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He leaves his loving wife, Lydia; daughter Rhonda (Dean Richert); son Tom (Anita Krause); and grandchildren, Joe Warkentin (Joanne Rodriguez), Karl Warkentin and Leo Wiebe.
The fifth of ten children, Menno was born in Bannerman, Manitoba in 1932. His German-speaking Mennonite parents, David and Margaret (Ens) Wiebe had recently immigrated from the Soviet Union. The Wiebe family moved several times during the depression-era 1930s in rural southern Manitoba. In 1945, they settled in Mount Lehman in British Columbia's Fraser Valley.
During his 20s, Menno's volunteer stints in tornado-torn Oklahoma and at a horticultural experimental station in Paraguay satisfied an impulse to serve and showed a healthy streak for adventure.
In 1958, shortly after enrolling at the Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, he met the talented young pianist and singer Lydia Boese. They began a courtship and were married in 1959. Their daughter Rhonda was born the following year. A son, Thomas, was born six years later.
Following studies at CMBC, Bethel College, and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, Menno accepted a leadership position with Mennonite Pioneer Mission, later called Native Ministries, with the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.
It was in his work with Indigenous peoples where Menno found his life's ministry. Through his role at Native Ministries, Menno built relationships with many Indigenous communities across Canada. Then, from 1974 to 1997 he served as Director of Native Concerns with Mennonite Central Committee Canada, and it was in this capacity that he testified before the Lubicon Settlement Commission, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Northern Flood Agreement, the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, the Leon Mitchell Inquiry re Treaty Land Entitlements, the Royal Commission on Northern Environment, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Menno's passion for inter-cultural understandings extended to the academic world. He earned an M.A. degree in anthropology from the University of Manitoba in 1973, and instructed anthropology at the University of Manitoba, Canadian Mennonite Bible College, Providence College, the University of Zurich, and Canadian Mennonite University.
Outside of his work, Menno had many passions and gifts. He was a knowledgeable horticulturist, published poet, natural athlete, and harmonized effortlessly in any vocal quartet with his sweet tenor voice.
Following his retirement, Menno continued to garden at his hobby farm. He remained a valuable resource for those interested in issues regarding Indigenous peoples and their relationships with Mennonites. In 2009, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by St. John's College, University of Manitoba.
In his final years, Menno maintained a stoic grace in the face of numerous health setbacks. He benefited from the attentive love and devotion of Lydia, and from the rest of his family. The Wiebe family offers special thanks to Simkin Centre staff members, Lori Pawluk, Jo-Anne Hollander, and the head nurse of his wing, Corinna Heieie, and to Dr. Darrel Drachenberg, who performed a life-saving nephrectomy on Menno in 2016.
Menno Wiebe's life was a large, well-tended garden. In his love for family, in his kindness and generosity, and in his pursuit for justice and understanding, the many seeds Menno planted will continue to germinate.
A public celebration of Menno's life will take place once COVID-restrictions are lifted. Friends and relatives are encouraged to share in a photo-tribute, stories, and condolences for the family by visiting Menno's memorial page at IntegrityFuneralPlanning.com.
The family invites you to join them online for a short service at the link provided: https://youtu.be/UNuXTI4AeBg
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Mennonite Heritage Archives through Canadian Mennonite University at https://www.cmu.ca/give/t/mharchives or a charity of your choice.
