Obituary of Sarah Durksen
Our dear sister, aunt, cousin and friend Sarah Durksen died peacefully in her sleep on July 31st, 2023. Sarah was born on March 25, 1922, in the village of Alexanderthal, in Russian Ukraine. Two of Sarah’s sisters died and were buried there. In 1926, when Sarah was three, their clan came across the ocean. She remembered rolling from one side to the other in the dining room with her brother as the sea tossed the ship about.
Once arriving in Canada, they settled in Arnaud Manitoba. In a country school, she was able to finish grade 8. Then she quit to help out with their large family.
She was always a quick thinker. At age 13, Sarah had to look after her baby sister, Clara, who was a preemie born at home in Arnaud, Manitoba. Sarah and her father out of necessity made a homemade incubator to keep the baby alive. This sister, Clara, just turned 88!
Once when Sarah’s father was cleaning gooseberries on the farm in Arnaud, he threw one in the air and caught it with his mouth, hoping to eat it. The gooseberry stuck in his throat and he began choking on it. Sarah’s brothers thought he was joking, but Sarah, with her quick thinking and her ‘love for nursing,’ saw the emergency for what it was. She banged him on the back and out popped the gooseberry—her father gave her the credit for saving his life.
Another time Sarah’s quick thinking came into good use was when her little brother, Jake, was playing by the pond on their clan’s homestead. He was on the little dock and, leaning over the edge too far, he fell in. By the time their older brother pulled him out, he had quit breathing. Sarah quickly grabbed him by his feet and threw him over her shoulder. As she ran to the house, all the water drained from his mouth, and he was able to breathe.
Around 1948, the family moved to St. Catharines. Sarah was able to go to Kingston to take the practical nurse’s training course. Finally, at age 28, she was able to reach the dream of her life—becoming a nurse. She then worked at St. Catharines General Hospital for 35 years as an RNA. Her “quick thinking” came to good use during her nursing career.
Sarah lived for many years at 23 Hewko Street with her father and sister Kae. After her father’s death and Kae’s marriage, Sarah lived alone there for a while. Eventually, she sold the house and moved to Tabor Apartments. She would often go over to the long- term care wing where she was everybody’s caregiver. Eventually, she moved to Tabor Manor Long Term Care. She often expressed thankfulness to the staff who were so kind and for the great food. “I have nothing to complain about.” She also commented that she was enjoying being a Lady of Leisure. She sure deserved it!
As the oldest sister in the family, she became the loving ‘matriarch’ to all of us—her siblings, nieces/nephews, great-nieces/nephews, and great-great nieces/nephews. Her “Air of Royalty”, her wonderful perfumed scent, and her coifed hair made her stand out in a crowd. Her love and faith in God carried her through hard times as they traveled from Russia to Canada, and as they struggled against the elements after their move to Arnaud.
Sarah accepted the Lord at an early age. She was baptized in Arnaud and fully participated in church life wherever she worshipped. She loved her church in St. Catharines, Grantham Mennonite Brethren. She was known to pray for the youth and was keenly interested in their activities. Her loving service to others was Sarah’s gift and her way of sharing her faith.
Sarah leaves the following to remember her love: sisters Helen Wall, Agnes Petkau, Mary Froese, Clara Schnupp, and Viola Eckert; sisters-in-law Lottie Durksen, Anne Durksen and Esther Durksen; brothers-in-law Clarence Nickel (Joyce) and Clair Schnupp; as well as a multitude of nieces/nephews, great nieces/nephews and great great nieces/nephews, along with many cousins and friends.
Gone on before were her two sisters who died in childhood in the Russian Ukraine before the family emigrated to Canada; her parents, David and Sarah (Pauls) Durksen; sister Kae; brothers David, John, Art, Fred, Jacob; sisters-in law Hedy and Aggie; brothers-in-law Dave Wall, Aron Froese, Henry Petkau, and John Eckert. Also gone on before was her sister Annie Goertz Dueck (who had joined the Durksen family in the Russian Ukraine before their move to Canada, and later married Peter Dueck.)
Visitation will be at Grantham Mennonite Brethren Church, 469 Grantham Avenue, St. Catharines, on Thursday August 3 at 10:00 a.m. The funeral service will follow at 11:00 a.m.
Here is the link for the live stream service: granthamchurch.ca/durksen
We loved her—and will miss her! She has been an inspiration to us all!