Life Story of Leroy Lesley Friesen
Leroy was born in Altona, Manitoba on May 6, 1959 to Justina and Abram A Friesen. He has three older brothers, Jake, Bill and Ray, as well as younger sister, Shirley. At the time the family lived in Altbergthal, west of Altona. Throughout his life, Leroy said he was from Altbergthal even though the family moved to Altona when he was a young child!
Leroy had many stories of childhood fun such as skating on Buffalo Creek and playing hockey with the big kids who thought he made a great Goalie. He enjoyed gopher hunting on the school grounds. The older kids ran to the creek to get water while Leroy and the other younger kids used baseball bats to kill the gophers when they came out of their flooded tunnels. In later years, Leroy spent hours in the Altona pool or in the skating arena.
Leroy, Ray and Shirley were loved by their two oldest brothers, Jake and Bill who brought treats to them on the weekends, such as GIANT chocolate Easter rabbits.
Leroy always spoke well of his childhood. He felt loved and nurtured. He was taught many life skills by his parents such as helping them to demolish older buildings to reuse the lumber. His Dad taught him carpentry and plumbing and fixing all manner of things. His Mom was a great example of love in how she cooked, baked, sewed and wrapped her family in her caring ways. Leroy’s parents were a great influence for Leroy as he grew into a caring, responsible, kind and steadfast person.
Leroy had many kinds of fun with his brothers, sister and friends. One Halloween, they made water balloons and spent the evening on the flat roof of their entrance taking particular joy in throwing water bombs at a local police car as it cruised past their home. To top off a cold evening, they came inside for their Mom’s hot chocolate!
He had great fear of hair clippers after one of his hair cuts from his Dad. In the middle of one cut, Dad received a phone call, and while chatting, started fiddling with the clippers. When the call ended Dad came back to Leroy and did one pass with the clippers. Ooops .... that pass was MUCH shorter than intended. Perhaps that is why he didn’t like haircuts! Leroy vividly and laughingly has said it was the only time his parents allowed him to wear a hat to Sunday school! Surely this experience was in evidence this past year as he grew his hair long, earning him great admiration from some and good-natured disagreement from others!
Leroy spent many hours training a black lab as a bird dog. This was part of his ever growing love of all things outdoors, being in the wilderness, hunting and fishing.
Ask anyone what Leroy's two favorite past times were and it wouldn't take many guesses to know it was hunting and fishing. Leroy spent countless hours hunting, scouting animal habitat and their routines, exploring areas of bush looking for deer, coyote or bear tracks. As he became a skilled marksman he began to enjoy not only hunting with a high powered rifle, he also became more enthused about the twin hunting sports of muzzle loading and archery. Both of these methods meant becoming ever more quiet and unobtrusive in the bush, either drawing the animals to him with skilled calls and well placed hunting stands, or quiet, patient walking through the trees.
For Leroy fishing, like hunting, was a sport of silence and often solitary. He would return rejuvenated and enthused. While he, of course, loved to 'bag the big one' he also had great stories of seeing deer and fox playing together, seeing porcupines and interesting birds in neighboring trees or branches.
In his early years, Leroy spent MANY week ends with family and friends camping at Moose Lake. Most of those weekends included HOURS of water skiing, either driving the boat or skimming along the top of the water on one ski.
Of course having hobbies meant having a job to support your 'habit'. Leroy was an automotive mechanic for many years, working for Neufeld Motors, then Wall to Wall, and then South End Repair. It was here in the workplace, that Leroy absorbed so much. Firstly, mechanical knowledge. Secondly, working with good employers who became friends and mentors, sharing knowledge, tools and skills. It was in the workplace, where many of you met Leroy, the behind the scenes mechanic, usually the quieter guy with the ready smile and willing attitude. It has been amazing to be asked by a broad cross-section of local folks, inquiring after his health in these last years and wishing him well. What a gift.
