Reimer, Helena Wiebe Fast Schellenberg (1875-1966)
|Helena Wiebe with her second
husband Gerhard R.
Schellenberg and son Henry
ca 1914 Preservings photo.
Helene Wiebe Fast Schellenberg Reimer, Mennonite pioneer, was born in Chortitza, Manitoba on 28 November 1875, the youngest of ten children born to Jacob Wiebe (1835-1914) and Katharina Penner (1837-1876). Her parents were emigrants from Russia who had arrived in Canada on 1 July 1875. Tragically, Helena's older brother Abram died the following month and her mother died six months after she was born. Childhood was a difficult time for Helena. Her father married again in 1877 and Katharina Hiebert (1859-1910) became her stepmother. This second marriage produced 15 children; consequently, Helena spent much time working away from home. At the age of nine she was send to work in Schoenfeld, Manitoba at a store belonging to the Groening family. She did not enjoy serving whisky to the more important male customers and could not go home when she felt lonely. Later, Helena went to work in Steinbach where she enjoyed living close to her older sister Anna (born 1866), the wife of Heinrich W. Reimer.
In 1896 Helena married Gerhard Fast (1877-1904) after being baptized into the Kleine Gemeinde church. Together they had three children and were expecting their fourth when Gerhard was killed in a logging accident. Now a young widow, Helena Fast struggled to support her family. She managed by growing a lot of her own food, keeping a cow and taking in boarders. After her own experience as a child she was determined to keep her family together.
In 1909, a tall, handsome young man named Gerhard Schellenberg became one of Helena's boarders. Though he was 10 years younger than her, they decided to marry on 23 September 1909. Together they had four children but sadly two of these died as infants. Then Gerhard at age 31 developed tuberculosis and died on 12 March 1917. After 8 ½ years of marriage Helena Schellenberg was again a widow. In the midst of her loss though, there were also joys. In October 1917 Helena's oldest child, Maria Fast (born 1897), married Klaas R. Barkman (born 1893) and her first grandchild was born the following year.
Helena decided to marry for the third time in 1919. She married Peter R. Reimer, a widower who had lost his wife the year before. Their union created some interesting family relationships for Helena. For instance, she now had stepchildren who were her age or older. Eventually Peter and Helena Reimer moved from their farm to a small house in Steinbach. Here Peter died suddenly of a stroke on 1 May 1946.
Helena never remarried after Peter's death but continued to live in her little house in Steinbach. Her children and grandchildren remember her as a compassionate person who enjoyed singing hymns and knitting during her retirement years. Keeping a boarder and visits from grandchildren helped to alleviate the loneliness. When she could no longer manage on her own Helena stayed with her son Henry Schellenberg's family and then with her son Jacob Fast and his family. Finally she moved into the Resthaven Nursing home and here Helena Wiebe Fast Schellenberg Reimer died on 1 April 1966 at the age of 90. She had weathered the many hardships of pioneer life, gracefully accepting the joys and sorrows that came her way. Her example of hope, courage and faithful perseverance is and will continue to be an example for generations to come.
Toews, Audrey. "Helena Wiebe Fast Schellenberg Reimer." Preservings No. 10, Part I (June 1997): 49-51.
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MLA style: Brown, Sharon H. H. "Reimer, Helena Wiebe Fast Schellenberg (1875-1966)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2006. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/R45607.html.
APA style: Brown, Sharon H. H. (May 2006). Reimer, Helena Wiebe Fast Schellenberg (1875-1966). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/R45607.html.