Friesen, Heinrich D. (1880-1964)
Heinrich D. Friesen: poet, farmer, and teacher; born 19 February 1880 to Daniel Thomas Friesen (1844-1909) and Elisabeth (Thiessen) Friesen (1847-1922) in Kultschak, Crimea, South Russia. Heinrich was the fifth of 11 children. On 24 November 1905, he married Katharina Kornelsen (7 July 1882, Fuerstental, Russia - 5 September 1944, Coaldale, Alberta, Canada) of Fürstenwerder, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia. The couple had ten children, three of whom died before their father. Heinrich died on 12 January 1964 at the Baptist Haven of Rest in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
Largely self-educated in his early years, Heinrich received little formal education until he began his studies in pedagogy to become a teacher. In 1906, he married Katharina and they started to establish a family, with two of their children being born in Russia. In 1912, the family immigrated to Canada. Heinrich and his family lived first in Manitoba, but in 1914 they moved to Herbert, Saskatchewan, where Heinrich taught school, as well as farming on land outside the nearby community of Cadillac. In 1936, the family moved to Coaldale, Alberta, where Heinrich joined the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church.
Although he made his living through his work as a teacher and farmer, Friesen was best known as a poet with an excellent command of the German language. He wrote mainly in High German but also sometimes in Low German, earning the nickname “Poet Friesen.” Many of his poems dealt with religious topics of life, although he also included themes relating to the cultures around him and the struggles of daily life, with topics ranging from car racing to farming.
After his wife’s death in 1944, many of Heinrich’s poems dealt with the difficulties he faced as a widower, although he continued to write on many community and religious themes. He published several volumes of his poetry, and many of his poems were published in periodicals such as Die Mennonitische Rundschau and Der Bote, as well as in several short booklets. He continued to write until the last few years of his life, when he was no longer able to do so.
As he grew older, Friesen’s mental and physical health began to fail, and he spent the final years of his life at the Baptist Haven of Rest in Medicine Hat, Alberta. He gradually grew weaker and died there in 1964 at the age of 83, 20 years after his wife had died. Three of the couple’s children had also died by that time. The funeral was on 18 January at the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church, with Abe Regier and D. Pankratz leading the service.
Heinrich D. Friesen was a dedicated farmer and teacher, as well as a creative poet whose writings continue to inspire readers, even decades after his death. Through the many struggles and strong trust in God which he expressed in his poetry, he inspired people to greater depth in their faith and was an example for others to follow.
Archives Canada. “Heinrich D. Friesen Fonds.” http://www.archivescanada.ca/english/search/ItemDisplay.asp?sessionKey=999999999_142&l=0&lvl=1&v=0&coll=0&itm=228948&rt=1&bill=1 (accessed 3 February 2010).
Dyck, Clara K. “Book Review: Poems of Henry D. Friesen.” Mennonite Historian (March 1981): 7.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.02 ed. Fresno, CA:, 2010: #749710.
Mennonite Brethren Herald 3 (31 January 1964): 17.
Mennonitische Rundschau 7 (12 Februar 1964): 1.
Multicultural Canada. “Heinrich D. Friesen.” http://multiculturalcanada.ca/cdm_item/gc/3313/100/324 (accessed 3 February 2010).
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MLA style: Huebert, Susan. "Friesen, Heinrich D. (1880-1964)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2010. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/friesen_heinrich_d._1880_1964.
APA style: Huebert, Susan. (February 2010). Friesen, Heinrich D. (1880-1964). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/friesen_heinrich_d._1880_1964.