Leroy was a jack of all trades. He learnt his auto mechanics in high school and continued in that field for 30 years or so. He also learnt carpentry skills, electrical wiring, plumbing and just plain knowing how to pull all manner of things apart and putting them together again, usually back in running order.
Our neighbor Pam, shared a great story, that made Leroy laugh. She asked her son what he wanted for his birthday and he replied that he wanted a dinosaur slide . She said she didn’t know where she could get THAT, and the son’s response was “Ask Leroy to make it, he can build ANYTHING!”
Well, what young man's story is complete without girls?
Leroy was kind of a shy guy, not much for the centre of attention. In 1980, during the August long weekend at Moose Lake, Leroy and I met. We were both drawn to each other and did goofy things to get noticed by the other. For instance Leroy climbed a tree in the dark and hung upside down from it to catch my attention!
We spent the rest of August 'accidentally' meeting in Altona, while on walks, bike rides or cruising the streets in his car. The second time Leroy picked me up for an 'official' date, he drove his car down the long half mile driveway in Halbstadt, to be met with several of my older brothers just hanging around outside the front door on a nice fall day. I asked them to go away, thinking it was embarrassing to me, and maybe a little intimidating for Leroy but they stayed. Must add bravery to Leroy's list of attributes!
We dated for a year, became engaged and married a year later on July 25, 1982. Leroy seriously didn't like large crowds, and so we had a farm wedding. Smallish in size, and big on relaxed, at least for us. Maybe not so much for the Rempel clan who had to create a tidy yard for the whole summer, doing all manner of prep that the naive couple had not have thought of!
Adulthood came with learning to be a neighbor, learning to be a friend, and learning to be a grown up child! It came with growth in faith.
In many ways growing in faith and becoming an active part in a church community were areas in which Leroy felt stretched. The hardest part of baptism, was the obstacle of giving his testimony in front of a bunch of people. Leroy and I entered this part of our life together, taking membership classes at Altona Mennonite Church, having that scary and nerve racking testimony in the church basement, and we were baptized on November 17,1985.
Leroy and I continued in AMC, becoming more at home, not only in the building, but also in the gathering of people. We have been gifted with a large circle of friends and fellow travelers on our journey of faith, stretched in understanding, supported in belief, surrounded in love. Leroy and I shared a position on the church trustee committee for 6 years and so grew to know AMC’s building really well!! It was Leroy’s kind of commitment- odd jobs, fixing a little of this and a little of that. Leroy’s other long term ‘unofficial job’ was as the sound person for Sunday worship.
Leroy and I celebrated our 33rd anniversary recently, and like all married folk, have had struggles and joys. Leroy has shown his amazing inner strength, supporting me when life was tough, emotionally. He has been my best friend, my co-conspirator in fun things and family jokes, partner in cooking and renovations; partner in being part of our church and choices about faith.
Leroy has carved out his own spot in his two families and extended families. He treated both widowed Moms with courtesy, gentleness, some teasing, and love. Nieces and nephews were precious and have had a special place in his heart – where he supported them in his own quiet way; through prayer, with fun things, quiet chats, with hunting adventures and play time when they were little. Aunts and Uncles have been valued and have been both his mentors and his friends. His Grandma Kroeker was special in his heart, as there had been lots of contact with her during his growing up years. Brothers and sisters, both Friesen and Rempel were important to him becoming his friends and confidants.
Leroy was a pretty healthy guy. Not given to any extremes in work or play, with lots of physical work in his days and in his hobbies. So in October of 2011, when Leroy was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer, it was a shock. He has travelled that medical journey with strength, courage, grace and faith. He had a great and large medical team guiding his treatment, helping take care of illness and symptoms. He had three surgeries, an extensive schedule of radiation, and numerous rounds of chemotherapy. With surgeries came treatments, tests, Doctor appointments, and visits to the ER in Altona Hospital. On March 23 he came to the ER in Altona Hospital, and was admitted the same day. Here he struggled and suffered with complications from cancer until the early afternoon of September 16th, when he passed away.
