S: A Journey of Life: Through One Man's Eyes: A biography of Jacob Peters Kehler
BC: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
FC: A Journey of Life: Through One Man's Eyes Biography of Jacob Peters Kehler | Written By: Jenna Fehr & Katie Derksen 2012
1: FOREWORD We are pleased to introduce the reader of this biography, to our Grandpa, Jacob Peters Kehler. He is a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Grandpa has been a father for 55+ years, a grandpa for 35+ years, and has been a great-grandpa for 8+ years. We chose to do a biography on our Grandpa Kehler because we wanted to keep his memories fresh in our mind and in the minds of others. Grandpa Kehler has been around for 81 years and still has many more years to come. Ever since he was a young boy, his quick wit and good sense of humour has been enjoyed by all. He continues to tell his jokes to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
2: Jacob Peters Kehler was born on December 22, 1930 on the homestead, section 31-6-6, now known as Reinchenbach Road in Mitchell, Manitoba. He was the third of seven children born to Henry and Agatha Kehler. Grandpa's siblings include Tina, Neil, Henry, Betty, Peter (Jim) and Mary. Grandpa's parents Henry and Agatha were always very helpful. Henry was very funny, but serious at times. Grandpa shared many good laughs together with his dad. Grandpa's dad was the pastor of CMC Church for 30 years and helped build it in the earlier years. He was also the song leader at the Church.
3: Henry also worked at a Cheese Factory and as a carpenter when Grandpa was a young boy. Grandpa's dad worked very hard and was quite fast at his jobs. He would always challenge his kids to a race, giving them a couple seconds head start before zipping right past them. Grandpa's mom was very friendly towards other people and always took care of her family the very best she could. Their home | became a meeting place for friends and family because of Grandpa's hospitality. Grandpa's mom whistled whiled she worked, very loudly. In fact you could hear her whistling over a gas washing machine which was quite loud to begin with. She was always very cheerful. Grandpa Kehler's grandparents on his mom's side were Corneilius and Agatha Peters. Cornielius was born in Ukraine, Russia in the early 1800's. The family immigrated to Canada due to the war, when he was 7 years old. He grew up on the Mitchell homestead. Agatha was born in Manitoba. After marriage they settled down on their homestead on section 31-6-6, now known as Reichenbach Road.
4: Farming was their way of life, housing cattle and sheep. They were always good grandparents and their grandchildren would often spend most of their school holidays with them. One fond memory Grandpa has of his Grandpa is on his birthday he'd always ask him, "How old are you?" Laughingly Grandpa would answer, "Between 6-8!" Grandpa Kehler's grandparents on his dad's side were Jacob and Elizabeth Schultz Kehler. They were both born in Ukraine, Russia in the early 1800's. Together they immigrated to Canada in 1874 through Berlin, Germany. They made a living raising cattle in Canada. Sadly Jacob died before Grandpa was even born so he has no memories of him. He relies on stories told to him from others to get to know him better. His Grandma moved in with her youngest daughter after her husband passed away. Grandpa cherishes memories of loving parents, a clean home and great food on the table. Most meals consisted of all the food groups. They had all the staples right there on the farm. Potatoes and vegetables were harvested from the gardens every fall. Lots of canning of fruit and vegetables was also done to get through the winter. Fall was always a busy time of year. They raised their own beef and pork to butcher. In the winter they would salt the beef and in the spring they would smoke the ham. Grandpa's family stored all their meat in a back shed to be used when needed.
