1931 – 2019
David Dick was born on August 3, 1931, the 11th of 13 children born to Johann and Liese Dick. He grew up on an 80 acre irrigation farm near Coaldale, Alberta. Dad’s family had immigrated from the Mennonite colonies in Soviet Russia in what is now southern Ukraine, arriving in Alberta in 1927. They were poor, even by the standards of the Great Depression, but Dad remembers a household in which love of God, family and friends permeated life. Dad’s childhood was characterized by plenty of hard work and discipline but also times of fun with siblings and cousins from the neighbouring farm and annual three-day holidays in Waterton National Park. He attended a country school in Readymade on weekdays and German school in a building on their family’s yard on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. The family drove the six miles to Coaldale to attend the Mennonite Brethren (M.B.) Church every Sunday.
Dad recalls as a child of 5 or 6 expressing to his mother his desire to become a Christian, and praying with her. His acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, made as a child, was woven into the fabric of his being as he matured and aged. It was the foundation of his entire life. Overcoming struggles with the legalism of the Coaldale church, he grew to understand his relationship with God as built on God’s love and unlimited grace.
When Dad was 14, his brother Eduard, a year older, died of a brain aneurism. After his funeral, Dad had the task of gathering Eduard’s things from school to take home. Coming only 10 months after the sudden death of his older sister Frieda, Eduard’s death could have devastated Dad and the family. But Dad’s recollection is that, despite their grief, his parents accepted both of these tragedies as part of God’s plan and never wavered in their trust in God’s love and care.
Dad’s father was a founding member of the Alberta Mennonite High School in Coaldale and Dad was enrolled there for his high school years. After graduation, he attended the Bible School in Coaldale for two more years. Dad disliked farming and so followed his father’s advice to become a teacher. Despite (or perhaps because of) his own struggles as a student, he became an excellent teacher. After a year of education studies in Calgary (during which he hitch-hiked home on weekends), he began his teaching career in a small country school in Sunnyside, between Coaldale and Lethbridge, in 1953. After four years, he moved on to become the vice-principal in John Davidson Elementary in Coaldale.
After a couple of years of teaching at Sunnyside, Dad began a discreet and somewhat formal courtship of Elfrieda Pauls, five years his junior, who had also grown up in the Coaldale MB Church and was in teacher’s training. Unsure about the approaches of someone she didn’t know well, Elfrieda spoke to her friend, Dad’s cousin, about him. “He is a noble man,” she was told. They were married on September 2, 1956. Two days later they were both in class teaching!
In 1958, Dad was invited to take the position of Vice-Principal of John Davidson Elementary School in Coaldale. Purchasing a small bungalow with a borrowed down payment, they Mom and Dad moved into a new phase of their lives. Dad often regaled us with hilarious stories of his school experiences in Coaldale. Mom and Dad were involved in an outreach program of the Coaldale MB Church called the Chapel. Harold, Marion and Stan were born during their time in Coaldale.
In 1966, the family moved to Linden, Alberta where Dad became the Grade Six teacher at Dr. Elliott School and eventually Deputy Superintendent of the Three Hills School Division. Val and Vern were born during this time. The family became heavily involved in the school and Linden M.B. Church. Dad served as a volunteer for decades as chair of the church music committee, on the board of Camp Evergreen (at a time when board members were expected to pitch in with whatever the Camp needed) and on numerous committees of the M.B. conference both provincially and nationally. Dad also loved teaching and later providing special education assistance to students and teachers. He was collegial and deeply committed to the highest standards in his chosen profession.
Dad loved music, and singing was an important part of his life. His deep bass found a place in the Coaldale church choir (which, with the AMHS and Bible School choirs, presented the Messiah in Lethbridge in 1956), the male quartet with his brothers and brother-in-law that sang at the Tabor Hospital every Sunday for 10 years, the Linden church choir that presented regular “music nights” and enjoyed a “choir camp” every Labour Day weekend, and the Corpus Christi Men’s Choir in Calgary. In fact, there was no time between his teens and his departure from Calgary that Dad was not singing in one or more musical groups.
After 23 years in Linden, Dad and Mom moved to Calgary where Dad became the Rural Special Education Project Manager at the Education Response Centre for a couple of years before retiring. Again, they got involved - in the Highland M.B. Church and, for Dad, the Corpus Christi Men’s Choir. Mom took the lead in providing friendship and assistance to numerous refugees and international students and Dad provided support. Mom commented on how often she would hear about the powerful impression Dad had made on students or refugees despite his quiet demeanor.
Despite a congenital tremor, Dad loved working with his hands, and especially loved woodworking. He could fix anything! After retirement, he enjoyed many hours in his garage and later at the 55+ condo woodworking shop. He loved his daily pool game with his friends at the condo and was good enough to routinely beat his children and grandchildren! (Stan is thinking of adding a tremor to help his own game!)
Dad was committed to learning and growing, becoming proficient with computers and formatting digital photographs in his retirement. He enjoyed reading and keeping up with current events and was interested in almost any topic or issue until the very end.
It was important to Dad to preserve the legacy of his family, and he edited and compiled his own family’s history, wrote his life story, compiled family trees and genealogies, and translated years of letters from his parents-in-law. Visits with relatives on family trips, and numerous family reunions were a standard feature of vacations. A quiet and thoughtful man, he was full of information and wisdom – a wealth of knowledge and advice for his children and grandchildren. He had a great sense of humour and seemed to have a joke or funny story for every situation.
Dad never complained about his fate after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June, 2017 but accepted it gracefully as part of God’s plan for him. A lifelong Albertan, he and Mom moved to Winnipeg that summer to be close to 4 of the 5 children. We have been blessed to have had him with us for 2 more years of his jokes, reminiscences and advice. Those who knew him will attest to his integrity, humility, loyalty, hard work and gentle spirit. He will be sorely missed. Truly, he was a noble man!
Dad passed into glory on July 23, 2019, confident in God love and grace.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Elfrieda, his five children, Harold (Donna Parry), Marion (Earl Davey), Stan (Gail Dueck), Val (Neil Block) and Vern (Calista Ward), his grandchildren Jordan Potter Davey (Stephanie), Harrison Davey (Amy), Rachael Loeppky (Derek), Jadon Ward (Sarah), Melea Ward, Kiah Ward, Tilon Ward, Jaalah Ward, Nicolai Ward, Anya Ward, Nathan Dueck, Jonah Dueck, Owen Block, his great grandchildren Gabriel and Maggie, Nora and Clive, and Irelyn, his siblings Walter (Anne), Hilda, Jake (Anne) and Alfred, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Worship and funeral services to be held on Saturday, July 27, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. at Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church, 1771 Pembina Highway, Winnipeg and in Highland Mennonite Brethren Church, 4018 Centre B St. NW, Calgary on Friday, August 9, 2019. David’s remains will be interred with those of his brother Eduard in Coaldale on Saturday, August 10, 2019. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of David Dick may be made to Camp Evergreen (Sundre, Alberta) or Mennonite Central Committee in support of vocational woodwork training in Burundi.
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