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VICTOR MARTENS  Obituary pic


Born: Jan 04, 1920

Date of Passing: Jul 26, 2017

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VICTOR MARTENS On July 26, 2017 Victor Martens died, at Concordia Hospital, at the age of 97. Victor Martens was born on January 4, 1920, in the Mennonite Colony of the Molotchna, in what is now southern Ukraine. The Russian Revolution was well underway, and Canada had offered a "reise schuld" to the thousands of Mennonites fleeing its terrors. It was a good investment. Over much of the next century, Victor would reimburse the government many times over for the costs of the family's travel, and throughout his life, he remained acutely aware of, and grateful for the generosity that Canada had shown his family. The Martens initially settled in Saskatchewan before moving on to Winnipeg, where Victor attended school. They lived on the edge of poverty: his mother meeting ends as a seamstress and his father with odd jobs. Like many young people during the Great Depression, Victor had to spend his summers working on the hardscrabble farms of southern Manitoba. It was during these summers, working from the age of 10, where he developed his passion for the grain industry that would define his professional life. In 1938, Victor walked into the Grain Research Laboratory in Winnipeg looking for work. The man who took a chance on him, Dr. J. A. Anderson, would later recall in his biography: "[Victor] was good in the workshop, particularly at welding; he could lay a beautiful bead with any metal. He was also a skilled draughtsman. But it is futile to continue the list, he taught himself to do well everything he turned his hand to [...]. He was promoted steadily because he won every competition he entered and none of his colleagues ever objected." If the list were to be continued, it would include: contributing to the invention of the official electronic moisture metre to measure the reading of grains in Canada and the United States; conceiving the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI) and serving as its first Executive Director; drafting and helping to negotiate the passage of the Canadian Grain Act of 1971, and; attracting to Winnipeg in 1978 the 6th International Cereal and Bread Congress, the first time the gathering of 2000 grain scientists had been held in North America, and acting as Chairman for the event. Victor never attended university, which was a personal regret, but taught himself calculus to better work with cereal chemists. He would eventually publish 12 research papers and author a further 56 papers for internal use. In 1979, he was awarded Honorary Membership in the American Association of Cereal Chemists for "rendering unusual service to the science of cereals and related materials." Victor criss-crossed the country on Canadian government business; solving problems for local grain farmers and advising the Federal government on grain policies in Ottawa. His expertise allowed him to travel the world, making the case in more than 50 countries that Canadian grain could improve every meal, from pitas to pasta. He went to China twice, before Nixon - first in 1966 and again in 1970 - and spent months consulting in Iraq. But Winnipeg was always home, and Victor made an indelible mark on this city too. The unusually-shaped CIGI building on Main Street is his most visible contribution, with a design that allowed the top two floors to be larger than those below to accommodate a full grain mill, while maintaining the more limited space that had been allocated at street level. As influential as he was professionally, he had an even more profound impact at home. Victor married Anne Toews in 1942, and while they shared a commitment to their Mennonite faith and church, they were polar opposites in almost every other way. Where he was practical, serious, meticulous in planning and logic-led, she was an extroverted artist who lived in the moment. Three children followed, and later, nine grandchildren. Anne appealed in part because she was not like him; her difference complemented and challenged him positively for 62 years until her death in 2005 and he would always attribute much of his diplomatic success to her gregarious spirit. As father and grandfather, Victor inspired, provoked, and supported his children and grandchildren throughout his long life. He taught each of them to play chess at an early age, valuing the strategic vision it taught, and loved nothing more than to have his family around the table for debates on the most controversial topics: politics, religion, science, feminism. This was natural for him because his was a curious and enquiring mind. His vast and varied life experience notwithstanding, he was scientific in his approach, and always prepared to adjust a personal position if presented with compelling evidence or a sounder argument, whether offered by a seasoned expert or a wise child. Victor's personal discipline, verging on Spartan, was equally remarkable. Notoriously frugal, he avoided debt and was generally disapproving of excess, except in service to others. He gave considerably of his time and his money to his church and to the Mennonite Central Committee, and he was a founding member of Menno Simons College, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and the Canadian Mennonite University to promote peace and reconciliation, social justice, international development, and Christian discipleship in the world. Victor leaves to mourn his second wife, Elisabeth Bergmann, and his three children, by his first wife, Anne, and their spouses: Elaine (José) Pinto, Raymond (Eleanor) Martens and Victor (Jacquie) Martens; his grandchildren: Karen (Dale) Beasse, Jonathan (Ruzayda) Martens, Edmund (Marlise) Pinto, Kirsten (Stefan) Pinto-Gfroerer, Matthew (Melanie) Martens, Stephanie Martens, Daniel (Ashley) Martens, Kelsey (Dave) Martens, and Adam Martens; and 10 great-grandchildren. Service will be held on July 31, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. at McIvor Avenue Mennonite Brethren Church, 200 McIvor Avenue. Interment at Glen Eden Memorial Gardens. Viewing prior to the service. Those wishing to contribute to Victor's considerable legacy are encouraged to donate to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, telephone 1.800.665.0377 or

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Jul 29, 2017

Condolences & Memories (1 entries)

  • Sorry to hear of the passing of your father. I certainly remember meeting him many times when you lived on Bredin Drive..... that's many years ago indeed. I hope all is well with you and your family. I know your Dad is now in a better place with the Lord. - Posted by: John E. Kaye (Old friend of his son, Raymond) on: Aug 02, 2017

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