5: Home Sweet Home
6: Running water inside the house was a luxury. Grandpa didn't always grow up with it. Water would always have to be pumped by hand from the well and brought to the house. Grandpa still has a pipe from the original well as a souvenir. Life as a child wasn't as stressful as it is today. There wasn't as much pressure on kids to do well in school and work. Growing up on the farm was a lot of fun for Grandpa. There was always something to do like milking and feeding the cows, cleaning up the barn, stacking hay, cutting fire wood, driving tractor, and hoeing beets. Grandpa loved to work! As a young boy he would pick up jobs, like driving the tractor for a neighbor. When he was 13 years old he received a young black colt named Dolly in place of wages from a neighbour. He loved to show it off. Grandpa had to break her in and then began to train her. He trained her to rear on its hind legs when he pulled the reigns back. They would ride Dolly to Steinbach where the town boys would want to try this little trick too. Many slid right off the back of the horse, causing a funny scene. Grandpa liked to show it off a lot! On another occasion Grandpa brought wood to the Cheese Factory where his dad worked. By doing this he received a new CCM red bike. The bike was used to drive him and his brother to the beet field where they also worked hoeing beets. The beet fields were 10 miles away. This really shows how much Grandpa loved to work.
7: Grandpa was very fortunate to grow up in a Christian home with loving parents. He began his walk with God early in his childhood. Sundays always began by going to church. The Randolph Chortzier Church which they attended was the only church around at that time so it was usually quite full of people. The church held about 80-100 people. The church service was always preached in German, which usually lasted a couple of hours. There was no Sunday school so children were expected to sit through the very long church service. The wooden benches had no backs to lean up against and they were quite hard. Mom's found it rather difficult to try and keep 3-4 children quiet and content by their sides. It was equally hard for Grandpa to sit through. As teenagers, Grandpa and his friends would sit in the very back benches. His dad would turn around and shake his head, which meant to be quiet.
8: In the winter, Grandpa and his family would use horse and covered sleigh to get to church and in the spring and summer they would drive their car. In the late 1940's Grandpa's dad was the driving force behind starting Sunday school in the CMC. In the beginning Sunday school was held in the Shakespeare School because there were some church members who were opposed to this new idea. A few years later Sunday school became part of the church service. The Randolph Chortizer Church shut down in 2009. On June 6, 1954 Grandpa was baptized in the Randolph Chortizer Church by Bishop Peter S. Wiebe. Some good advice given to Grandpa as a kid was to always try your best, to be a good person and most importantly always believe in God. Grandpa started grade one in Moray School. He was a very shy little boy at the time. He didn't really want to go. Sometimes he'd be half way to school and the older boys would tell him, "Well Jac, it looks like rain." With that, Grandpa would run home as fast as his little legs could carry him. One time a teacher even tried to carry him to school. Screaming and hitting until the teacher let him go, he ran off across the field to the Cheese Factory where his dad worked. His parents were not impressed! In grade 3 they moved to the Shakespeare School District. Grandpa continued his education here, until graduation. A typical school held between 40-45 students ranging from grades 1-8. Grandpa's grade usually had 3 students in it. The school consisted of one classroom.
9: Finally breaking out of his shell, Grandpa became somewhat of a trouble maker. He was a daredevil and the class clown, disrupting the class many times with some sort of a joke. At recess he would occasionally get into a fight. Grandpa's reputation at school would also get him into trouble at home. He recalls being scolded and sometimes received spankings for his behaviour at school. At recess, Grandpa enjoyed playing football (soccer), baseball, and swinging on the swing set in the summer time. One day the teacher drew a picture on the blackboard of a set of swings with the seats going fully around the top. He told the class that no one should do this except for Jac. Grandpa was confident in himself and wasn't afraid of heights. The teacher felt only Grandpa was capable or crazy enough to do that. On another occasion he even ran up the swings braces climbed up the poles and onto the top piece of wood where the swings were attached. He walked along the top of the swing set just because he could. He also loved all the attention this would create. Grandpa's favourite teacher was Mr.Bergen. He was serious but very kind and helpful. Everyone listened when he talked and they had a lot of fun with him. Sadly, he became sick and left half way through the school year. Another one of Grandpa's teachers was Mr.Janzen, though these memories aren't as nice. Grandpa spent many hours in the corner due to this harsh teacher. He once told the class, "Always keep Hitler in your hearts and the King and Queen on your lips."