Cremation & Funeral Planning
As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Jan 14, 2021
Condolences & Memories (9 entries)
Menno, was one of those exceptional persons, you once meet - you never forget!! He was a delight to sing with, whether in choir or quartet. He was always upbeat and full of genuine caring spirit! He was a most caring and loving person who went the second mile to make a difference; whether in Pax Service or working with different groups of people. He will be missed by so many people and will be remembered for his Christ like actions, as a role model! Your friends, Barb & Abe Suderman - Posted by: Barb & Abe Suderman (Special friend from the Late 1960' - sang in a quartet at CMBC) on: Jan 18, 2021
Our heartfelt condolences, Lydia, on the passage of Menno, a dear friend, student and colleague, and tenor with a most distinctive voice and passion for good music. I had the fortune of having Menno as an advanced student in Anthropology courses, a colleague, sharing invitations to teach in each other’s classes, and working together with him as a passionate “applied anthropologist”. Menno’s gentle but insightful sense of humour always arrived at the perfect moment, never distracting, and always contributing memorably to discussions and group resolutions. He had a deep knowledge of indigenous issues that sensitized so many students and colleagues, leaving its mark on the advance of truth and reconciliation. - Posted by: Raymond E. Wiest (professor, colleague, and friend) on: Jan 17, 2021
Dear Lydia, Our sincere condolences to you and your family. Over sixty years ago we met in the halls of CMBC. Menno had just returned from his sojourn of service in South America. Three years later we both graduated. His life of service to and for others continued. My respect for this soul-centred man continued to grow over the many years of our contrasting careers. We will always remember his truly beautiful lyric tenor voice, his wonderful sense of humour, his way with words anchored in his unshakable faith in Christ. Peace to you all. - Posted by: Henry Engbrecht (fellow student, friend) on: Jan 15, 2021
Menno & Lydia have been long time friends, colleagues & mentors of my family (Henry & Elna Neufeld) in their work with Mennonite Pioneer/Native Ministries. One special memory for me personally was the year that Menno & Lydia opened up their home & family to allow me to live with them and attend Grade 8 at their local elementary school in Winnipeg. The school at Pauingassi First Nation where my family lived for 15 years did not offer Grade 8 so my parents made arrangements for me to stay with Menno & Lydia. Due to the remote access challenges of living in Pauingassi, I was only able to go home for Christmas, Easter and summer. It was also a huge culture shock to transition from a one-room log schoolhouse to a large urban school. I am so thankful for families like Menno & Lydia's that were willing to support me in this adjustment. Just another example of white privilege as my parents had options to consider in terms of supporting my education - let us remember the many Indigenous families in the past and present that have no/limited options for supporting their kids to achieve education. We can each do our part to pass on the many messages that Menno gave us during his lifetime. - Posted by: Carol Dyck (Friend) on: Jan 15, 2021
I had the distinct privilege of being an assistant to Menno at MCC from 1981-86. He served as a wise mentor and role model to me. I learned so much from him, learnings which I use to this day and I often still quietly acknowledge to myself "I learned how to do that from Menno". He created opportunities for me to participate in conferences committees etc. which served to prepare me for future development as a professional. Menno encouraged me, as a single mom who never thought it possible, to go to back to university. Menno, you changed the course of my life. "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" (Newton). - Posted by: Nancy (Dorries) Bruyere (former co-worker) on: Jan 15, 2021
May peace, hope, courage, comfort and love permeate every facet of your mourning, celebrations, remembrances. I distinctly recall a personal conversation with Menno, wherein he spoke of his unswerving love of his family. The rest of his life speaks for itself. He had a quiet confidence, reminding me of the biblical confession, “In quietness and confidence shall be my strength.” - Posted by: Clare Neufeld (Friend) on: Jan 15, 2021
I first got to know Menno as the son of one of the Mennonite Pioneer/Native Ministries workers under Menno, Edwin Brandt. We established a closer relationship when I attended CMBC. He even arranged for me to go as a candidate to Seven Persons Mennonite Church in AB in my final year at CMBC. I did not get the pastoral job but it was a good trip and learning experience. Then, we together, both writing poetry at the time, fostered poetry among young Mennos in the late 60s and early 70s with a poetry newsletter that was in circulation for a time. He was a pioneer in Canadian Mennonite Indigenous Relations. - Posted by: Lorne Brandt, MD, FRCP (friend) on: Jan 14, 2021
God grant you His peace as you mourn Mennos loss. Yet celebrate a life well lived. He was a kind soul with a quirky sense of humour And left behind a great legacy with his work and valuable insights of indigenous peoples. My sincere condolences Roma Klassen Niessen Kelowna BC - Posted by: Roma Niessen (Cousin) on: Jan 14, 2021
All my Relations. May he rest in peace. - Posted by: Laura Steiman (Admirer) on: Jan 14, 2021
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