Katie Baergen of Tofield, Alberta, was born near Wembley, Alberta on March 4, 1927, the fourth daughter born to Katherina and Peter Wall, and the first of their children to be born in Canada following their immigration from Russia in December of 1926. Three more daughters and two sons joined the family in the next few years. Even though material resources were scarce, she spoke often of happy times in her childhood. Hard work was the order of the day as they cleared the land where the family settled to farm. Once the work was done for the day, evenings were often spent around the wood stove, singing together as a family to the accompaniment of a guitar. She attended school at LaGlace, Alberta until the age of 15 when she was needed at home. At the age of 17, she left home for two winters to attend Mennonite Bible Institute in Didsbury, Alberta. She was introduced to her future husband, Abe Baergen, by Abe’s sister who attended the Bible School at the same time, and a long-distance romance began, eventually resulting in their marriage on April 4, 1948. Although they always lived in the Tofield/Ryley area, they made at least a dozen moves in twenty years. Together, they raised their family of five on various rural properties, eventually purchasing a farm of their own north of Tofield in 1962.
She took full advantage of living on the farm. It was the ideal place for her to plant a huge garden. Her love of growing things did not diminish with time, and her garden was the envy of many. She also loved to paint houses, and she needed no encouragement to get the job done quickly, something which earned her the nickname “Speedy Katie”. She also loved to walk, and she had her four-mile route around town, often completing it before many people were awake. Anyone who knew her would attest to her ability to bake. She was one of the original stall holders at the Tofield Farmers Market, and her bake table was always brimming with cinnamon rolls, cherry buns, zwieback, bread, pirogies and homemade noodles. It was as much about visiting with people as it was about selling anything, although rarely did anything return home with her.
She was passionate about hospitality. From neighbourhood coffee parties to her annual dinner for the widow’s group from her church, to baking cinnamon rolls for the teachers at the elementary school down the street, it seemed that she was always preparing food for something. The aroma of fresh baking as one approached her back door was a clear indicator that she was at home, and doing what she loved most. She and a small group of friends, all of whom were older than 65, initiated the idea of planning and catering “Fifty-five Plus” monthly banquets at the church fellowship hall. It was a wonderful time of food, fellowship and fun for those who attended.
Katie was quite convinced that she was not a public speaker, but she could definitely carry on a one-on-one conversation with anyone. Age was not a barrier to cultivating a friendship with someone, and she had unique ways of nurturing those relationships. She spent many hours doing visitation at the hospital and nursing home, and on those visits often treated the staff to some of her fresh baking.
Her gift of hospitality was a wonderful asset to Abe’s commitment to pastoring the church. Her children became acquainted with many visiting pastors and missionaries as a result of having her host them in their home. In so many ways, she was the silent partner in Abe’s ministry.
Katie lived independently until April, 2014 when she moved to Tofield Lodge. It was an adjustment; however, it wasn’t long until she had made a new circle of friends. The care she received there was exceptional, and she was quick to express gratitude to those who looked after her. The same was true as she moved on to higher levels of care, and the staff in each facility remarked that she was always thankful for the care they provided.
Her faith in God motivated so much of what she did. She accepted Jesus as her personal Saviour in her early teens. It was her trust in God and His love for her that carried her through some difficult times. She loved the messages in the old familiar hymns, and she was able to sing along even when her mind was not functioning at its best. She prayed often for her family and her greatest desire until the end of her days was that all would join her in heaven some day. Katie passed away on Sunday, May 16 and she is now enjoying the beauty of her eternal home!
Katie is predeceased by her husband, Abe, her sisters, Anne, Frieda and Justine; her brothers, John and Peter; and an infant sister, Tina. She is survived by her sisters Louise and Erna (Jack). Katie is lovingly remembered and sadly missed by her children: Gordon (Wendy), Elaine (Joe Kauffman), Wayne, Carey, and Valerie (Curtis Mandtler), her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, numerous relatives and many friends.
“There are so many lives she touched in a positive way.
So many memories that bring a smile and show the wonderful person she was.
So many stories about how she made a difference or made someone’s day.
So many hearts that are feeling sadness…..
Because she was here……….because she was loved.”
“We love, because He (God) first loved us.” I John 4:19
Due to the pandemic restrictions a private family graveside will take place and a virtual funeral ceremony will be held.
Memorial donations may be made to the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee).