Doerksen, John G. (1914-1994)

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John G. Doerksen: teacher and musician; born 10 August 1914 in Brasel, Ukraine, to Gerhard and Sara Doerksen. He was the youngest of 11 children, nine of whom survived childhood. In 1924, the family, with the exception of one son, moved to Pigeon Lake, Manitoba, Canada. John married Helen Dyck on 23 September 1944 in Domain, Manitoba. The couple had four children, one of whom died in infancy. John died of cancer at the age of 79 on 13 May 1994 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and was buried in the LaSalle Cemetery near Winnipeg.

John spent his early year in Ukraine, where he began his education. In 1924, most of the family was able to leave for Canada, with the exception of one brother who was unable to immigrate for health reasons. The rest of the family settled in Pigeon Lake, Manitoba. After his parents’ deaths in 1930, John’s sisters helped him continue his education and eventually become certified as a teacher. Later, he helped them train as nurses. 

Over the years, John taught at many different schools, including Pigeon Lake, Osborne, the Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna, Manitoba, and the Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg. He was also the head of the Social Studies departments at the Churchill and St. John’s schools in Winnipeg. During the summers, he studied at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, USA, eventually earning his doctorate from there. He had a temporary break in his career when his teaching certificate was revoked because of his nonresistant status during the war years, but his qualifications were reinstated in 1947. After his alternative service in British Columbia was finished, he worked for some time at Monarch Machinery, later moving to Independent Credit Jewelers.

On 23 September 1944, John married Helen Dyck, a teacher from Domain, Manitoba. The couple moved into the third floor of a house in Winnipeg, and while John worked in the jewellery shop, Helen was employed as a substitute teacher. Later, they were able to buy a house and then finally to build their own home. John joined the Portage Avenue Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg in 1944, where he served as a Sunday school teacher, deacon, and member of the building committee. He also wrote a history of the church and became involved in youth work and music. 

Doerksen always loved music and was involved with choirs at the South End Mennonite Brethren Church and the Portage Avenue Mennonite Brethren Church, as well as choirs and instrumental ensembles at the schools where he taught and also musical evenings with his family.       

John was the founding principal of the Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School in Manitoba, Canada. From 1976 to 1979, he and Helen worked with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Germany, helping to resettle refugees. Later, they worked for a year and a half as MCC coordinators for Vietnamese refugees in Manitoba, and they also taught English in Japan with the Language Institute for Evangelism.

In their retirement years, John and Helen were able to travel extensively throughout North America, as well as South America, Africa, and various parts of Europe and the Soviet Union. At the age of 79, John developed cancer and died after a short illness. The funeral was on 16 May 1994 at the Portage Avenue Mennonite Brethren Church.               

John G. Doerksen was a dedicated teacher, church worker, and volunteer, setting an example for his family and friends to follow. Throughout his life, he found ways to enrich communities around the world and at home.


Doerksen, John George.  As I Remember. Winnipeg, MB:  Doerksen, 1995.

Mennonite Brethren Herald (30 September 1994): 27-28.

Mennonitische Rundschau (July 1994): 33.

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published November 2009

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Huebert, Susan. "Doerksen, John G. (1914-1994)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2009. Web. 16 Jan 2021.,_John_G._(1914-1994)&oldid=143066.

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Huebert, Susan. (November 2009). Doerksen, John G. (1914-1994). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 January 2021, from,_John_G._(1914-1994)&oldid=143066.

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