Leroy leaves to mourn his best friend and beloved wife Marge; his Mother Justina Friesen, his sister Shirl and Greg Hildebrand, brothers, Jake and Marg, Bill and Nettie, Ray and Connie, together with their families. Nieces and nephews, Michelle and Dan, Richard and Charlotte, Doreen and Kevin, Doug and Sherry, Kevin and Felecia, Devin and Kassy, Kelsey, Josh, and Monica. Great nieces include Mira, Veronica, Alissa, Caitlyn, Emily, Jasmyne, Sady-Ann. Great nephews Jeremy, Zachary, Tyrone and Sid.
On the Rempel side of the family – Jake, Tina and Frank Siemens, Liz and Devin Wieler, John and Damaris, Dave and Debby, Henry and Margaret. Nieces and Nephews, Rebecca and Shaun, Vanessa, Holly and Scott, Clayton, Vincent and Ethan and Beth. Great nephews Sethren and Tristan and great niece Katie. Also honorary sister – Edna Zacharias
Leroy will be missed by the many friends he had made in his life time.
He was pre-deceased by his father, Abram A Friesen and his sister-in-law Annelore Friesen.
Leroy and I give thanks to many people. We have often spoken of the great help and care from the medical system that Leroy and I, have received.
Leroy had a great number of medical professionals who took care of him these last 4 years.
Our local Doctors, K Kliewer, T Mahdi and K Winning.
The medical and support staff of the Altona Hospital. In a very real sense, Leroy and I both lived in the Altona Hospital these past 6 months. The staff went out of their way to take care of Leroy and I, to make our large extended family and friends as welcome as possible.
Dr C Woelk, of Boundary Trails Cancer Care has been remarkable in his ongoing care of Leroy, through chemo and pain management. Dr. Woelk, together with the chemo team at Boundary Trails Cancer Care are second to none.
In Winnipeg, Leroy had a couple of great endo-stoma nurses who were an integral part of his care and health after those surgeries.
Surgeons, Drs. Wirtzfeld, MacKay, Hebbard, Saranchuk, and more (whose names we have forgotten!) all had a hand in performing the three surgeries and procedures that Leroy underwent.
Leroy’s oncologist was Dr. M Krahn, our ‘cancer quarterback’ who looked at the big picture and directed the treatment plan with good humor, plain talk and compassion.
The medical team took care of Leroy and me, but we could not have made it through these difficult years without all kinds of other supports.
To our families, we are profoundly grateful for having you in our lives. You prayed for us, took care of us, listened to us, advised us, and smoothed the way wherever you could. Many people have commented to us, how they admire you and see you as an example. And they are right!
To our church family – again, you have prayed for us, offered support and lent a hand, provided rides and food, you came to sing for us and shared communion with us. Special thanks to our church pastors – Dan Kehler and Dave Regehr. Your listening ears, your sharing of faith and your discernment have helped our tired spirits. This past week, your help with the funeral arrangements and your prayers and support, your leading of the service and help with arrangements has helped to ease my walk.
To our many other friends we thank you for listening, for praying, for words of encouragement for helping and cheering us, for letting us cry.
Thanks to all for prayers. Thanks for gifts of food and flowers, for kind words and offers of help and encouragement.
For their professional services; carried out with respect and caring and with some laughter thrown in, my thanks to Trevor and Wiebe’s Funeral Home. Your attention to detail and your kindness has been appreciated.
To the group serving lunch, thank you for taking care of this, for helping with all the hospitality. Thanks also to the sound technician and the ushers. A special thanks to the pallbears, for carrying Leroy on his last journey here on earth.
---written by Marge Friesen
Funeral service was held on Monday, September 21, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. at the Bergthaler Mennonite Church in Altona, Manitoba. Interment followed at the Eigenhof Cemetery.