10: This caused a lot of concern in the community. An RCMP Officer came in one day and spoke with the teacher. A school trustee explained to the students what was going on and asked some of the older students if the RCMP Officers could ask them a couple of questions. Having gathered enough information, the RCMP Officers took Mr.Janzen away. Grandpa was an average student and did his work, with some help of course. That help was not what you'd expect it to be. It was hard, square, and always correct. That's right! Grandpa would regularly take the answer book and hide it in his desk. Grandpa's favorite subjects in school were math and reading. He always thought of history as nonsense. "Who's ever going to need to know that stuff?" He'd say. In the spring and fall, Grandpa, his friends and siblings would often skate 1 1/2 miles to school along the ditches. Grandpa once skated to school pulling his little sister behind him in a sleigh. In the winter, Grandpa and his siblings would attach a sleigh behind the horse and take it to school. One time Grandpa and his brothers had to pick up one of the neighbour girls to bring to school. They made her sit at the very back of the sleigh. When they came to the drainage ditch, they made the horse speed up creating a very rough ride over the ditch, thus causing the girl to fall off the sleigh and into the snow. After school, complaints from the neighbor would pour in about Grandpa and his brothers. Even though no harm was done, their dad would scold them and send them on their way.
11: During Grandpa's school years there were no school buses to bring the students to and from school. They would use horse and buggy or walk many miles to get to school. On walks home Grandpa and the neighbour boys would often swap snacks. The neighbour boys would bring bought cookies, which were a real treat since most sweets were homemade at the Kehler home. Grandpa had a real sweet tooth, and still does today!
12: Grade 8 was an important year for everyone, especially Grandpa. It was common for young boys to quit school when they reached the age of 14. This suited Grandpa very nicely, since his birthday was on December 22. After the Christmas program at school, Grandpa stayed home while everyone else went back to school. It was like his mini graduation party. Grandpa always tells the story of how he graduated 3rd in his class, leaving out the part where there were only 3 students in his grade. Hockey was always a big part of Grandpa's life. He played for 8 years in an organized hockey league at the Mitchell rink at age 17 and played until he was 25. When Grandpa was 21 years old, he played for the Boston Maroons (Mitchell) which won the tournament against New Bothwell. It was a very close game. During that game Grandpa fell and slid right into the boards twisting his ankle. Even though it was hard to walk on, he iced it up and went right on playing. Nothing was going to stop him! After the game was over Grandpa went to see a Chiropractor, where he almost fainted because of the pain. Grandpa's team played with no uniforms and homemade equipment. Rubber tire rings were used to hold up the felt used as shin pads and normal finger gloves were used as gloves. Grandpa remembers slamming his fingers into the boards causing his knuckles to bleed. One Christmas he received a pair of hockey gloves which saved his hands a bit. Helmets were not invented yet so there was little protection
13: against the flying puck. Grandpa was one of the best players, as Grandma would put it, he was the star player! Grandpa played mostly right wing. He was also quite a versatile player being able to fill any position. Cheering crowds always filled the rink bringing excitement to the players and other fans. Grandpa passed on his love for hockey to his girls at an early age, attending Mitchell Mohawk games regularly throughout the winter with them. He continues to attend many hockey games regularly watching his grandsons and great grandsons play as well as cheering on 3 granddaughters involved on a skating team. He is very supportive of all his grandchildren. When Grandpa was 6 years old, he and his brothers got a stray dog from their Grandparents. He was a good black mutt named Tony. Grandpa always played with him and even ate with him. They would do everything together. Tony was a real friend. Grandpa trained the dog to pull a sleigh using a harness. Some days Grandpa and his dog would visit neighbours miles away. "He was next to a human!" After having the dog for 12 years he became sick. He was slowly going blind and couldn't walk very well. When Grandpa was 18 years old they had to shoot him to put him out of his misery. It was a real hard thing for Grandpa to do. He lays buried on their original homestead in Mitchell. Grandpa remembers exactly where Tony is buried. Growing up, Long John Silver and other pirate tales were a big hit! Grandpa also loved listening to country
