Wall, David (1927-2019)

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David Wall, 1960. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Klaassen.

David Wall: businessman; born 15 December 1927 on a farm near Graysville, Manitoba to Frank and Katharine (Schellenberg) Wall. David was the youngest of three children, brother Jack and sister Agnes. In 1950 he married Lillian Schmidt. They had one daughter; Sharon. After Lillian’s death he married Helen Durksen in 1965. They had a son; Richard. David died 2 November, 2019 in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

In October of 1925 Frank and Katharine Wall departed the Mennonite Colony of Molotschna, and sailed with the SS Montnairn to Quebec City, Canada. The family settled on a farm near Graysville. In April of 1936 the family moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario where they were active with the Niagara United Mennonite Church. Two years later father Frank died of a brain tumor. With insurance money Katharine was able to purchase a five acre fruit farm. With bother Jack dealing with asthma much of the farm work was left to David.

David was able to attend Rosthern Junior College, in Saskatchewan. In 1950 he was baptized at Niagara United Mennonite Church, and later that year he married Lillian. With commitment to Christ and each other, David and Lillian considered becoming missionaries to South Africa. A doctor recommended not going overseas as Lillian had a heart valve issue. Instead they committed themselves to financially support other mission workers.

In 1953 David Wall and Elmer Penner began a partnership of “Penner and Wall Electric,” doing electrical contracting in the Niagara Region. In 1956 David sold his half share of the electrical business, and used the funds in May 1957 to establish a “Home Appliance Store” in Virgil, Ontario. Around this time they joined the English speaking congregation in St. Catharines, Grace Mennonite Church, where David taught Sunday School and was a leader with the youth group.

With Lillian’s heart issues, in 1961 David took up the role of Director of the local Heart and Stroke Foundation. For a number of years he and volunteers had top distinction of community donations on a per capita basis. In 1964 Lillian died during a heart surgery. A year later David married Helen Durksen, a teacher at Virgil Public School, and who was Sharon’s Grade 1 teacher.

Hearing the role of Silver Lake Mennonite Camp in faith testimonies of youth David became a fundraiser in support of the camp. Originally to raise funds for a cabin, David organized his hunting friends to host a “Silver Lake Smorgasbord Dinner.” Along with traditional Mennonite foods the group also prepared dishes of wild game, ingredients of which were donated by various volunteers. Over the years dinners were rotated between Niagara Mennonite Churches. The final Smorg was held in 2011, and had raised more than $320,000 in support of Silver Lake.

As the appliance business evolved David transitioned to furniture, and in May 1967 officially opened “Wall’s Furniture Store in Virgil.” Whenever possible David stocked Canadian made quality products. He noticed that most items were designed by men, but did not physically fit women. So, when he could he purchased items specifically for women. As an independent store David paid attention to the seasonal operations of manufacturers. He learned when warehouses were overstocked, or clearing out seasonal products, and was able to purchase stock at significantly reduced prices. During the Niagara fruit season his delivery trucks always took cases of fresh fruit to share with warehouse workers or customers. After serving the community and Greater Toronto Area for 60 years, Wall’s of Virgil closed in 2017. David said, “As an independent the store just could not compete with the big box outlets.”

In the 1960’s a group of business people formed the Virgil Business Association (VBA). In addition to serving as president for many years David gave leadership to two major projects. The Virgil Stampede (1966) has become an annual May long weekend community event, the proceeds of which have supported many community projects. The second major undertaking was the fundraising to build the Virgil Centennial Arena (1967). David received a telegram from Prime Minister, Lester Person, congratulating the VBA for the largest per capita centennial project in Canada. The Niagara Township Chamber of Commerce named David “Citizen of the Year (1967).” Later, son Richard was a key leader in the fundraising for the community’s second arena (2002). Months prior to his death in 2019 David Wall was inducted to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sports Wall of Fame for his behind the scenes efforts of organization and fundraising.

Bibliography

Klaassen, Randy. Wall’s of Virgil: Dave Wall’s Story. Niagara-on-the-Lake: People’s History Publications, 2018.


Author(s) Randy Klaassen
Date Published December 2023

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MLA style

Klaassen, Randy. "Wall, David (1927-2019)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2023. Web. 23 Jun 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wall,_David_(1927-2019)&oldid=178166.

APA style

Klaassen, Randy. (December 2023). Wall, David (1927-2019). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 June 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wall,_David_(1927-2019)&oldid=178166.




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