Born: Jan 25, 1922 – Hague, Saskatchewan
Died: June 5, 2011 – Burns Lake, British Columbia
Cornelius Goertzen was born to David and Suzanna Goertzen (nee Berg) on January 25, 1922 in Hague Saskatchewan. Cornelius, Corney as he was known to his friends, was the ninth child born in this family of 11 children. Five brothers, David, Peter, Abe, John, and Jake along with five sisters Helen, Susana, who died as an infant, the next daughter born also named Susana, Mary and Sarah made up this hard working prairie family. The Goertzen family moved often in search of a livelihood to support the family. Often with little or no resources the search continued. I recall dad telling stories of how he and two of his brothers lived together after their parents passed away. Their surviving spirit drove them ahead always in search for new opportunities. On August 1, 1945 Corney was baptized upon the confession of his faith and joined the Mennonite Church in Swan Plain Saskatchewan. The Reverend Jacob Nickel was the officiating. The self giving character of Corney demonstrated itself in 1951 when he fell in love with Mary Fehr (nee Derksen) who had been widowed the year before. He took on the care of her two children, Doreen nearly three years old and Darlene only one and a half years old. After the wedding which was held on June 24, 1951 in Carrot River Saskatchewan life began with a new chapter. A year later Jim was born and the family began to take shape. However just having enough to eat was the daily challenge. The search to find support for this new family pushed them to try Alberta and British Columbia. This was somewhat better but the longing to be with family back in Saskatchewan drove them back to Carrot River. Perhaps it was so that Linda could also be born in the same town as all the other children. After Linda was added in 1956 the family again struck out for the west. The sugar beet fields in Tabor provided some work but it was seasonal so it was on to Princeton where a number of their siblings and even Mary’s parents joined them. Here Corney worked in the local sawmill and also learned how to be a logger. During their time in Princeton the family became involved in a local Pentecostal Church that was led by the young and enthusiastic paster named Reuben Schmunk. Last year this same man preached in our church in Kelowna and as he learned about Doreen he was soon asking about all the rest of the Derksen and Goertzen families. In 1959 Burns Lake was calling Corney so with his 1950 green Chevy Panel loaded with wife and four young children plus all their worldly possessions they were off looking for the Promised Land where word was that other Mennonites were making a good living. Jobs were plentiful for both Corney and Mary and soon they bought a home and began developing a place for the family. Many of us participated in or watched or sometimes were told about the experiences of Corney as he went about life chasing his many dreams. It may have been a fishing trip that ended up by someone forgetting to put the drain plug in and the boat filled with water. Or perhaps it was the time he had mom riding on the back of the pickup while Corney drove along a logging road ready to jump out to shoot at a moose. Whether he hit it or not was not the issue because tomorrow was another day of chasing the beast. Maybe it was the time Corney brought home a small herd of wild young beef. They promptly broke out and again the chase was on. Folks on foot, others on horseback and some in cars chased these poor animals around town and in the woods for a week or more before they meet their demise and ended up in the freezer. Perhaps it was his creative designing that we recall. If you were with him on one of his fishing or hunting expeditions you knew you would be stuck in some mud-hole sometime that day or night. If there was a tree nearby he could always tie a chain to the truck and tree and fall the tree to help pull the truck out of the mud. Now we all know Corney for being this quiet giant of a man but the passion that drove him was second to none. His commitment to family and their well being on every front was most important. Corney would often become emotional and with tears coming down his cheeks he would talk about how important it was that all his children, grand children and great grandchildren would be ready for the day when they would be taken from this world. As I was looking through many of the papers and Bibles I saw he had marked Matthew 24 and made some notation about verse 40 which reads, “40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” Life changed again in 2007 when Corney and Mary moved from Beatty Road to the Tweedsmuir House in town. The change was hard as health, especially for Mary, was failing. In October of 2008 Mary moved to the Pines causing yet another change and perhaps the most difficult of all the challenges that Corney had faced. However with a new cause in front of him Corney made it his responsibility to go to the Nursing Home to be with his beloved wife offering whatever care he could. We all stood by and watched this level of commitment that provided a model for us all. Corney loved to drive for it offered him and his free spirit a channel to that he would not be cooped up. Even though many of us thought he should give up his license Corney still drove up to the Pines on Saturday to see Mary. Then on Saturday evening June 4 while watching the Canucks beat Boston Corney suffered a stroke and was admitted to the Burns Lake Hospital. The stroke he suffered left him unconscious and he died at about 10:10 am on June 5, 2011. I was talking with Mom a day or so ago and I said to her, Dad has gone to be with Jesus and he won’t be coming here anymore. She opened her eyes wide and said “Yea I guess so.” Corney died on two of his great grandchildren’s birthdates.
Corney was pre-deceased by his parents, 4 brothers and 5 sisters and one grandson, Dean Cruch.
Corney leaves to mourn his wife Mary of 60 years. Four Children: Doreen (Jerry) Klassen, Darlene (Jerry) Sommerfeld, Jim (Marjorie) Goertzen, Linda (Jim) Cruch. Twelve Grandchildren, Twenty Four Great Grandchildren, many other relatives and a host of friends.