14: music and watching western television shows. He was a big fan of Roy Rodgers and Gene Autry, as well as singer Wilf Carter. A big story that made headlines all across the world was the sinking of the Titanic. Grandpa's Aunt Tina had purchased a High German book filled with details of the Titanic, which she would share with her nieces and nephews over and over again. Grandpa's Aunt Tina would often baby-sit for him and his siblings during the summer holidays. She would always make sure there was plenty of food for them to eat. Aunt Tina was a heavy coffee drinker. She shared her love of coffee, with many sugar cubes in it, with all her nieces and nephews. This was a real treat because only Aunt Tina allowed them to drink coffee with all those sugar cubes. Grandpa fondly remembers his Uncle Neil. He had a witty sense of humour and very good story telling abilities. You could always tell who told the joke, because they were laughing the loudest. During the Great Depression his Uncle Neil would say, "It was so dry, that the water was only wet on one side!" Everyone always got a real kick out of him. One memory Grandpa remembers about his Uncle was at Christmas time. At the Christmas program if you said your verse in front of everyone you would receive an apple. One time after everyone had been handed an apple for saying their verses, Grandpa was left out. His Uncle Neil went to the closet and came back with an onion, instead of an apple for him. Uncle Neil always joked around with the kids,
15: quick wit and sense of humour. Grandpa and his youngest brother Peter, who he nicknamed Jim, were the closest. Jim was 10 years younger then Grandpa and he looked up to him. One year when Jim didn't receive an air gun for Christmas, Grandpa went out and bought him one for his birthday. A practical joke Grandpa clearly remembers is when his older brother was working on his car. Grandpa thought it would be funny to sneak up on him and from about 100 feet away he shot him with the air gun. Grandpa took off running with his brother right on his tail. He was laughing so hard it was slowing him down. | especially Grandpa. Grandpa would battle it out with his Uncle until he received his apple, which he worked hard to get. This tradition has been carried on as one of our Christmas traditions, except Kleenex boxes replace the apples. Grandpa followed his Uncle Neil's footsteps with his
16: Grandpa got clobbered by his brother with rotten potatoes in the barn. Grandpa always got along with his siblings. Well, most of the time! Grandpa was always very creative. He and his brothers would make toys out of wood. They made trucks and cars with movable wheels and steering, and their own hockey sticks. The Kehler home was a big attraction to many of the neighbourhood children. The garden became a massive network of roads and ditches with which to drive their cars on. It was a lot of fun for all his friends and neighbours. Who knew playing in the dirt would lead to a 25 year career in road construction. In the 1950's Grandpa was fortunate enough to see the King and Queen at the CN Station in Winnipeg with a group of friends. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for this young country boy. He was happy to have been able to be a part of the celebrations. Another historic moment for Grandpa was when the 52 Highway was 4-laned from Steinbach to Mitchell. He never would have dreamed that this would ever become necessary, but it was sure worth it. His fore fathers would have been amazed at how their small community of Mitchell had grown over the years. In the 1960's, while working at CT Loewens, Grandpa got to experience his first plane ride. One day his friend from CT Loewen's, Vern Penner, offered to take him up in a small, two passenger plane. They flew over Mitchell and Steinbach just for fun. And they didn't even have parachutes! Grandpa's first real job was at age 14 when he went to work at Mr.Wolgemuths farm. Here he did field work and ran the binder to cut grain binds into sheaths. At age 15 he moved to Linden and stayed with a farmer where he did custom plowing and cultivating. While he lived there his family moved to Mitchell without telling him.
