School years began for Abram at the age of seven in Gnadenheim. He attended elementary school for six years and high school for one year. Since he would have had to attend high school in the city, which was under communist control, his mother sent him to Slavgorod in 1922 to learn the trade of making and repairing shoes.
The years in Siberia were difficult. Abram’s father died in 1921 of typhoid fever. Had it not been for the food and clothing that they received from the Canadian and U.S. Mennonites, it is doubtful that they would have survived. Many people died of starvation and illness during that time.
In October 1926, Abram moved to Canada with his mother and siblings, settling in Osborne, Manitoba. He was baptized on 24 July 1929 by Jakob Penner in the LaSalle Mennonite Brethren (MB) Church. In November 1930 Abram moved to North Kildonan in Winnipeg. Abram met and married Katharina at the North End MB Church in Winnipeg.
In Canada, Abram went to work for people of the Holdeman faith to help earn money for the whole family to purchase a farm. This meant all of his earnings were given to the family. For a young man this was a great sacrifice, but he did it cheerfully. When the farm was purchased, Abram’s name was on the ownership papers as a partner.
Abram worked at various jobs, at times operating a shoe repair shop in Winnipeg. During World War II he was sentenced to one year in prison for refusing to serve in the armed forces because he was a conscientious objector. In the end he only served for five months. From 1944 to 1946 Abram and Katie ministered to the Indians at Poplar River in northern Manitoba.
In May 1949 the family moved to British Columbia, settling in Clearbrook. For eight years they owned a shoe store after which Abram was a building contractor for three years.
In 1956 Abram was one of several men appointed to a committee by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches to conduct a feasibility study for the purposes of developing a personal care home. Although sufficient funding was not in place for the conference to act on the committee’s recommendation to build such a home, Abram and others formed the Tabor Home Society in 1959. When the home opened in 1961, Abram was appointed to be the first executive director, or "house father." Abram served in this capacity for 14 and a half years from 14 March 1961 to 30 September 1975, assisted by Katie. He also served fifteen years as an ordained minister.
In retirement, Abram had two vocations. One, which helped keep him in good physical condition, was reflexology. His other avocation was oil painting.
Abram was a man of much enthusiasm with a huge heart; someone who could speak to friends and strangers alike. He left a legacy of love and good will among his immediate and extended family as well as a warm smile in the hearts of all who remember him.
Friesen, Abram J. God’s Hand Upon My Life. 1986. Clearbrook, BC: A. J. Friesen, 1986.
Friesen, Gerry. The Friesens: Past and Present. Santa Barbara, CA: n. p., 1979.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.06 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2011: #683115.
|Date Published||July 2011|
Cite This Article
Falk, Betty. "Friesen, Abram J. (1907-2001)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2011. Web. 24 May 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Friesen,_Abram_J._(1907-2001)&oldid=94741.
Falk, Betty. (July 2011). Friesen, Abram J. (1907-2001). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Friesen,_Abram_J._(1907-2001)&oldid=94741.
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