Helen Olfert was born on May 30, 1916 to Peter & Maria (Knelsen) Olfert near Wymark, Sk. She was predeceased by her husband, Cornelius Doell on Feb 25, 1991 two grandsons, Barry Unrau and Tim Toews, and one great grandson, Zach Unrau. She is survived by 1 sister, Martha Lamb, and 4 daughters, Helen (Peter), Lillian (Albert), Edna (Bernie), Carolyn (Gordon) and their families.
Mom grew up in rural southern Saskatchewan, the sixth child of eleven living children. Things were very hard for this large family and food and clothing were often minimal. After only a few short years of schooling, the young teens needed to go out to help bring in money to support the family. Mom did Grade 3 twice, once in German, then again in English. Despite this hardship, Mom valued reading and learning and books were treasured in our home. In the thirties, the family had a chance to move to northern Saskatchewan by covered wagon to claim some land to farm.
In 1942 mom came to Manitoba to visit her brother Joe. She needed some cash so ended up weeding soybeans at the Doell farm where she met Dad. Because dad began working as a Conscientious Objector, most of their courting was done by letter. They married in Winkler on December 14, 1944 and settled on the Doell family farm. As we girls came along, Mom spent many hours at her Singer treadle machine, sewing clothes for us all. We always had a new dress for Christmas even though she was up into the wee hours to finish them. In 1963 they made the move to a bigger farm near MacGregor. They really enjoyed the mixed farming there until dad's health issues required a move off the farm to MacGregor in 1971.
Mom was a devoted wife and mother. She worked hard on the farm along with dad, milking cows, raising and butchering chickens and tending a large garden. She was a great cook and baker and could make amazing meals even with limited resources. When dad was in the Portage hospital for the last 19 months of his life, mom was faithful in visiting him. She got there almost every day even though she had to rely on rides from family and friends. She loved spending time with her four daughters and their families whether it was going on picnics, berry picking, going along on the combine or for harvest field meals. She loved to be part of whatever project her daughters had on the go, from quilting to baking to making noodles.
She loved all 15 grandchildren that came along and made each one feel like they were her favorite. Many grandchildren got to go to Grandma's for lunch while they attended school at MacGregor. She sewed many items for the grandchildren and the jean blankets are a favorite. She always showed interest in their lives and sometimes would quiz them persistently to know all the details. They all know they were prayed for faithfully and that her prayers follow them wherever they go.
Mom came to a personal relationship with Jesus as her Saviour as a young adult which gave her assurance of salvation. Her desire to grow in her faith brought her to attend Hepburn Bible School in Saskatchewan with her sister. Growing up in poverty during the Great Depression and World War II gave her many opportunities to forge a strong faith in God as her provider and strength in times of trouble. Though she did not preach her faith, she lived it by her loving example and willingness to serve others. She rarely went to visit someone without something in hand to bring such as a jar of cream or a tray of baking. She served cheerfully in the church as a Sunday School teacher, renowned coffee maker for church events and cleaned the church for a pittance for nine years. She was a faithful volunteer at the MCC thrift store for many years and was happy to conscript her daughters or granddaughters to come and do a shift with her. She sewed endlessly for MCC. She would sew dozens of school kit bags or health kit bags each year and then bring them to church to implore people to fill them. She also sewed hundreds of patchwork quilts for MCC over the years and to gift to the needy. Her income was small but her generous heart always had some to give to missions.
Mom also had a heart for her community and liked to get to know her neighbours. She loved to put on tea parties on her beautiful veranda surrounded by flowers and vines. She liked to host a Valentine's tea because she saw it as a time to share God's love with everyone, not just for couples. She got together with neighbours regularly to celebrate birthdays or other special occasions.
Mom loved to be active and involved in life. This became a struggle in her early 90's and it was hard for her to give up her house and yard to move into Norfolk Manor in 2007. Once she adjusted, she continued to enjoy sewing quilts, making soup, and baking pies. Because of her declining health, she ended up in Portage Hospital in 2012 and from there to Lion's Prairie Manor. That was a hard adjustment for her and she never really felt at home there. It was hard to watch the losses she experienced over the years and sometimes it was challenging to think of things to cheer her. But bringing Kentucky Fried Chicken or a fresh tomato always made her day. We appreciated the many kind and caring staff who grew to love her over the years. There were a number of times that she went into palliative care but when her family gathered around her, she rallied. At the end, she slipped away peacefully into the presence of the Lord whom she loved and served so faithfully.
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