Dennis Penner, age 59 years, of the Thames District, passed away on Monday, March 22, 2021 at his residence.
He is survived by his wife Verna (nee Derksen), their children Kristen Penner, Michael (Erica) Penner, Jordana Penner, and Alyssa (Joshua) Neufeld, as well as his sister Dorothy (Dave) Derksen, brothers Bill (Verna) Penner, Cornie (Colleen) Penner, and sister-in-law Linda Penner. He was predeceased by his parents David T. and Annie Penner, his step mother Annie Penner, his brother Larry Penner, and one brother in infancy.
Dennis Henry Penner was born on June 19, 1961 to Annie Penner (nee Driedger) and David T. Penner. He was a twin to Dorothy but a few minutes older, which would be used to his advantage if needed, and other times he liked to use the perks of being the youngest.
Dennis was raised in a Christian home, life was not always easy as his mom passed away from cancer when he was just 3 months old. Then when he was 11 his dad also passed away from cancer. These events shaped him into someone who was very aware of eternity the value of every day.
Dennis accepted Jesus and made him part of his life at 19, after talking with Pete Giesbrecht who was a youth leader at Bergfeld at the time. Throughout his time at Bergfeld there were many Sunday school teachers and other people who shaped Dennis who he was today.
Dennis grew up on a dairy farm in the Thames district and loved farming. There was always a lot of work to be done and he loved working with his brother Cornie and they were able to farm together for 36 years. He also saw the farm as a wonderful opportunity to serve others.
Dennis loved God first and others second, this was evident in how he loved me throughout our 34 years of marriage and always challenged me to be better in my faith walk and every aspect of my life. I always had his total support in pursuing things that I enjoyed and was passionate about which allowed me to be a better wife and mom. Dennis loved our family deeply and was able to work with all of our children spending time working together, milking cows, chopping silage or whatever needed to be done. These times were precious as he was able to show our children how to work and how to live.
Dennis spent many years teaching junior high Sunday school and challenged his students to read a chapter of the Bible each day. He also took this challenge personally and as we looked through his Bible we found notes he had made while doing this. In the past few years Dennis had the opportunity to help teach Sunday school to the 3- and 4-year-olds, this was a highlight for him as he loved these little children and was determined to make them all his friends-even if it took a while. During the past few months we received beautiful paintings, drawings and cards from his little friends, and dad enjoyed having them on display, many of them hanging on our fridge. This was encouraging and heart-warming for Dennis.
Dennis was an encourager and always chose to find the positive in others and every situation that life brought. Dennis was a man of integrity, he kept his word and was trustworthy, he did not believe in taking the easy way but found a way to do what we felt was needed.
In May of 2019 we found out that Dennis had cancer, the words highly aggressive and rare were used to describe his cancer and our lives changed that day. The pastor and elders came to pray over him for healing, we also know that many of you have prayed for that as well. He knew God could heal him but was also willing to accept the path God chose for him, being faithful in his journey.
Treatment went amazingly well, surgery, chemo, radiation, more chemo, immunotherapy and more radiation. People always commented that he looked so good (and I thought so too!). We were so thankful that he was able to keep working on the farm and feel well and like himself for the majority of his time in treatment. In November of 2020 Dennis experienced severe dizziness and nausea and a CT scan revealed the cancer had spread extensively. The most difficult part was the brain tumour which made it difficult for Dennis physically, mentally and emotionally. The brain radiation treatments in mid-November improved his condition so that we could make a few more wonderful memories with our family and great Christmas together.
He chose to die at home so that our entire family could be with him in the final days trying to make each day count. Covid made this challenging as he would have loved to be surrounded by all his family and friends.
Caring for Dennis was an honour and I’m so thankful I was able to do this for him. My family was my rock during this time, and I’m especially thankful Kristen was able to come to help and support in taking care of Dennis.
On March 22nd our family was able to be by Dennis’ side as he was received into the arms of Jesus. We are thankful he did not have to suffer long and rejoice that he is now dancing with Jesus. He will no longer be tired or frustrated or have pain and will forever be with his first love awaiting those he loved.
Thank you to all our family and friends who have prayed with and for us, sent messages, phone calls, brought food and who have walked alongside us in this journey. God is good and always shown up at exactly the right time.
Our family would like to thank our palliative care team who made Dennis’ final days easier. Thank you to Dr. Dahla, Dr. Woelk, Dr. Lane and especially our palliative care nurse, Shannon Reimer who had my back and made sure I was also taken care of during this time. We felt so blessed to have all this support. Thank you to our church family, our community of believers who have loved and cared for us remarkably. Thank you also to the many friends and family who have supported us.
A drive in funeral service will be held from the parking lot at the Bergfeld EMM Church, on Friday, March 26, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Please remain in your vehicles for the service. A private interment will follow a the church cemetery. Viewing will be at the temporary location of Wiebe Funeral Home Altona (42 Centre Avenue) on Thursday, March 25, 2021 from 1:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Donations in memory of Dennis may be made to Back to the Bible, or to the Boundary Trails Health Centre Foundation (Palliative / Cancer Care).