Obituary for Shirley Friesen (Plett)
Passed away at the Brandon Regional Health Centre on Wednesday January 31, 2018 at the age of 71 years, Shirley Friesen (nee Plett), of Treesbank MB.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to reap; a time to weep and a time to mourn, a time to love and a time of peace . . . (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8 adapted)
It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved wife, mother, and grandmother, Shirley Friesen (nee Plett) of Treesbank, Manitoba.
Shirley was born on January 5, 1947 in Winnipeg, to Ellen and John Plett of Landmark, Manitoba. Following a short battle with cancer she passed away in peace, surrounded by her family, on January 31, 2018 in Brandon at the age of 71 years.
Following her birth, Shirley could hardly wait to begin her adventures in life when, at the age of one week, she travelled with her mother, older sister and several relatives by train, through a prairie blizzard, to Saskatchewan to introduce herself to her father who was working a sawmill at Norquay near the Duck Mountains.
Shirley grew up on the family farm near Landmark in southeast Manitoba. Perhaps it was there, as a two year-old, that she gained her life-long appreciation of gardens and flowers as she enjoyed watering her grandparent’s garden. She went to church with her family and attended Sunday School at the Prairie Rose Evangelical Mennonite Church where she committed her life to Christ and was baptized in December, 1961.
Shirley went to grade school in Landmark, but upon reaching high school decided to take grades 9 & 10 by correspondence. After grade 10 she moved to Steinbach to work as a kitchen aide at the Resthaven Nursing Home. After a few months she returned home to help out on the family farm and the next fall resumed her education to complete high school. She graduated from Landmark Collegiate in June, 1966, wearing her first high heeled shoes with great pride. Her grade 12 yearbook predicted that “her future pursuit will most likely be in the line of teaching”.
In fact, Shirley had already started teaching at age 15 as a Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher in Landmark for a number of years, and one summer in the town of Weekes, SK. In the fall of 1966 she began studies in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. Graduating with her Teaching Certificate was, in her words, “a dream come true”. She did not waste any time getting her career underway when in April, only weeks after classes ended, she signed her first teaching contract with the School District of Prefontaine with a salary of $400 per month.
In the following two years, while teaching in her home community of Landmark, she completed the requirements for her Permanent Teacher’s Certificate. It was during this time that she used some of her hard-earned income to purchase her first set of wheels, a shiny new green Dodge Dart. It was also during this time that her family moved to Treesbank where she visited on occasion while continuing her teaching career. In 1970 she left her teaching job and joined her family at Treesbank where she worked at the Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company for a short time.
In 1971 Shirley accepted a one-year term of service with the Mennonite Central Committee to teach in the isolated community of Hopedale on the east coast of Labrador. From there she returned to teach in Landmark for one year, attended Mennonite Brethern Bible College in Winnipeg for a year and resumed her teaching at Blumenort School in 1974.
During her brief time living in Treesbank and on her visits, Shirley got to know Del on a social level, but it was not until June, 1974 that they had their first date enjoying a drive to the International Peace Gardens. According to Del, he asked Shirley out knowing his truck was in the shop, as an easy out in case she wasn’t all that interested. Happily, she said yes to the date, and he scheduled it for the following weekend when he would have his truck back. She held his arm at the first opportunity and didn’t let go for the whole date. Their courtship continued in the Winnipeg area, and they were engaged on Thanksgiving weekend 1974. Del and Shirley got married on March 31, 1975. After a short honeymoon in South Dakota, they settled in Winnipeg, and Shirley resumed her teaching in Blumenort until the end of that school year.
While living in Winnipeg, Shirley and Del started their family with Jonathan arriving in 1976 and Chris in 1979. In the fall of 1981 they moved their family, and their mobile home, to the village of Treesbank in western Manitoba. Del and Shirley wanted their boys to grow up in the country, a fact for which they remain very grateful to this day. In the fall of 1987, they completed their family with the adoption of three-year old Ashley.
During these years, Shirley was a stay-at-home mom as her children attended school and Del worked in construction. In addition to looking after her family, there was always time for reading and gardening. She maintained a large garden and many flower beds, and operated a small greenhouse that sold nursery plants. In 1992 they moved to an acreage south of Treesbank where they enjoyed extra space with lawns, gardens and trees. The family also enjoyed many camping trips to nearby Spruce Woods Park, as well as extended family camps at Wellman Lake, Delta Beach, and other lakeshore camps throughout Manitoba.
Shirley was a dedicated parishioner at the Treesbank Community Church where she also taught Sunday school and led singing. As the children grew up, Shirley resumed her career with occasional substitute teaching at Wawanesa School, and then as an Educational Assistant at the Treesbank Colony School from 1990 to her early retirement in 2004 due to medical reasons. Favourite retirement activities included spending time with her children and grandchildren, more reading, scrapbooking, playing and listening to music, and organizing family photo and slide collections. She enjoyed many trips to visit her family in Winnipeg as well as holiday travel to Arizona and New Mexico with Del.
Shirley faced a number of health issues over the years that sometimes limited her activities, but with her faith, seemingly unlimited inner strength and family support, she persevered. She was never one to complain, and instead turned her attention to the well-being of her children and grand-children. Despite declining health in recent months, she attended an extended family Christmas gathering in Winnipeg and later joined all of her children and grandchildren for Christmas, serving their favorite Christmas baking and adding a holiday warmth that only mothers can provide.
The family is deeply grateful for the care provided by doctors and medical staff at the Wawanesa Health Centre, the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and the Assiniboine Centre in Brandon; for the love and compassion of family through phone calls, visits, hugs and prayers; and for the kindness and support of thoughtful members of the Treesbank and Wawanesa communities.
Left to mourn her passing are her beloved husband Del, sons Jonathan and his wife Jennifer, Christopher and his wife Heidi, and daughter Ashley and her partner Tyler; her eight precious grandchildren and two adopted grandchildren; sisters Marion (Les Plett), Luella (Leonard Plett), Lillian (Ken Webber), Eleanor (Robert Reimer); brothers Leroy (Sylvia) and Eddie (Valerie) and their respective families; and Del’s brothers and sisters and their families. She was predeceased by her parents John and Ellen Plett.
Funeral services will be held on Monday February 5, 2018 at 1:00 pm at the Treesbank Community Church with Pastor John McMillan officiating. Interment will take place in the Millford Cemetery.