May 8, 2010

Justina ''Jennie'' Thiessen (1925-2010)

This past week heaven got another angel. My mother-in-law Justina ''Jennie'' Thiessen passed away peacefully in the hospital in Winnipeg.

Jennie was born in Altona, Manitoba on June 28th, 1925 to Heinrich Wiebe and Elizabeth Driedger. Her parents were part of the migration of Mennonite immigrants who came from the steppes of Southern Russia, sponsored by the Canadian government to settle the southern part of Manitoba along the Red River between the US border and Winnipeg. Jennie was one of 8 children (7 girls, 1 boy) and grew up on the Wiebe farm just outside of Altona. She had a typical Mennonite education and worked on the farm with her family and took odd jobs until she was married. She was fluent in both English and the low German dialect of her ancestors. She loved to ride the horses and enjoyed the tractor so much, her Dad bought her one of her own.

While working as a waitress in Altona in 1944, Jennie met David Thiessen of nearby Rosenfeld, Manitoba, a young farm boy who had recently enlisted with the Canadian Army in the war effort. They were married on the 27th of October, 1944 just prior to David being sent off and stationed at Camp Shilo. Jennie remained at the family farm and in October of 1945 she gave birth to her first son (my husband). In 1946 David returned to civilian life and the young family moved to a house in the town of Altona where two more sons were born. Around 1950 the family headed north to the city of Winnipeg where two daughters and another son were born. They were now a family of 8.

They were a hard working family and did what they could to raise 6 children. My husband recalls that the kids would meet other kids in the city who sometimes needed some help or a place to stay and Jennie always took them in and cared for them. She loved to play the guitar and sing and dance. She had a very entrepreneurial spirit and found various ways to earn extra money for the family. She loved to buy and sell things and her outgoing personality made this easy for her. She was a natural sales woman.

Her husband David passed away on the 22nd of February, 2004. At that time Jennie sold the family home and moved into a Senior's residence where she lived until the time of her death. Jennie passed away on Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 at the age of 84. She is survived by 6 children, 17 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, 2 sisters and many loving nieces and nephews. My husband and I will miss her greatly. She was loving, giving, funny, feisty, and smart. I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law.

When her husband passed away 6 years ago, my husband started a tradition of calling his Mom every Sunday after dinner. We live about 1300 miles away so this was his way of giving her something consistent to look forward to and he made that call faithfully every week. It was a joy listening to these calls and hearing them laugh together. This Sunday will be the first one since she passed that he can't make that call and it just happens to fall on Mother's Day. It's going to be a tough day. Happy Mother's Day Mom, we love you. May you rest in peace ♥