17: He was so angry he quit his job and got his parents to pick him up. He needed to go HOME! At age 17 Grandpa left home with 3 of his friends to find employment. In the summer months they'd pick up threshing jobs in Western Manitoba. In the winter they traveled out to Port Arthur, now known as Thunder Bay, to work for a logging company. On another occasion, Grandpa went to work at a sawmill north of Dauphin. During the winter months he also worked at Arctic Ice, an ice making factory, where he loaded the ice onto the rail cars. The ice was then shipped to locations around Manitoba. At 18 the farm lured him back to Manitoba where he joined a threshing crew in Carmen and Minnedosa. When Grandpa was 20 years old he went to Saskatchewan to move grain elevators from one place to another. At age 22 Grandpa got a job painting transmission line towers near Beausejour. They didn't use safety equipment in those days. One day while they were painting, the power came on unexpectedly. Unaware, a man left alone on the tower touched the live cables and was electrocuted. No one from the workers below was brave enough to help, except for Grandpa. He climbed up the 80 foot tower to where the man lay, draped over the insulator, and helped the man down to safety by guiding his feet down the steps. The man's hands were badly burnt and he was incoherent. Grandpa had saved this man's life with his brave act. In the following years, Grandpa also worked as a carpenter for Peter Peters, as well as a truck driver for Penner Transfer, picking up and delivering milk cans. As a kid growing up, he always wanted to be a truck driver, as well as an RCMP Officer. Grandpa never became an RCMP but he did end up driving truck for many years.
18: In the early 1960's Grandpa began to work at CT Loewen's as a truck driver. He worked there for 13 years delivering concrete and lumber. He was a very confident and experienced driver and drove in places other drivers refused to drive. Grandpa remembers one delivery trip in particular. While traveling along an ice road, the ice broke and there was a big splash! He remained calm, stepped on the gas and made it onto shore safely. He has great memories of the CT Loewen family company picnics, where there was always lots of free food and games for the whole family. In 1967 Grandpa started working for the Hanover Municipality. He worked for one year, quit for one year and then continued on for 25 years. He operated the bulldozer for 5 years and the grader for 20 years. In 1992 Grandpa received an award from the Hanover Municipality for 25 years of hard work in the community.
19: Long distance trucking | Saskatchewan Grain Elevator | CT Loewen | Hanover Municipality
20: In 1954 Grandpa was swept off his feet by a beautiful young woman named Anne Friesen. His brother took him over to her house where their eyes immediately met and true love was found. Her looks impressed Grandpa the most at the time. Their love for each other grew and after a short courtship they decided to marry. They were married on March 17, 1956 with a | small family wedding, which was very nice and elegant, (as Grandpa remembers it.) Grandpa and Grandma's wedding took place at the farm house in Mitchell. They dressed in plain suits which was typical for a Mennonite wedding. For the first couple of months of marriage the newlyweds moved from one place to another. They first lived with Grandma's parents for a few months before renting an apartment | in Steinbach. They briefly moved back in with Grandma's parents due to a job that took Grandpa out of town for a while. Grandpa didn't want his new wife to live by herself during that time.
21: In 1958 they finally settled down in their own two bedroom house on Hwy 52 in Mitchell where they lived until 1965. It was an unfinished house that still needed lots of work. With help from their parents, the house was finished as well as adding a garage. Within the first year of marriage baby number one arrived. Baby girl Mary Ann arrived on June 18, 1956. She was energetic and loved to jump around everywhere. Four years later, on July 31, 1960 baby girl number two arrived. Marge became the animal lover of the family. A year and a half later, on January 5, 1961, baby girl number three was born. Janice loved to learn and learned to play the piano beautifully. Baby girl number four arrived two years later on December 25, 1962. Wanda, the special Christmas baby, loved to tag along side her Dad. She was, and still is daddy's little girl.
22: "A baby girl... one of the most beautiful miracles in life, one of the greatest joys we can ever know, and one of the reasons why there is a little extra sunshine, laughter and happiness in your world today."
23: With the family now grown to six, they had outgrown their little house on the highway and it was once again time to move. In 1965 they bought the Kehler homestead on Reichenbach Road and lived in the original house for two years.Then in 1968 Grandpa moved a used 1 1/2 story from the Landmark area onto the farm. Grandpa had returned to his roots. Farming was in his blood. Grandpa operated the mixed farm as well as holding down his full time job at the Hanover Municipality. The farm included 21 milk cows, 60 beef cows, chickens and pigs. Summer was once again spent working the fields and making hay for the winter. The farm provided the main food staples, as had been the case when he grew up. A large garden supplied the family with potatoes and vegetables where as the beef, pork and chickens were butchered in the fall. Operating a dairy farm made it almost impossible to get away for any family trips. But in the early 1970's after much planning, Grandpa and his family went to Edmonton over a long weekend for a wedding. They drove all through the night and checked into the first motel they saw. In the morning they woke up to find there were other family members staying there also. What a surprise! This would be their first and last family trip together.
