her constant companion. As they lived out their retirement years in Steinbach, Mom spent time on other interests. She took painting classes and left us with many beautiful paintings. She also made many scrapbooks.
After enjoying almost 56 years of marriage, Dad passed away on May 28, 2013 leaving Mom to do the best she could on her own, something she never quite got used to. She gamely tried to “keep on top of things” right to the end, managing quite well at times but struggling with it at other times. We’re so glad she can now claim the victory over all things through Christ her Lord.
Those left to remember her are her children Roxanne (James) Penner and Tanya (Leland) Penner both of Carrot River, Saskatchewan; Leone (Wayne) Isaac presently serving in Greasewood, Arizona; Jim (Sharon) Toews, Roger (Bonnie) Toews, Trina (Michael) Janzen, and Marshall (Christiane) Toews all of Kleefeld, Manitoba; Her brothers and sisters Doreen (Fred Reimer), Viola, Verna, Melvin (Gwen), Audrey (Ed Enns), Wilbert, and Mabel; and sister-in-law Yvonne. Also 27 grandchildren and 28 great grand children.
She was predeceased by her husband Donald, one granddaughter Marita Penner, one great granddaughter Gracie Reimer, one brother Raymond, and three brothers-in-law Dick Spensley, George Penner, and Bruce Penner.
The funeral service will be held Thursday, February 14, 2019, at 3:00 p.m., at the Kleefeld Church of God in Christ Mennonite Church, Kleefeld, MB., with interment at the church cemetery. Viewing will be at the church one hour prior to the service.