In spite of COVID-19 Ben, Bernhard Alfred, was surrounded by the love of his family, and died Saturday, May 1st at Bethesda Hospital, Steinbach. He died as he wished, living in his home until Friday morning.
Ben was born to Bernhard A. and Maria Klassen of Stonewall, Manitoba on October 27, 1931. He had three brothers, two sisters and was predeceased by all of them. He is survived by Linda (Hildebrandt), children Berna, Keric and Andrea, and Monica. Also surviving their Opa are granddaughters Kat and Colin, Allyster and Anya.
Ben was educated in schools in Good Hope,and Lord Selkirk High School, Winnipeg. As a young boy he supplemented his formal education with unrestricted exploration of the Stonewall area finding nests of birds surviving the winter, discovering why fish populated the local creek, and once watching in amazement as a kingbird impaled dozens of grasshoppers on barbs on a wire fence.
After Ben realized the futility of making a living at farming he pursued a teaching career. Summer school, permit teaching a year in Camper, and Normal School lead him to a lifetime of teaching. Ben’s career took him and his growing family to schools in Ridgewood (near Giroux), Thornhill, Halbstadt, Hochstadt and Steinbach. Even after retirement he appreciated students approaching him to chat and commenting that he had been their favourite teacher. He remarked to his children that none of the students had ever crossed the street to avoid him either. Extracurricular activities throughout Ben’s life included participating in, or coaching, or officiating hockey, baseball, golf, track and field, volleyball, horseshoes and bowling. Ben filled any leftover time with woodworking, chess and gardening, finally realizing his aspiration to farm. Soups On, the local soup kitchen, benefitted from his cucumber and tomato harvests for many years.
“My dad loved playing songs from Spiritual Life Songbook with one of us at the piano and him on the guitar. He didn’t seem to think there was much he couldn’t fix and modelled for us how to look after things”. ~ Monica
“Dad lived his version of what a person should be… caring, honest, hard-working, and upright. His expectation in most things was that your best work would be sufficient. Dad’s strong aversion to injustice was something keenly felt by the casual or seasoned listener… it was best to spend time still-fishing in the Whiteshell or rambling through the “bog” behind the old family farm, where dad was most at peace. Dad’s strength and love for his family will endure.” ~ Keric
To his grandchildren, Opa was “thoughtful, a storyteller, singer, handyman, bowler, woodworker, coach, gardener extraordinaire, spinning top maker, teacher, bear-hugger, crokinole master, pflaumenkuchen maker, Grandpa of the Soup Kitchen, loving and loved.”
The family wishes to extend a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Duerksen, Joanne and home care nurses, paramedics, ER doctors, nurses Kaitlin, Laura, Anna-Marie, Amanda and Chelsea from Bethesda Hospital.
Should you wish to honour Ben’s memory donations are gladly accepted to any organization that supports the underserved.
A private family funeral will be held Thursday, May 6, 2021 at Grace Mennonite Church. Thank you, Pastor Mel and Brad of Birchwood Funeral Chapel.