24: As the children were growing up, silver and gold wedding anniversaries were always a major family event. Both Grandpa and Grandma's parents were lucky enough to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. There were always lots of people, good food and lots of entertainment. In 1981 Grandma and Grandpa sold the original homestead and 5 acres, keeping the surrounding 75 acres. They built a house just south of the original homestead. They lived there for six years. In 1987 they sold and built a bungalow on the north side of the original homestead. In 1996 they built a split level to the north of their previous bungalow. Grandpa was really attached to his land. It seems like he just couldn't get away building a total of 3 homes plus the homestead side by side on the same road. Grandpa still owns 30 acres of the original homestead. In 2005, the work of keeping up with the yard became too much and they finally moved off Reichenbach Road and into a condo in Steinbach.
25: Grandpa took up smoking as a young boy and smoked well into his adult years. He was forced to quit in January of 1975 when he came down with a severe virus. He's proud to say he's been smoke free for 40+ years! On March 14, 1984 Grandpa had nose surgery. He may have at one time broken his nose as a child, but a visit to the doctor was only for extreme emergencies. As he grew older he began experiencing difficulty in breathing through his nose. At age 54 his doctor recommended nose surgery to repair the damage. Grandpa's thankful for the surgery, being able to breath freely and normally again. On February 8, 2001 Grandpa was experiencing chest pains. Grandma rushed him to the Steinbach Hospital, only to be sent home being diagnosed with muscle spasms. For the next 7 days his symptoms continued. Grandpa was unwilling to go back to the hospital because he was trying to dismiss it, as the doctor had said, muscle spasms. The pain became unbearable and Grandpa agreed it was time to get himself checked out again. He was taken to the hospital on February 15, 2001 and this time was correctly diagnosed with a heart attack. He was immediately rushed to the St.Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg where he received an emergency angioplasty. The surgery was successful! Grandpa recovered quickly and was able to return to normal activities within a couple of weeks.
26: Unfortunately in August of 2005 he again suffered from severe chest pains and was rushed to the hospital. Grandpa had another heart attack. He was treated and released after a five day stay. The heart attack left Grandpa feeling tired and weak. After months of taking medications he was sent for a stress test at the St.Boniface Hospital where he was immediately placed on a waiting list for heart surgery. He had his second angioplasty in March of 2006. His surgery again went well and he regained his strength and well being. As their children moved on, got married and had families of their own, Grandma and Grandpa began to travel. In 1988 they went to Pennsylvania with their youngest daughter Wanda and her husband Cornie. They made several stops along the way. Some highlights of the trip were being able to see the Niagara Falls, the Hershey Chocolate Factory as well as the White House. Unfortunately the gates to the White House were closed, so they weren't allowed to go in. But Grandpa wanted to do something that he'd remember for a life time. So, he spit on the White House yard and left. The following year in 1989 Grandma and Grandpa went to B.C. Then in 2002 they drove to California for a wedding with Henry and Mary Dueck, Grandma's sister and brother in law. In 2003 Grandma and Grandpa went to Newfoundland for another wedding. This time they took a plane. This would be their first time on a jet. In March 2004 they headed to Calgary on a plane to visit Grandma's newly married brother Bill and wife, Laura.
29: Spending time at the lake with family is very important to Grandpa. Every year the Kehler family heads to Falcon Lake for the August long weekend, and those that can stay longer, do. Grandpa enjoys watching all his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren wakeboard, ski, tube, visit around the campfire and just be together as one big happy family. He is very proud of everyone and has a great relationship with one and all.