October 12, 1940 - November 23, 2019
On November 23, 2019, Abram (Abe) Thiessen, age 79, passed away peacefully at the Actionmarguerite personal care home in St. Boniface.
Abe was born in Stanley Municipality, south of Winkler, on Saturday, October 12, 1940 to Agatha Thiessen (nee Sawatzky) and Jacob Thiessen. Abe is survived by his loving wife, Bonnie Ellen Thiessen (nee Timbers), his children: Ruth Ellen (Kamal Pandya), Mark Thiessen (Carol, nee Enquist) and Karen Boily (Carole Boily), grandchildren: Blair Thiessen (Meaghan Wylie), Sarah Thiessen (Bobby/Rob Eames), Simon Boily and Julien Boily and one great-grandchild (Blake Wylie). He is also survived by two brothers and two sisters, and numerous nieces and nephews. He was pre-deceased by three sisters and a brother who died in infancy.
Abe was strong and energetic; he grew up working on the family farm south of Winkler and, from the age of nine, he worked full-time hoeing sugar beets and harvesting other crops every summer. Fortunately, he was also gifted intellectually and his teacher, Frank F. Enns, encouraged his family to honour this gift and allow him to complete high school. Abe followed his teacher’s example; he attended MCI in Gretna, MB, and then Normal School with financial support from the manager of the Winkler Credit Union, Henry F. Wiebe. After completing these studies, he taught at the Mason School, south of Morden for a year and then moved to the city where he spent the remainder of his career teaching at all levels in the Winnipeg School Division. At the same time, he continued to study part-time at the University of Manitoba and earned several degrees, with post-graduate studies in History. However, he never lost his love for the land, and, for many summers after he had completed his formal studies, he worked as a hail insurance adjuster.
His love of learning and hard work left an indelible stamp on many of those he taught. He had a genuine interest in students’ well-being and cared deeply for every one of them – those who were gifted and those who faced challenges alike. He connected with his students through countless hours of after school activities: running, skiing, bike repair and computer clubs, plus the traditional coaching of team sports as well as more focused one-on-one interactions. He had an intrinsic need to see people succeed and reach their potential.
Abe was a committed and loving husband to Bonnie for 57 years and had three children that he loved unconditionally. He encouraged both his wife and his children to be all they could be and viewed their successes and achievements as goals attained for the team. He put everything into insuring that each member of the family would succeed and live in a better world.
But, suddenly, in his early 50’s, Abe found that he had to stop teaching. At first, this was a puzzle but, gradually, we began to see his struggles. Still, for some time, we did not recognize his symptoms as dementia. How could this happen to such a mental giant? Well, it can, and it did! Eventually, he was assessed and diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease, a truly devastating disease. Undeterred, Abe capitalized on his physical prowess and, after moving to Vancouver Island, he took up hiking. He loved the woods and was known for removing a wide-spread invasive species by ”broom bashing” along the trails. He and Bonnie were Park Wardens at Neck Point Park and Abe, together with help from their hiking group, virtually rid the area of invasive broom and daphne laurel. The fruits of those efforts are still evident today. All told, he struggled with ongoing deterioration for 26 years. In spite of this, he left an incredible legacy by always making the very best of difficult circumstances. Abe will always be remembered for his zest for life and the quarterbacking all things positive. Who he was will truly be missed!
The family would like to thank the staff at Actionmarguerite (St Boniface), on 5AB, for their dedicated and comforting care throughout Abe’s last few years.
A celebration of Abe's life will be held at 1:00 p,m.. Friday, December 13, 2019 in the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg, 603 Wellington Cres., Winnipeg, MB.
In lieu flowers, donations may be made to the Rossbrook House Foundation, the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, or a charity of your choice.
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