Klassen, Henry K. (1930-2016) and Margaret (Neumann) Klassen (1931-2020)

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Henry and Margaret (Neumann) Klassen

Henry K. Klassen: teacher, volunteer, and church worker; born 8 September 1930 in Dunrea, Manitoba to Cornelius H. Klassen (20 February 1892, Romanovka, Ignatyevo, Russia – 20 November 1964, Abbotsford, British Columbia) and Helena (Ratzlaff) Klassen (25 November 1892, Elisabeththal, Molotschna, Russia – 19 January 1989, Abbotsford, British Columbia), the ninth of twelve children.

Margaret (Neumann) Klassen: teacher, volunteer, and church worker; born 15 July 1931 in Bredenbury, Saskatchewan to Heinrich Dietrich Neumann (30 July 1885, Sparrau, Molotschna, Russia – 21 June 1955, Chilliwack, British Columbia) and Sara (Wiebe) Neumann (14 July 1890, Blumenfeld, Russia – 13 July 1958, Chilliwack, British Columbia); the fourteenth of sixteen children (her siblings include David, John, and Neil).

Henry and Margaret met at Normal School in Vancouver and were married 22 August 1954 in Greendale, British Columbia. They had five children: Kathleen, Karen, Cheryl, Lori and Jeanette. Henry died 15 July 2016 in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Margaret died 8 October 2020 in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

In 1936, Henry’s family moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia. Henry described the war years as perplexing and filled with anxiety, due to hostility shown toward Mennonites. Henry attended Mennonite Educational Institute (MEI), where he graduated, following which he attended Normal School, where he earned his teaching certificate.

Margaret was a one-year-old when her parents moved to Gem, Alberta, where she grew up. At age fourteen, she moved with the family to Greendale, British Columbia. After completing Grade 8 at age fifteen, Margaret attended Bible School for two year. In her second year, Margaret took a course in sewing, a craft that she would eventually teach to high school and adult night-school students. At age eighteen, Margaret moved to Vancouver and found a job at Woodward's department store. Acting on her brother’s encouragement, Margaret returned to high school where she completed Grades 12 and 13 in one year. Following that, Margaret enrolled in Normal School where she earned a teaching certificate.

Margaret and Henry began their first year of married life teaching in Vancouver. Two years later, Henry received a call from MEI, offering him a teaching position. The Klassens moved to Clearbrook (now Abbotsford), where they resided for the rest of their lives.

The next thirty years were probably their busiest. Margaret was raising five girls and teaching part-time at MEI. Henry and Margaret were charter members of Bakerview Mennonite Brethren Church where they held a variety of positions over a fifty-year span. This included teaching Sunday school, Pioneer Girls, and Boys’ Brigade. Margaret also served as speaker at numerous church functions. Henry led the Current Issues class, an adult option exploring the intersection of faith and culture. Always available to lend a helping hand, the Klassens generously participated in the sponsorship of two Serbian families during the early 1990s.

In addition to their own daughters, Margaret and Henry became foster parents to Linda Morgan, five years older than Kathy. Linda joined the family as a sixteen-year-old and remained until she was twenty-one. Years later, Linda described Margaret as "the kindest and most encouraging woman I had ever come across. A young gal in my situation really needed positive reinforcement and your mother seemed to know and understand that."

In 1975, Margaret left her teaching position at MEI and returned to work for her first-ever employer, Woodward’s. She spent the next decade working full-time as a retail salesperson.

In 1987, Henry took early retirement after thirty years of teaching and administration at MEI. Margaret and Henry were presented with a new challenge, teaching English in Chongqing, China, under the sponsorship of the Mennonite Brethren Conference and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for a two-year term. The assignment was cut short due to the student democracy demonstrations in Beijing. Margaret and Henry enjoyed their two years in China and considered them as “icing on the cake” of their teaching careers.

Upon their return to Abbotsford in 1989, they accepted an assignment to teach English as a Second Language at Bakerview MB Church, and for the next fifteen years, Henry also taught inmates for Corrections Canada. In addition, Henry applied his administrative gifts to providing many years of leadership for MCC BC’s annual promotional banquets and relief sales. Margaret assumed the position of manager of the MCC thrift store in Clearbrook. This was the beginning of many years of volunteer work with MCC at both MCC’s annual relief sale and the thrift store.

Margaret was an inspiring role model to many women in her life and successfully held a variety of jobs throughout her career, while taking care of her home and family. Margaret’s total trust in God caused her family to describe her as a "prayer warrior." On many occasions her grandchildren were heard to say, "Phone Grandma and ask her to pray. Jesus hears her prayers."

Henry will be fondly remembered as a life-long learner and teacher. He was a tireless volunteer, with a passionate love of sports and a legendary memory. Above all, he was deeply devoted to his family and his God.


Author(s) Dave Loewen
Date Published December 2020

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MLA style

Loewen, Dave. "Klassen, Henry K. (1930-2016) and Margaret (Neumann) Klassen (1931-2020)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2020. Web. 19 Jul 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Klassen,_Henry_K._(1930-2016)_and_Margaret_(Neumann)_Klassen_(1931-2020)&oldid=171183.

APA style

Loewen, Dave. (December 2020). Klassen, Henry K. (1930-2016) and Margaret (Neumann) Klassen (1931-2020). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 July 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Klassen,_Henry_K._(1930-2016)_and_Margaret_(Neumann)_Klassen_(1931-2020)&oldid=171183.

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