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Ursula Gerritzen

Ursula Maria Gerritzen (Brechmann)

Saturday, December 12th, 1931 - Saturday, November 28th, 2020
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Obituary

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Ursula Gerritzen (nee Brechmann) on Saturday, November 28, 2020 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. For all who knew her, Ursula was a bright light in this world. She was kind and gentle, and uncompromising in seeing the best in everyone, appreciative of the many people in her life; and she had a special place in her heart for every member of her family. She is survived by spouse Henry Gerritzen, children Klaus Brechmann (Susan), Michael (Sharon), Rita (Vern), Helen (Wes), grandchildren Adam Brechmann (Sue), Sara Brechmann and Christopher Gerritzen, and great grandchildren Ashton and Brooke Campbell.

Ursula was born in 1931 in Essen, Germany to Franz and Helene Brechmann. Her father worked at the Krupp Steel factory, building steam engines. Her parents always felt lucky to become homeowners in the leafy suburb of Lirichblick through a co-op home building system. When Ursula was five years old, her older (by two years) brother Heribert tragically died. A year later her brother Klemens arrived, and the family was four again. Those were happy times. But it wasn’t long before the war came. Essen was hit first by the air raids, as it was the location of many factories. As part of a re-location program, Ursula, along with many other children, was sent to private homes, first in Thuringen in eastern Germany, then on to (then) Czechoslovakia. She always said she had it very good there. When the war ended in May 1945, at the age of 14, Ursula, with her family who retrieved her, returned home to Germany by foot.

Following the war, Ursula worked in a kindergarten and as a nanny. She also worked in a plastics factory that made Bakelite telephones. Ursula and Henry first met through a church sponsored dating service in 1955, beginning their romance through letters and photographs. Henry was in Brandon (having previously immigrated to Canada in 1953) and Ursula in Lirichblick. She wrote 71 love letters; and Henry says every letter, done in her beautiful handwriting, began with "my dearest Henry", and ended "I’ll love you forever". Less than a year later, Ursula, together with Klaus, bravely emigrated to Canada in 1956 to marry Henry. She always loved to say she was a mail order bride. Together they made a wonderful life over the next 63 years. Ursula was a wonderful mother and was at the helm of a busy household. Their little home on Dennis Street in Brandon, bought for $4000 in 1957, was slowly renovated to accommodate the growing family. There are many memories of the family sitting around the yellow kitchen table, eating the delicious German meals Ursula made from its tiny kitchen. Ursula’s father, Franz would come from Germany in 1964 and stay for a year and half to assist in a major expansion of the house.

On many summer weekends, Ursula was chief family organizer of camping trips all across Manitoba; a favorite was fishing at Lake Audy in Riding Mountain National Park. She loved swimming and could go for great distances; there are memories of her swimming all the way across Lake Clementi, resting on the bank, and then swimming back. Ursula especially loved the breaded pickerel, caught fresh from the lake and cooked in the cast iron pan over the open campfire. Travelling to these destinations always involved the family in a chorus of German folk songs sung in the car. She was ahead of her time, traveling by bicycle long before it became common for adults. Ursula was an accomplished sewer and knitter, over the years making her children’s clothing and sweaters. Every family member proudly wears the beautiful socks she knit from colourful wool sent from Germany. In everyone’s kitchen are numerous knitted dish cloths. Her specialty was intricate crochet needlework, and she created beautiful wall hangings of a horse and Jan & Janita (Dutch boy and girl). Ursula’s creativity also extended to card making; every family member on every special occasion received her personalized, hand drawn cards. Finally, Ursula will always be remembered by family, friends and neighbours with whom she shared her famous Spritzgebäck cookies baked every Christmas and the lamb-shaped cakes at Easter.

In 1984, Ursula and Henry moved to “the farm”, an acreage at the outskirts of Brandon, developing the land, growing and harvesting their massive garden. Ursula loved gardening, even picking weeds that her husband Henry left behind. From their large orchard they made preserves and the most delicious apple jelly. Her perennial flower bed bursting with peonies, lilies, asters, daisies, irises and gladiolas was admired by all their friends. Everyone who came to their acreage said, “you’ve got paradise.” She loved being in her home. Numerous relatives from Germany would make their way to Brandon for visits over the years and enjoy the bucolic life Ursula and Henry built in Canada. Grandchildren and then great grandchildren loved to visit Oma at the farm.

Ursula worked for McKenzie Seeds in Brandon for 17 years where she made many good friends, retiring in 1992. Ursula traveled to Germany ten times to visit family over the years. Later, Ursula and Henry travelled to Cuba eight times, where they made life-long friends. She loved the water, participating in Aquacise while there. Each trip, Henry and Ursula would bring an extra suitcase of clothes to give away.

All her life, Ursula valued sharing and giving, especially to those less fortunate. A member of the Catholic Women’s League for 61 years, she volunteered for the Red Cross blood drives, and canvassed for the March of Dimes. One of her favorite charities was the War Amps of Canada. Yet Ursula was quick to also help out her friends close to home. A month before Michael was born, Ursula took in her good friend’s newborn boy for a year, while her friend was in the tuberculosis sanitorium in Ninette. Many a sympathetic look was garnered when Ursula took the two boys for a walk in the carriage, while heavily pregnant with Rita! Ursula was a feminist, often recognizing injustice and inequality for women.

Ursula and Henry made many trips to Alberta to see their girls. They would often extend the trips to Radium, where Ursula loved to sit in her favourite hot springs pool. They enjoyed visiting the German bakery and butcher shop in Invermere.

Ursula loved to sing and was especially fond of German folk songs and waltzes. Whether it was nursery rhymes, hymns, folk songs, or with the rhythm band at Fairview Home, Ursula and Henry would find themselves swept away by music and be dancing at the drop of a hat.

Ursula enjoyed participating in mischief, and the family was often rewarded with her contagious giggle. Henry was the favoured recipient of her great big bear hugs.

The family would like to thank Prairie Mountain Health home care, Fairview Home (first for its day program, then in-resident care) and cardiologist Dr. Turabian, cardiac surgeon Dr. Warrian, Dr. Egan, Dr. Heibesh, Dr. Kassier, Dr. Dhalla, Dr. Moller, and Dr. Deong; all who contributed to Ursula’s quality of life in the past few years. The family would like to acknowledge Mike and Sharon Gerritzen for their unfailing support.

When we can gather, the family will have a celebration of life on the farm.

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Ursula may be made to the War Amps, 1 Maybrook Drive, Scarborough, ON M1V 5K9, https://www.waramps.ca/ways-to-give/donate/ or the Brandon Regional Health Centre Foundation, 150 McTavish Avenue East, Brandon, MB R7A 2B3, http://www.brhcfoundation.ca/ways-to-give/.
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