John J. Bergen – Obituary from Crossroads

John J. Bergen (’40) died on December 31, 2013.  He will be lovingly remembered by his children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, and many extended members and friends.  He was predeceased by his wife Hilda.

John was born in Neuendorf, Choritza Colony, Ukraine.  He emigrated with his parents Jakob and Maria Bergen in 1923, and settled in Graysville, Manitoba.  He completed school at Mennonite Collegiate Institute in 1940.  He taught school at Big Black River in northern Manitoba, attended normal school in Winnipeg, and taught at Hopeland School.  In 1943, his teaching certificate was revoked due to his refusal to sell war savings stamps through the school system.  He volunteered for non-combatant services and served in the Dental Corps in 1944-1946.  In 1946, his teaching certificate was reinstated, and he taught in the public school system of Manitoba, becoming principal of Winkler School.  In 1963, he moved to Edmonton to pursue graduate studies in educational administration, and was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Alberta in 1967, and taught there until his retirement in 1987.  In his retirement years, he pursued studies in Mennonite theology and history.  In 1953, he married Hilda Lohrenz (d. 1998), daughter of Gerhard and Anne Lohrenz.  They had five children, Paul, Eric, Ruth, and Karl.

– reprinted from Crossroads: Mennonite Collegiate Institute 24, no. 1 (Feb. 2014): 15.

A Friend Goes Home

News01On September 29, 2013 Isaac Fehr, minister of the El Temporal colony in Campeche, Mexico, died at 80 years and 1 day, of a suspected heart attack in Hopelchen park, two months after the passing of his second wife. The following is a tribute to him by Galen Nissley from Mennonite Mutual Aid, a Beachy Amish outreach program centred in Hopelchen. According their newsletter it was “Isaac’s letter of May 1995 to Steve L. Yoder requesting aid for the drought-stricken Mennonites of northern Mexico was what led to the formation of Mexico Mennonite Aid.  Over the years, he was a good friend and a valuable colony connection for the MMA board and staff.”

A Stable Figure of My Time in Mexico, Galen Nissley.

As I look back over our time in Mexico, there are many memories that come to mind. One memory that is etched in my mind is of one day when the going was a little rough – homesickness! A man by the name of Isaac Fehr came into the office. As usual he took a few books from our library. Then, as it was a slow day, he sat down across from our desk and began a normal conver-sation. Soon, though, he began to ask a few more personal questions, like – how are you doing? -and so on. Meaning, are you going to be ok?  On another occasion he said, “You are understanding more of our language than you let on.” He said, “I can tell, because you are giving some facial expressions as people talk our language when they are making phone calls.” I did not realize how much of an encourager Isaac was until later. (He was also the only man I knew who had extra holes in his hat. I asked him about them and he said with a twinkle in his eye that it’s his air conditioning.) Once Isaac transcribed an entire long sermon he’d preached from the old German script to the present-day letters so I could read it. There were several note-book pages of this handwritten message. Isaac’s fluency in English speaking was often a great help.

Mexico Mennonite Aid, Update, January 2014


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