With our saddened hearts, we announce that Erna Ruth Jantzen, born October 14, 1941, passed away suddenly in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 18, 2023.
Erna was the firstborn child of Herman and Susie Heinrichs, the oldest of 5, and in time the oldest of 9 when the family took in her uncle and his 4 children. She was born at Rush Lake, near Herbert Saskatchewan, where she attended school up to grade 6. Her father moved the family to the Promised Land: a farm in the heart of the Red River Valley just outside Niverville, Manitoba. There, she made new friends at Carmichael School where she attended grades 7-9.
At the age of 10, she heard planes flying overhead as she was herding cattle in the field and contemplated the dreadful possibility of war. Reflecting on the lessons she’d learned at Westbank Bible Camp, she was prompted to choose the “narrow path” and devoted her heart and life to serving God. In 1959, she began her 3-year post-secondary education at Winkler Bible Institute.
Growing up on a farm with a large family instilled an incredible work ethic in Erna. It wasn’t uncommon for her to accomplish a day’s worth of tasks before breakfast. Throughout her life, she clung to the values of hard work, frugal spending, and careful saving. She worked fast, efficiently, and with determination. Her work experience included childcare, cleaning, eviscerating chickens at a poultry plant, laundry, coffee processing, and more. She could transform a small kitchen into a one-person assembly line that turned out great quantities of bread and buns, and she made it look easy (unless you got in her way).
As fate would have it, a farm-boy from Northern Saskatchewan served as choir director in her church. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her, and on August 7, 1965, Archie and Erna said their vows in a double-wedding ceremony together with Erna’s sister Anne and her husband Alvin. The early years of their marriage took Archie and Erna to Winnipeg, Phoenix Arizona, Crystal Springs Hutterite Colony in Southern Manitoba, back to Niverville, and up to Thompson Manitoba, until they settled in the community of Spragge Ontario in pastoral ministry for 12 years.
Erna was always oriented toward her family. She took every possible opportunity to meet with her parents, in-laws, siblings, cousins, and other relations only a Mennonite would bother to recognize. In addition, she was quick to adopt friends and acquaintances into her family circle, and she would often play the ‘Mennonite Game’ long enough to confirm some familial relation, or at least some connection of common friends or relatives.
Shortly after her third child was still-born, and as she was battling a deep depressive episode, her grit and determination took on a new resolve as her relationship with firstborn Karen faltered, and she nearly lost second-born Melody as well. She committed her time and energy to those around her who were still living: her daughters, her husband, and anyone else God put into her path – which, in due time, included a son, Conrad. As much as she loved her children, it was her grandchildren that thoroughly captivated her heart – and her great-grandchildren were the apple of her eye… as opposed to the apple she once threw at Archie, nearly breaking his nose. (He probably deserved it – not a broken nose but having something thrown at him.)
Her life of ministry included: singing, lots of singing together with Archie and their children, teaching Sunday School, involvement in Daily Vacation Bible School (DVBS), Kid’s clubs, Quilting Bees, knitting personalized Christmas Stockings and toques, other handiwork, and feeding the masses – sometimes entertaining multiple families at mealtime (invited, or unannounced). She made time for people and gave of herself in personal visits to help those who were sick or lonely, rides to any variety of appointments, and serving food to friends or strangers who showed up at her door.
Higher education was something Erna admired, while valuing down-to-earth common sense. She bragged about her PHT degree when she worked to ‘Push Honey Through’ his two years of seminary in Fresno California. She cleaned homes and provided care for senior clients and took great joy in working her way into their hearts – especially those who seemed most closed and stubborn.
The following four years in Kelstern, SK included a lot of pastoral visits in the community, long-lasting friendships, and some significant life changes: both daughters married (on the same weekend that Archie and Erna celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary), and the addition of grandchildren to the family was an absolute treat and treasure.
Archie and Erna served in Arelee and the surrounding community with love and devotion from 1993 until 2019. They felt at home there, surrounded by friends; it was the perfect place for them to retire… or at least semi-retire. They continued to serve in their community, in local churches, and in senior homes. It was a special delight and brought Erna great joy to have grandchildren stay with her.
Their move to Saskatoon and into a 3-generation household was a challenge but proved to be very well timed. As everything got shut down due to COVID, they [mostly] enjoyed the activity and interaction that is inherent when 7 people share a dwelling. The intent was to ease the burden of household responsibilities as Archie and Erna aged. A decline in mobility was expected; some health concerns were anticipated; but we could not have guessed that a night of tests for a painful knee and suspected infection would abruptly become her last.
Erna was predeceased by her parents, still-born son Jonathan, brother-in-law John Hiebert, sisters-in-law Alvina and Grace. She is survived by her loving husband Archie, children: Karen, Melody (Donald Pouteaux), and Conrad (Chandara), grandchildren, great-grandchildren, brother and sisters, and a vast number of relatives and friends.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, March 25, 2023, 1:30 p.m. at West Portal Church, 3134 33rd Street West, Saskatoon, SK. Attendees are invited to bring something Erna crafted as a tribute to her handiwork. Condolence messages for the family are welcome to be left here on the Martens Warman page, there will also be a eulogy and link to the service livestream. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to MCC Canada at donate.mcccanada.ca or mail to MCC Saskatchewan 600 45 St. W, Saskatoon, SK S7L5W9
Erna’s service will be available to view via livestream link https://boxcast.tv/view/march-25th-funeral-ekiwwgoehaat4g2zxdl1
Following the funeral service, attendees are welcomed to faspa in the West Portal Church gym, where there will be further opportunities for anyone to share at an open mic. As that draws to a close, there is no obligation to join the procession to Brotherfield, which will be Erna’s final resting place on this earth.
Martens Warman Funeral Home is honored to be entrusted with the care and arrangements for Erna Jantzen.