Klassen, Jacob J. (1912-1979)

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Jake Klassen.
Source: Mennonite Historical Society of BC

Jacob J. "Jake" Klassen: administrator and churchman; born 29 October 1912 in Friedensruh, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, the second child in a family of five daughters and two sons born to Jacob J. Klassen (15 October 1887, Friedensruh, Molotschna, South Russia - 24 January 1967, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada) and Katharina (Hooge) Klassen (16 March 1889, Friedensruh, Molotschna, South Russia - 9 January 1979, Abbotsford, British Columbia). On 13 September 1941 he married Helen Toews (19 October 1922, Lugovsk, Neu Samara, Russia - 20 October 2014, Abbotsford, British Columbia) in Gretna, Manitoba and they had four daughters. Jake died on 31 October 1979 in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he was buried

In September 1926 Jake moved to Canada with his parents and siblings, settling near Watrous, Saskatchewan. He was baptized on 19 August 1934 at Philadelphia Mennonite Brethren Church, Watrous by Peter Janzen. As a young man Jake pursued his high school education by correspondence while grain farming in Watrous. He also attended Bible school for five years during this time--two years at Tabor Bible School in Dalmeny, Saskatchewan, two years at Bethany Bible Institute, and a final year at Winkler Bible Institute. Jake and Helen were married in Gretna, Manitoba on 13 September 1941. They returned to the Watrous area to farm before moving to Chilliwack, British Columbia in 1945.

While engaged in mixed farming in Chilliwack, Jake along with a number of other Mennonites became a founding member of the East Chilliwack Fruit Growers Cooperative Association (later East Chilliwack Agricultural Co-op) in 1947 and was its general manager from 1947 to 1957. Although the cooperative began as a raspberry packing plant and marketing agency, it expanded within a few years to include livestock and poultry feed manufacturing and distribution, and gradually became the major feed supplier in the Fraser Valley and a primary employer in Chilliwack.

In 1953, while still serving as general manager of the East Chilliwack Co-op, Jake Klassen became sales manager for the Abbotsford Growers Co-op, a position that he held until 1972. During this time the Abbotsford Growers Co-op became the largest processor of raspberries in Canada. In 1958 the Klassens moved to Abbotsford and in 1959 Jake was one of the founding members of the Tabor Home Society in Abbotsford, a Mennonite senior citizens facility and served as board chairman 1959-1966. The Tabor Home residence began with 39 units and grew to 120 intermediate care units. Jake was chairman of the Mennonite Educational Institute (1961-67) and a board member of the Clearbrook District Mennonite Savings Credit Union (later merged with East Chilliwack Credit Union to form First Heritage Savings Credit Union; now Envision Credit Union, Canada's fourth largest credit union as of 2001).

Frequent travel, often with Helen, became part of Jake's administrative activity. By nature Jake seemed to portray a rather conservative attitude, and his daughters sometimes chided him for being a "stoic." However, for Jake nothing surpassed a good round on the greens, golfing with his friends.

Jake Klassen's administrative vocation led to involvement beyond local business and community activities. In 1965 Jake and Helen were founding members of the Bakerview Mennonite Brethren Church in Abbotsford. In terms of the broader Mennonite Brethren conference, Jake served as chairman of the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches Board of Trustees (1971-79), as a member of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches Board of Trustees (1964-79), and as a member of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches Board of Trustees (1969-1979). His avid involvement in church and conference activities is best expressed by his statement that, "I loved it. Given the opportunity, I would do it again."


Abbotsford Growers Co-op 50th Anniversary, 1948-1998. Abbotsford, BC: Abbotsford Growers Co-op, 1998.

Goerzen, Walter, ed.  East Chilliwack Agricultural Co-op: 50 Years of Service. Chilliwack, BC: East Chilliwack Co-operative, 1997.

Penner, Helen. Interview by author. Abbotsford, BC (November 2001).

Ratzlaff, Eric L., compiler and editor. Tabor Home Society: 25 Years of Service Care. Abbotsford, BC: Tabor Home Society, 1987.

Author(s) Henry Dick
Date Published December 2001

Cite This Article

MLA style

Dick, Henry. "Klassen, Jacob J. (1912-1979)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2001. Web. 26 Mar 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Klassen,_Jacob_J._(1912-1979)&oldid=172771.

APA style

Dick, Henry. (December 2001). Klassen, Jacob J. (1912-1979). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 March 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Klassen,_Jacob_J._(1912-1979)&oldid=172771.

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