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Margaret’s story began 76 years ago, on November 3, 1940, in the modest home of Heinrich and Katharina Peters, found in the village of Berwalde, Mexico. Margaret was their 8th child, 3rd daughter in what should have been a family of 13, but only 11 children survived. Hers was the typical life of a girl in a large Mennonite family during that time. Tending chickens, milking cows, cleaning the home and learning the domestic skills of sewing and cooking. There was also time for school for a while.
Her life nearly came to an untimely end though at age 2, when she was bitten by a tarantula she was playing with. There was no hospital emergency room; only a self-taught doctor in the village who had read some textbooks. He did, however, know to apply a tourniquet above her knee to prevent the poison from spreading beyond the injury site. Margaret’s grandma also cooked up a poultice to draw out the poison. Another home remedy that was used was to bury some cream underground until it became thick and potent. This was applied to the knee to clean out the blood.
Little Margaret recovered fully and spent her childhood in her parents’ home until age 13. At that time, she moved in next door to work as her grandmother’s Kjäakjsche, or kitchen maid. However, her duties extended beyond the kitchen, as she was also responsible for the farm animals and pruning the fruit trees. Margaret was the one chosen to help her grandma in this way because they got along well and Margaret was an extremely hard and efficient worker. This gift of service was to be the hallmark of her life, one she used to bless many. Her hands were never idle and she became restless quickly when expected to just “sit and visit” for extended periods. Margaret remained in her grandma’s home until the farm was sold, at which time she moved on to serve in another home. It was at this time, in this place where she met her sweetheart, Johann Unger and “robbed the cradle”.
John was a charmer and won her affections, as seen in a family photo album, where she is pictured smiling while reading one of his love letters. After being baptized upon the confession of their faith, their love led to a wedding in the summer of 1961 and grew to include a large family. The first five children were born to them while living in Blumenhof, Mexico; Margaret was kept busy in many of the same tasks she had growing up, only now it was compounded by taking care of her children as well. John was the sole provider at that time, managing a grocery store and repairing watches and clocks.
He dreamt of making a better life for his family and made the decision to move to Canada in March of 1969. Due to the kindness of friends and strangers they were able to begin the first challenging years of living in a country where they did not know the language. Margaret and her husband crossed the border with nothing but a few blankets in the car of a hired driver, five children in tow, with number six to arrive in two weeks.
The family spent several years moving from one temporary home to another in the Altona and Winkler area, with Margaret always working hard to feed and dress her children. She loved the outdoors and gardening was a large part of what she did there. Out of necessity, she also sewed all the family clothing, many times working at the sewing machine until two in the morning, where she would fall asleep from exhaustion.
Margaret also worked at a part-time job upon arriving in Canada, painting frames at Challenger Homes. It was also decided she needed to learn how to drive in this new country. Much of her practise time was on a farm-yard that was rented south of Altona. She honed her skills on the farm while the children sat on the fender, where she could keep an eye on them at the same time!
Life eventually stabilized in Canada and the couple built a home of their own on Spruce Crescent in 1979. This modest bungalow housed a total of 10 people, including 5 sons and 3 daughters. There were another four children conceived that were never born.
Margaret’s talent for cooking was appreciated by many in a variety of ways. She and her husband leased Four Winds Restaurant for a brief time, where Margaret was the cook; she later also cooked at Valley Grill Restaurant and for a time she made pies for Chicken Chef. A favourite memory for her children are the times she would serve apple pie for lunch with fried farmer sausage, followed by a dessert of chocolate pie! All the school children were jealous of this unconventional lunch! Saturday was often filled with the scent of soup cooking for Sunday lunch and Thursdays were always pinto bean and sausage day. Margaret told her children lunch had to be simple as she had up to 22 loads of laundry to do that day, all with a wringer washer and spinner.
Throughout her daily chores, Margaret was also the acting receptionist, as her husband was a self-employed reflexologist for many years and worked in the home. That meant the rooms upstairs needed to be spotless at all times, as the customers were ever-present in the family’s life.
Despite the heavy load of work Margaret carried, she found time to laugh. She found humour in every day mishaps and took great delight in scaring the bejeebers out of her family. She loved to hide behind curtains and doorways only to jump out and scare her children. If anything could get a belly-laugh out of Margaret, it was that.
As the children grew and depended less on her, Margaret developed some hobbies she loved. She spent many hours reading and started each day reading devotions from The Daily Bread. She was a woman of faith that spent many hours praying and relied heavily upon her Creator to get her through life’s challenges. For fun, Saturdays were often spent playing Bingo in the evening, with weeknights often filled with puzzling in the back room, where she could still answer the phone for her husband’s business. She was a creative and talented lady and would spend time decorating pillow cases and bedspreads with liquid embroidery. She was a talented artist and loved to draw, even though she didn’t spend much time at it. Many Saturday mornings, together with their mother, the children would also get caught up in the painting and drawing television shows that aired at that time.
