Bearinger, Jesse (1924-2007)

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Jessie (Milne) Bearinger: home maker and thrift shop pioneer, was born 4 December 1924 to George Milne 15 November 1885-9 January 1967) and Almeda (Bowman) Milne (27 May 1890-8 October 1966) on a farm in Wilmot Township, Waterloo County, Ontario, Canada. Jesse was one of six children. George was a Scottish immigrant; their wedding broke with Mennonite traditions, as they were the first couple to be married inside the local Mennonite meetinghouse. On 28 September 1946 she married Howard Franklin Bearinger (4 November 1922-12 November 2013). They had seven children: Karen, David, James, Judy, Susan, Larry and Kevin. Jessie died 22 December 2007. 

Jessie attended elementary school at School Section #9, Wilmot Township. At the age of 12 she boarded in the city of Kitchener while attending Kitchener Collegiate Institute. She came home to the family farm on weekends, but never lived at home again. Jessie was the only child in her family to graduate from high school, yet regretted missing out on the cooking lessons her sisters received from their mother. Her first employment was as a secretary at Dominion Truck in Kitchener, a manufacturer of trailers to transport air craft carriers during World War II. As a member of an historic peace church, this fact did not sit well with Jessie. Fortunately. J. C. Hallman, a local Mennonite businessman, then hired her. Her first pay was $7.00 a week.

Jessie Milne and Howard Bearinger first met at the Mennonite young people's literary society meetings in Waterloo. Their ensuing courtship led to their marriage at the Mannheim Mennonite Church. They lived on a farm, a short distance from the Mannheim Church.

Jessie enjoyed being a mother and a home maker. Many Sunday noons she served her family and guests a meal that never wavered from ham, scalloped potatoes and apple pie. She annually canned peas, peaches and rhubarb-exactly 52 jars of each. She made catsup, grew sweet corn, and had a strawberry business. She taught her granddaughters to knit, to make hand-made soap, and the benefits of a thrifty approach to living. Each Christmas she organized a family Christmas concert in which each family member played a part. Jessie's children took piano lessons and their mother's standards for scholastic achievements were high. Every Sunday morning the Bearinger children's shoes were lined up, cleaned and polished by their mother.

But Jessie's interests extended far beyond her home. Jessie pioneered in church roles traditionally filled by men. For example, she was the first woman treasurer at Mannheim Mennonite Church. She was the church librarian and wanted to motivate every child to read. In preparation for the church's summer Bible school, she would knock on doors in the community and made sure each child had a way of getting there. She became the church historian, and wrote a history of the Mannheim Church from its beginnings to 1975.

In May 1973 the Rockway Thrift Shop, in support of Rockway Mennonite School opened on King Street in Kitchener. Jessie Bearinger. as a member of the school's Women's Auxiliary, provided impetus and leadership for the store. This was one of the earliest Mennonite-related thrift shops. The first year's proceeds were $3773. During her 26 of volunteer work there, Jessie saw total receipts exceed $1,000,000.

Jessie Bearinger also did custodial work at the Mannheim School and served as the school's first Home and School president. She was an active member of the Wilmot Horticultural Society, and organized the Mannheim community garage sale every spring. Wilmot Township honored Jessie for her contributions to the community by presenting her with a Centennial Plaque.

Jessie experienced good health until the final year of her life. After her death in 2007 she was buried in the Mannheim Mennonite Church cemetery.

One of Jessie's long-time friend said of her: "She was an organized, remarkable woman who showed leadership, got an awful lot done, and said it like it was."


Martin, Karen Bearinger. Personal interview.

Mannheim Mennonite Church records at the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Waterloo, Ontario.

Author(s) Del Gingrich
Date Published October 2012

Cite This Article

MLA style

Gingrich, Del. "Bearinger, Jesse (1924-2007)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2012. Web. 26 Feb 2024.,_Jesse_(1924-2007)&oldid=127139.

APA style

Gingrich, Del. (October 2012). Bearinger, Jesse (1924-2007). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 February 2024, from,_Jesse_(1924-2007)&oldid=127139.

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