During the early morning hours of Sunday, October 2, 2022, Gerard (Gerry) Benjamin Doerksen peacefully passed away at the Rest Haven Personal Care Home in Steinbach, Manitoba. He will be deeply missed by his wife Donna Doerksen, his children Juanita Doerksen (Harold Peters), Mimosa Koop, Garth Doerksen (Mary-Anna Aaldyk-Doerksen), and Keith Doerksen (Cindy Wolfe), his step-children Ken Bigelow (Janice Bigelow), Kathy Olsen (Steve Olsen), and Karl Bigelow, his grandchildren Athena Thiessen, Kurt Peters (Hannah Parton), Olivia Peters, Natasha Peters (Jean-Michel Najarre), Brittany Enns (Jake Enns), Bre Calma (Nix Calma), Braelyn Koop, Emily-Ann Doerksen (Ian Poppel), Madeleine Doerksen (Chris Job), Aaron Doerksen, Evan Doerksen, and Amy Doerksen, his great-grandchildren Abby Garcia and Eve Enns, and his nine step-grandchildren and 20 step-great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Mary Doerksen, brother Menno Doerksen (Laura Doerksen), sister Janice Doerksen, and brother-in-law Nathaniel Plett (Lucille Plett). Gerry was predeceased by his parents Bernard P. Doerksen and Marie B. Doerksen, brother Alvin Doerksen, sister Leona Doerksen, his first wife Clara Doerksen, as well as several in-laws.
The second of five siblings, Gerry was born on July 16, 1934, near Satanta in southwest Kansas. As they were for many others, the “Dirty Thirties” made life very difficult with some years seeing no crops to harvest. In fact, to pay the doctor who assisted at Gerry’s birth on the farm, his father took on a “relief” job building roads. Because Gerry had rickets, the doctor claimed that he would never be able to walk. With prayer and good parenting, including buying special baby foods, Gerry’s long legs grew strong, proving the doctor’s prognosis wrong.
Bankrupt, due to drought and low wheat prices, the family moved back to Blumenort, Manitoba when Gerry was 5 years old. There his parents bought a piece of cheap land which was mostly covered with bush and stones. Later, it was found to contain a valuable gravel deposit which is being actively mined to this day. With hard work operating a mixed farm (dairy cows, poultry, etc.) and gravel sales, financial matters improved considerably.
Among other things, but certainly in part because of his parents’ prayers and example, a significant change in Gerry’s life occurred when he accepted Christ at age 19. Gerry often mentioned how God has been faithful in so many ways throughout the years. As an example, the evening before he was to have the first of three brain tumour surgeries, Gerry felt and saw Jesus, with outstretched hands, communicating to him very clearly, saying, “Gerry, you are in good hands”. Gerry was in perfect peace, knowing that, whether he should live or die, he indeed was in “good hands”. While never “noisy” about his Christian faith, it was at the core of Gerry’s being and guided him throughout his life. He remained curious about the intricacies and beauty of personal faith until his death.
In 1958, Gerry married Clara Plett, who had been a classmate in elementary school. After attending Normal School teacher training, he worked as a teacher and later as a principal for 15 years. He enjoyed studies and obtained a B.A., B. Ed., and M. Ed. from the University of Manitoba. He served as a lay minister in several community churches, enjoyed interacting with people, and, among various functions, officiated at 65 weddings.
Gerry and Clara’s four children were born in the 1960’s: Juanita in 1960, Mimosa in 1962, Garth in 1965, and Keith in 1968. All four followed in their parents’ footsteps by each completing at least one university degree.
To pursue his interest in the interaction of Christianity and psychology, the family moved to Edmonton, Alberta where Gerry studied at the University of Alberta and obtained his Ph. D. in 1978. When they moved back to Blumenort, he worked for 15 years as the Coordinator of Special Education for the Hanover School Division. Gerry retired from this work at age 55 and then worked as a psychologist for Eden Health Care Services in Winkler for 12 years.
Following his wife Clara’s death in 2001, Gerry met Donna Pope of Lorena, Texas online. After months of emails and telephone conversations, they were married at their Blumenort home on December 20, 2008. During their years together, they enjoyed several winters at Donna’s house in Texas.
Gerry struggled with various health issues over the past years and came near death so many times that he was likened to a cat, having nine lives. Finally, his body gave out although his mind remained quite clear until the end.
In addition to his deep love for his family, Gerry enjoyed the outdoors. His beautifully treed property is testament to the countless trees and shrubs he planted throughout his lifetime. As a teacher and principal, he would organize field trips to fish hatcheries and hikes in the Whiteshell or Sandilands. He loved the mystique of the far north, even to the point of taking several of his children and grandchildren on trips to places like Churchill, Rankin Inlet, and Yellowknife. He would often be seen feeding the rainbow trout in his gravel pit, with the fish arriving just before sunset for the nightly feeding frenzy. For a time, Gerry owned land near Miami, Manitoba where he could hike and observe the flora and fauna of the Pembina Hills. In later years, one would often find him in his garden, tending to his many vegetables and flowers.
In more recent years, as his mobility became more tenuous, Gerry picked up stamp collecting, starting with the extensive collection he purchased years earlier from his late uncle Henry P. Doerksen. Countless hours were spent with his stamps, a hobby to which his attention to detail and his love of geography and learning were drawn.
Gerry will be remembered as a thoughtful, intuitive, generous, gifted, gracious, and kind-hearted man. He leaves a monumental legacy as a leader, teacher, mentor, and friend, as well as a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. While he is dearly missed, memories of him are indelibly imprinted in the hearts and minds of all who knew him.
The family would like to extend deep thanks and appreciation to Dr. Mark Duerksen for the many years of care as well as the staff and medical team at Cedarwood and Rest Haven. He was well-loved and cared for by the team there.
As Gerry often said when saying farewell, “Bliewe moutich” (remain joyful).
The livestreamed funeral service will be held on Saturday, October 8, 2022, at 2:00 p.m., at Birchwood Funeral Chapel, Steinbach, MB. Viewing at the chapel one hour prior to the service. Following a fellowship lunch after the funeral, interment will take place at the Blumenort Community Church Cemetery, Blumenort, MB.