General News · 7th August 2020
John (Jack) Friesen
March 19, 1930 to June 19, 2020
John passed away peacefully at home, the place he so loved, with family close at his side. He was buried at Manson's Landing cemetery. Memories, songs, and prayers were shared by family and close friends. A poem written by John sharing his sentiments about "leaving family " to work in logging camps was read. (see poem "Leaving")
John was born in a refugee camp near Prenzlau Germany, his Mennonite family fleeing from Stalin's Russia. Eventually Yarrow, BC became the family's new home. Here he learnt from his Mother, Father, and 8 siblings his many skills for farming as well as his gifts of amazing patience, singing and quite worship. His favorite passion in his youth was for sure fishing steel-head on the Vedder river.
As a young man John and his brother Peter were responsible for gathering the firewood from the community woodlot on Vedder mt. and there they met an "old crooked leg Hermit " who taught him how to fall his first trees. (see poem "My Brother and Me")
On his 19th birthday he caught his first 19 lb steel-head. Later that day at the Cultus Lake roller rink he also caught Norma’s heart and soon they were married. They went on to raise six children, Lila, Patrica, Robert, Jacqueline, Katherine, and Sonya. Family was Dad's world. His focus to provide for us was endless. First logging in Prince George, Hope, Harrison lake, and many other area's in BC. While living in Chilliwack, with help from Norma and kids, John lived his dream of running a market garden, 5 acres in corn and 2 in other crops.
Later he moved us to the Comox Valley, hoping for logging work closer to home. That work didn't last long and again he had to leave, but when home for weekends he made time to take us to the river and ocean to swim, fish, dig clams, beach fires, drive us up the ski hill, summer camping trips and always bringing us together for Sunday Church.
John started his career hand logging and later moved on to chainsaws, working as a faller for over 50 yrs. He started in the era of piece work, paid per tree and later joined the IWA fighting for safer working conditions with an hourly wage. He continued on as a union member and organizer standing strong through many difficult long strikes fighting for workers rights to collective bargaining. In the later years of camp life John was also known to spend his evenings playing hymns on the harmonica and reading many books including his Bible. Working 25 yrs in the Sayward Valley, Kelsy Bay division of M&B. He retired at 65.
Dad was always excited to show us slide shows of falling the giant old trees, but at the same time he shared with us stories of the wildlife, peace and tranquility he felt within those forests and the need to protect more of them. He took us hiking into a few of the remaining old forest patches and without words spoken we understood. (see poem "Clear Cut John")
At one point mid 1970's he started collecting burls and chainsaw milling slabs from fine pieces of old growth red cedar and Cypress (yellow cedar) left behind in the clear cuts. If you could carry it out on your back, on your own time, it was okay with the company boss. He would haul it all home, dry it slowly, and make beautiful live edge furniture. Over 300 pieces were created, including cabinets, dining room tables, beds, dresser's, lamps, bowls etc. They were often gifts from Santa's workshop under the Christmas tree spreading out across the entire room, or loaded in his truck and driven half way across the country to give to family, with jars of his blackberry jam of course.
Dad loved spending time with his grandchildren, Jebediah, Sonya B, Wilfred, Jessica, Kyle, Mark, Chelsea, Silas, Nadeige, and Grady. He made them more pancakes and roll ups with fresh berries than any child could dream of. He taught them how to carefully pick his veggies, split and stack firewood, make skim boards. A field for horses, the rope swing, the old troll under the bridge, piled maple leaves to jump in, pumpkins to carve, turn rocks to hunt for little crabs and catch bullheads as he tried to nap resting on a log at the beach. Eventually he even got to meet his great grandchildren Halle, Xavier, River, Roman and Foster. (see poem "The Swing")
John and Norma moved to Cortes in 1996, where he continued to grow and preserve tons of food, provide a free veggie stand, pick even more blackberries, spend his winters building in his workshop, and fall trees for himself and neighbours. The last one he fell was at age 85, balancing himself like an old ballerina holding a chainsaw, he placed it right where he wanted. He was still a very healthy I'll do it myself kinda guy. Unfortunately he fell from his roof later that year which resulted in a high spinal cord injury. It was a difficult next 5 yrs but he was so pleased to get to stay at home with his life long sweetheart Norma.
John knew he had lived a grand life. He was ready to go, Beyond the Sunset, oh blissful morning, oh glad reunion, Beyond the Sunset forevermore.