Wendlin Gabriel Gerk had a simple and peaceful life. Dad was a good man who could be described as both quiet and humble. He wa a good son, a loving husband, a gentle farmer, and a good neighbour. He was a friend who always tried to make everyone smile or laugh.
The scene for Wendlin's life was set when his grandfather Joseph Schenfeld took his family and left their small village called Marienfeld in the German Province of Russia to come to Canada. In the fall of 1934, they arrived in the Peace Country.
Wendlin Gabriel Gerk was then born May 15, 1935. He was a birthday present to his older sister Anne, who celebrated her twelfth birthday on that same day. he was the tenth child of 15.
My aunt Anne told the story about having to babysit her younger siblings while their parents were working on a piece of land away from the farm. On one particular day, Anne had worked for a neighbour and had given Wendlin a couple pennies of her pay. Her attention was split that day, as she was busy with so many children. When she went to check on Wendlin, he was gone. He had taken a very pregnant horse to Brownvale bareback and went to the store to buy some candy. Four year old Wendlin was helped back on his horse and sent home. Anne found him and scolded him. He replied,"You go your way and I'll go mine."
The horse gave birth that night.
Growing up, there was always a gifted penny for the piggy bank for us too.
As a child of an immigrant family on a prairie farm, working at a young age was a necessity. No one had much, but they had horses. For Wendlin the horses just seemed to do what he wanted. As a child, his favourite pastimes were horses and playing cards. Later he learned how to have fun, and earn money, with both.
Wendlin Gerk also known as Windy was a real-life cowboy. He was well respected and admired for his skills, work ethic, endurance, courage and achievements. Perhaps one of his most impressive feats was his ability to race while Roman riding, and win every time. For those who don't know Roman riding is a type of trick riding where the rider stands on top of two horses bareback with one foot on each horse. If this wasn't already an impressive skill, Wendlin challenged himself by Roman riding while racing around the track.
He was also well known at the Lac Cardinal Sports Days. This was a two-day event with a rodeo and a fast ball tournament to watch. One of the rodeo events was called the relay race. This race required teams of two people and three horses. One teammate would hold the horses. A saddle was placed on the ground and the second member of the team, the riders would saddle one horse race it around the tack and then get off, unsaddle the horse, saddle the next horse and race it around the track. Wendlin was known to win this race many times racing around to the finish line with the saddle in hand and riding bareback.
Uncle Joe recently shared with me a story about Wendlin coming out of retirement to run a race and help Uncle Joe get his own start.
"In 1962, he came back from retirement to Bear Lake Sports Day to compete in the relay race. he won the race, passed the winnings and saddle to me to carry on the legacy. Your dad was a real cowboy in his younger days but didn't talk about it much. I had looked up to your dad and I was glad to carry on the legacy. God bless and Rest In Peace Wendlin." Joe Halerewich
Last year, Wendlin and Anne celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary. They were married in the little Catholic Church in Berwyn and honeymooned at the Grimshaw Hotel. It all started with a movie date, a polka dotted pant suit, and a red cowboy shirt.
They led a simple life together both enjoying the day-to-day life of raising four daughters and life on the farm. Five women, one man and one bathroom. We all survived. Their home, yard, garden, equipment and fields were well organized, tidy, and maintained. Every year when dad finished seeding the crops, he would come home and make the sign of the cross. He always worked hard and got his work done. Then he made time to help neighbours and family finish their harvest or help on another project. He spent many winters working in the oil patch creating a strong stable foundation for his farm and family. Wendlin also enjoyed hunting, fishing and trapping. Mom and dad made sausage and canned fish too.
Dad created a life that I'm sure my great-grandfather dreamed of for us. We had a simple, safe, productive, loving, prosperous life. We were secure and content, there was always a beautiful meal prepared by mom, a clean house, our hair was done, our clothes pressed, a lot of structure and stability and we ate with dad every meal whether at home or out in the field. On weekends, he would make pancakes for breakfast topping them off with a runny fried egg on top.
Mom welcomed us home after school with a snack or hot chocolate waiting at the table. It was something to look forward to. On the rare occasion that we didn't have any parents home after school-we searched for the note that said they would be right back. On Sundays, we always got ready and went to church followed by a visit to our grandparents. Sunday nights meant supper and watching The Wonderful World of Disney, Tommy Hunter and Bonanza. Sometimes relatives would come down to watch TV with us as we were lucky enough to have a coloured television. Even though dad farmed, on his time off the family would often go for drives down to the hills. We all are a part of those prairie hills. He loved that land and we all cherish it too. Sometimes we would see a moose or a mother bear and her cubs or pick Saskatoons. Those times are now precious memories.
Each time we arrived home from church, or picking berries, or simply going to town, or visiting relatives, when we arrived at our farm gate- the one that says W Gerk - he would say, "Gone =agains home - agains." That was his thing and we would all join in.
Together Wendlin and Anne, were devoted grandparents. Gramma and Grandpa or pa, as the grandkids knew the, loved to pick berries, garden, camp, go to the rodeo, and watch the races. They always had time for the grandchildren. Grandpa would give rides in the basket of the quad, being careful to secure the child in with a tarp strap. He was also the best person to put any kids down for a nap too. I'm sure every grandchild here remembers being put down for a nap with grandpa. Some even believed that the spare room was grandpa's room. As the grandchildren grew, both Wendlin and Anne, enjoyed watching them in sports, especially hockey.
In the golden years, dad still enjoyed the farm, going for drives and spotting wildlife and just being home. He remained content just living his simple prairie life and enjoying the great grandchildren.
Growing older is a joy in life. Yes, aging has its challenges, but Wendlin remained strong and active. As he aged, he seemed to grow younger in spirit. Wendlin had a silly sense of humour. He enjoyed all the small moments and really connected to his great grandchildren. His face lit up at the sight of any of them, even over FaceTime.
In the end he was ready to go home. May God bless and welcome you; your departed family greet you and may you enjoy your freedom in paradise. You're home now. "Gone again, Home again. We love you.