Margaret had musical talent as well. Her sister tells us that she played harmonica in a band as a teenager, although her children rarely heard her play. She did make sure, however, that each of her children received a harmonica one Christmas. Margaret loved to sing in the choir in her home church, the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church; the children also remember she regularly loved to watch the Tommy Hunter Show. Even the talents of Elvis Presley were enjoyed by their mom!
As responsibilities lessened and life became a little more relaxed she and her husband took many trips together, often with friends of theirs. Going for coffee with these friends was also a daily occurrence and many weekends were spent playing cards with friends and family. As a couple, they also enjoyed biking together in the evenings once John was semi-retired. When it was just Margaret going out - while grandpa still worked evenings - the children still at home were happy to join her, as it usually ended with a visit to The Hut for ice cream!
Margaret didn’t get sick often, although she dealt with migraines until she had her heavy long hair cut short. She also dealt with uterine cancer at age 40, which was overcome with surgery. However, a time came in her late 60’s where she developed an infection in her colon. It was extremely difficult for her to overcome this and she lost a lot of weight. She just wasn’t getting the nutrition she needed. As a result, although we didn’t realize it, her brain was starving for nutrition. It was with alarm that the family realized their mother was beginning to forget things, becoming confused more and more often and disoriented. She herself realized it and voluntarily quit driving one day when she could no longer trust herself behind the wheel.
Her husband had an extremely difficult time accepting his wife’s decline but did what he could to take care of her physical needs. After a couple of years of this, Margaret was panelled and a place was found for her at Eastview. Her level of need had outgrown her husbands’ abilities to care for her.
Margaret began her new life at BlueRidge Place on December 6, 2012. It was not an easy adjustment but she eventually settled into her new surroundings. Her health continued to deteriorate and Margaret eventually lost the ability to speak more than a word or two. However, by her body language her family and care providers were still able to understand and take care of her needs. Her appetite remained strong until the last week of her life. Margaret developed a slight fever and seemed to develop a lung related illness that she wasn’t strong enough to recover from. She spent a week in her bed, refusing food and water. The doctors and nurses advised the family that their mother would not be recovering.
The family spent many hours with her, reading scriptures, singing to her, holding her hand and caring for her. She seemed to be at peace and did not appear to be in pain.
It was on the evening of August 17th, at 10:24 p.m. that Margaret was taken home to Jesus, surrounded by all her children who were holding her hands and singing the final verse to “Amazing Grace”.
Margaretha Unger, nee Peters, was 76 years, 9 months and 14 days old when she went to her eternal reward in heaven. She was predeceased by two sisters and two brothers, her parents, as well as her husband John on February 18th of this year. She is survived by 5 sons, 3 daughters and their families; daughter Marge Doerksen, son George and wife Martha, son Henry and wife Ruth, son John and wife Shirley, daughter Tina, son Pete and wife Verna, daughter Sara and husband Mike, son Corney and wife Barb. Her eight children blessed her with nineteen grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. She loved her family dearly and prayed for all of them often. She leaves behind a legacy of faith and many memories of how she loved and served as long as she was able.
Margaret accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour and as a result, the family has great joy knowing that she has been reunited with her sweetheart, that she is able to dance and is of a clear mind and that they will someday see her again!
The Unger family extends their sincere gratitude for the many prayers and visits to their mother, and to the staff at Eastview Place that took care of her for nearly 5 years. The peace that passes all understanding is truly felt at a time like this. They rejoice that she is no longer suffering even while they will miss seeing her in the flesh. They appreciate the prayers for family, words of encouragement, acts of kindness, and food provided during their time of mourning. The family extends their thanks to Pastor Art Wiebe and wife Kathy, for ministering to their needs, to Wiebe Funeral Home and to all of those who helped with the memorial service. A special thanks to all those that made the effort to travel great distances to be with the family during this time.
For those who wish to make a donation in Margaret’s memory, the family’s preference would be donations be made to Eastview Place in Altona.
Memorial service was held on Monday, August 21, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. at the Altona Sommerfeld Mennonite Church. Burial took place prior to the service at 1:00 p.m. at the Altona Cemetery.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
9:00am - 8:00pm
Sunday, August 20, 2017
9:00am - 9:00pm
Monday, August 21, 2017
Starts at 2:00pm
Altona Sommerfeld Mennonite Church
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