Anne Reimer (Anna Enns) passed away, reluctantly, on October 14 at the age of 94, in the care of Vita Hospital.
Born in Russia to Katerina and Wilhelm Enns, she grew up in Springstein, Manitoba with four siblings. After high school at MCI, Gretna, she began teaching, married, had 5 children, 6 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren and one great-great. Anne’s career took her to many Manitoba schools and she valued the students she met. Anne spent most of her retirement years in her family home in Stuartburn where she gardened, established an Ecologically Significant preserve, and kept up with all levels of politics. Anne stayed in touch with friends and family through a rich telephone life, and enjoyed good health until her last days. A family memorial was held on October 26 in Stuartburn.
We are here to commemorate the life of Anne Reimer, our mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and even great-great grandmother; cousin, aunt, in-law, friend, and to give her to the place she loved so much - Stuartburn.
The constant in Anne’s life was this place; she moved here in 1952 at the age of 27 with her husband John Reimer and returned four times over her lifetime. While in the hospital a few weeks ago, one of the doctors asked her where she lived and replied with absolute glee that she lived in paradise. We were quick to explain that she was not hallucinating; she just really liked her home. Stuartburn always was her solution to life’s challenges; throughout marital and financial difficulty, farming, job changes and family losses, it was her happy place no matter what happened.
She often spoke fondly of early memories; hearing the river running over the rapids while living at The Old Place, walks down the trail after a day of teaching, later establishing the land as an Ecologically Significant area. She always had a special connection to this place. We want to thank Jerome Reimer (son) and Carol Wall (Daughter-in-law) especially for enabling her to move back for the past seven years, as well as for providing the place for her final return. She loved her home and this property; she loved the trees, the river, the solitude, the animals, and we are grateful that she was able to fully enjoy all these things to her last days.
Anne’s Journey to paradise was a long one. She was born in 1925 in the small village of Samolychka, a part of the Mennonite colony Molochyna, Russia. When she was eight months old, her parents, Katerina and Wilhelm Enns emigrated to Canada. They lived with Katerina’s brother Hans and sister-in-law Kathe Reimer for the first three years, sharing a farm and a home in Meadows, Manitoba. Anne and her cousin Erna (who is here today) spent their first years together, joined by others as the families grew – it’s hard to imagine how those mothers shared their lives and their kitchens. Her family made the move to Springstein, Manitoba in 1928 to create their own farm and later her father’s ministry.
Anne’s schooling mattered to her a great deal. She would have been a perpetual student if she could. She loved learning, reading, discussing, arguing, even with her father. Her parents encouraged her to complete high school and she went away to MCI in Gretna. There she made lifelong friends like Helena Braun, and Hilda Lohrenze, staying in contact by letter and later by telephone. Like many high school grads in 1942, she started teaching immediately, completing her Normal School certificate over the summer, staying with her city cousins Selma and Marliese, Harry, John, Sig and Ernest Enns, (John and Sig are here today as well) under the supervision of Uncle John, who flicked the porch light when she and a young man stayed too long outside the gate talking.
Teaching was another constant for her. Although she optimistically quit many times to be a fulltime homemaker and mother, she always returned to teaching. She completed her Bachelor of Education degree in her forties, by correspondence. She spent every evening at the dining table marking school papers, and then studying her own courses as well. In summer session she attended U of M, staying with her mother and brother Conn for several years. As difficult as it must have been, we could see that she loved the courses – the textbooks, the authors, the ideas, the university.
She maintained a very professional image at work, keeping personal matters to herself. She always arrived at school an hour early so she could be prepared for the students. She enjoyed her school wardrobe and wore different pendants every day, which her students would comment on. By her own description, she was not a usual teacher, customizing teaching methods depending on the students she had, allowing students to learn at their own pace, psyching out the difficult students by letting them figure things out for themselves, assigning buddies for students that needed extra help.
While teaching in Winkler, she met her husband John Reimer. He was a Canadian Mennonite, not from her community and his rebellious ways appealed to her. John made an impression on her she could never forget. Several of the Reimer brothers came to introduce themselves to the new teacher; John stood out by walking on top of a row of desks to present her with a new pencil. As you can imagine this resonated with her romantic side. They had five children together, shared many moves, and career changes during the 25 years of their marriage. She remained faithful to him for the rest of her life.
Anne retired at the age of 65 and spent many years growing a large flower garden, taking up a keen interest in politics, and keeping up with what she called “her people”. Anne’s people were an inner circle of children and their families, her siblings and their families, the cousins she grew up with, and close friends she had made at school and work. For several years she lived at Bethel Place in Winnipeg so she could spend more time with her siblings, extended family, and friends. She returned to Stuartburn in 2012 after hip replacement surgery gave her a new lease on life.
We all knew her as the voice on the phone, the presence in our minds and in our hearts, the voice in our heads when dealing with life’s dilemmas. We knew her as a fiercely private and independent person who loved “her people” completely.
We knew her to have the most convincing arguments for some of the wildest ideas, romantic, and empathetic, yet she committed to the real life of working, paying bills and carrying on. She supported her family through any challenges, both emotionally and financially/ She considered herself a pioneer feminist which we see in her life’s achievements – one of the few young women In her community to graduate, one of the few women of her generation that had a life-long career, and a single parent. She also worked to keep our politicians honest through her letter campaigns, and encouraged us all to become involved in politics in our own way.
Today we are wearing red, a colour Anne associated with courage, to commemorate her strength. When we look at a photo of the toddler Anna and we can see already the determination of a person who will live on her own terms, the raised eyebrow which we knew well, inviting challenge and defying expectations. One of her favorite sayings when things went bad was a quote from Anne of Green Gables, “The Iron has entered my soul”. The iron may have entered her soul as an infant literally adrift on the ocean on the good ship Montcalm, with parents whose future was uncertain. She thrived on uncertainty; nothing was so energizing for her as one of life’s problems. She made her life’s choices through instinct and intuition, waiting for the signs, and acting on them. The emigrant spirit carried her through life’s challenges and we return her now to the water to continue her journey.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Anne Reimer, please visit our floral store.