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Johannes "John" Wittenberg: high school teacher and dedicated community activist; born to Jacob N. Wittenberg (3 September 1878, Altonau, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia - 21 June 1956, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada) and Katharina (Wiens) Wittenberg (23 August 1891, Sparrau, Molotschna, South Russia – 14 July 1979, Abbotsford, British Columbia) in the Mennonite village of Altonau, Molotchna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, on 15 August 1924. A younger sister, Frieda, predeceased him in 1932. John married Helen Schellenberg (17 August 1928, Blumenhof, Saskatchewan, Canada – 11 April 2015, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), daughter of Peter J. Schellenberg (1886-1966) and Agatha (Dueck) Schellenberg (1889-1967), in the South Abbotsford Mennonite Brethren Church on 22 August 1953. John and Helen were blessed with three children: Ruth, David, and Judy. John died in Abbotsford on 22 July 2019.

John and his parents immigrated to Canada in 1926 and arrived in New Hamburg, Ontario. From there they settled in Chortitz, Manitoba before relocating to Griswold, Manitoba in 1929 and Steinbach, Manitoba in 1938. John was baptized in 1943 in Steinbach.

John studied at the Mennonite Brethren Bible College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary and Waterloo College of Arts (now Wilfrid Laurier University), Waterloo, Ontario, where he earned a BA in 1953.

John enjoyed a very successful teaching career, beginning at Eden Christian College in Ontario. For 30 years (1955-1984) John taught literature at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School, where he also shared his good humor and musical talent by singing in a staff quartet called the Chalk Spots. His students remember him as a passionate, engaging teacher. From 1965 to 1967, working for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), he taught at a high school in Tabora, Tanzania, from where he regularly provided columns for the ASM News in Abbotsford, BC.

John generously served his community in a variety of volunteer positions. For 18 years he conducted the Central Heights church choir, and served for many years as a volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee BC. He served on boards of the Valley Concert Society (and rarely missed a local concert.) His interests and talents extended beyond his own community. Variously, he served as a director on the BC Buildings Corporation Board, the Pacific National Exhibition Board, and the provincial Unemployment Appeals Commission. In his home church, Bakerview Mennonite Brethren (MB), he was very active in sponsoring several refugee families, assisting them to become established in Canada.

John was also committed to the MSA Manor and Maplewood House, two seniors residences in Abbotsford, since the days they opened. As a key volunteer, he acquired the Maplewood House property, planned for building the care home, and tended the vegetables in the garden. He regularly attended the annual general meetings of these societies. And when illness made it impossible for him to live independently, he insisted on living the last stretch of his life at Maplewood House.

John was a member of the Central Heights (Mennonite Brethren) Church and the Bakerview MB Church, both in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

For all his accomplishments and seemingly endless energy, John was a modest man. When the City of Abbotsford nominated him for a prestigious local service award, he respectfully declined the honor. Nevertheless, his commitment to the community in which he loved and lived, resulted in him being named as one of the one hundred most influential citizens in this city.


GRANDMA = GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 19-07 ed. Fresno, CA: " California Mennonite Historical Society, 2019: #1027722.

Mannis, Heidi. Personal e-mail (22 May 2019).

Wittenberg, Ruth. Personal e-mail (22 May 2019).

Author(s) David Giesbrecht
Date Published September 2019

Cite This Article

MLA style

Giesbrecht, David. "Wittenberg, John (1924-2018)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2019. Web. 21 Oct 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wittenberg,_John_(1924-2018)&oldid=164593.

APA style

Giesbrecht, David. (September 2019). Wittenberg, John (1924-2018). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 October 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wittenberg,_John_(1924-2018)&oldid=164593.

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