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MADELEINE RUTH ENNS
1942 - 2023
Madeleine was born to John and Agnes Enns of Arnaud, Manitoba, on September 28, 1942, the second of six children. She spent her childhood and youth with her nose buried in a book unless she had homework or chores to do. After completing high school at Mennonite Collegiate Institute and a year of teacher’s college, then teaching elementary school in Steinbach, she attended Canadian Mennonite Bible College. Here she became more aware of the oppressed of the world and Jesus’s words to set them free. After graduating in 1967, she moved to Hamilton, Ontario, to teach elementary school near the impoverished waterfront. This was followed by three years of teaching missionary children in Hualien, Taiwan, and two years’ teaching English at a teacher’s college in Sichuan, China.
In China, where she had to be very respectful about sharing her faith, students asked about her guiding principle in life. Madeleine’s response was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbour as yourself,” prompting a “Yes” from a student. Madeleine wrote, “Such meeting of the spirit of God in each other always takes my breath away.”
After leaving China, she moved to an inner-city neighbourhood in Winnipeg and became part of Adventure Crossroads for some fifteen years. There, in her words, “a group of us, with the blessing of five Mennonite churches, worked with the community and developed an alternative school, a family centre for parents and preschoolers, summer family camps,” and more. In 1994–95 she studied Spanish in order to accompany Mayan families on their perilous journey out of Mexico and back to Guatemala.
Youthful Madeleine had shyly shunned boys, especially after getting glasses at age thirteen so she could finally see the chalkboard without sitting in the front row. In 1999, she surprised and thrilled everyone by marrying the dapper Carl Epp. She was an instant hit in his wonderful family. She had always been a beloved aunt who prayed for her nieces and nephews one by one—and not only to ward off insomnia or battle a migraine. Now she really spread her wings, taking on the role of grandmother as well. She joined Carl at Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship, where working with sponsored families from Congo, Iraq, and Myanmar was a highlight for her. She and Carl travelled to China, Taiwan, Poland, Indonesia, Alaska and Yukon, and coast to coast in Canada. Their home on Roslyn Crescent was a favourite re-energizing spot for family and friends.
So when did Madeleine find time to write? Even though a rare 1953 Arnaud school yearbook describes her as “our mathematician,” reading and writing were always her true passion. The launch of her book, Wild Roses and Rhubarb, in 2015 was a resounding success. She treasured her time with writing groups and wrote the most beautiful birthday cards. And then there were her camping buddies. The stories those mountain trails could tell!
In 2020, with failing health, Carl moved into Pembina Place Mennonite Care Home nearby. Visits to Carl were now incorporated into Madeleine’s regular walks; she continued to garden, write, and set people free of their burdens. In December 2022 she moved into Fred Douglas Place and quickly made a new, beautiful home there.
On May 2, 2023, Madeleine was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, and “the mist between eternity and Central Time [became] hazy and thin,” as Carl had once written. She passed away peacefully on July 14.
Madeleine was predeceased by her husband, Carl Epp, and is survived by Carl’s children Maureen (David), Kevin (Melanie), David (Anita), and Weldon (Kristi), eleven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Also survived by her siblings Eleanor, John (Ruth), Leonard (Susan), Helmut (Janet), Lottie (Rudy), and their families. We all, along with her many precious friends, are profoundly saddened by Madeleine’s untimely passing.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday, July 22, at Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship, 150 Bayridge Avenue, Winnipeg. The service can be viewed via Zoom through this link: Click here.
Donations in Madeleine’s memory can be made to the MTS Indigenous Student Bursary at the University of Winnipeg.
Madeleine’s family kindly requests that all of her friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour her memory by sharing photos, memories, and stories, using the comment section on this page.
Memories, Stories and Condolences
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