On Thursday, March 9th, 2023, Helen Sawatzky of Winnipeg passed away peacefully with family by her side. She spent 66 beautiful years on this earth and her brief yet courageous battle with cancer has left a Helen sized hole in all family and friends who will cherish and celebrate the memory of her life.
Helen was born on November 7th, 1956, to Aron and Katharina Giesbrecht, of Colony Menno Chaco, a small farming community of Lichtenau, Paraguay. Helen was the sixth of nine children in the Giesbrecht family. Her memories of roasting harvested peanuts, drinking warm fresh milk, and adventurous play with her siblings were greater than those of the challenges they endured, considering half the family was nearly blind. Faith was an integral part of their home, and school took place in the church where her Father was an elder. Perhaps the only disdain she held toward her childhood was the utter repulsion towards all things slithering, crawling, or croaking.
In her thirteenth year, On June 15th, 1969, her family arrived in Manitoba, Canada. Settling first in Niverville before moving to Winnipeg in the summer of 1972. Though Helen enjoyed school and completed the 9th grade at Elmwood Highschool, the home culture required teens capable of work to help support the large family. True to her generous nature she looked out well for her younger sisters and often bought them treats from her small allowance. She was first employed at Concordia Hospital, (Desalaberry location), in kitchen and laundry, but the younger Helen was not comfortable with the realities of patient care and went to work for Chemcrest until she moved to Alberta in the late 1970’s.
Shortly before the move to Alberta a relationship began with Hans Sawatzky of Niverville, a friend of her brothers from those early years in Canada. Their life together was a new province away from most of their families when they were married on September 5th, 1980. Their first daughter Sylvia had come along and their second daughter Laura, arrived two years later. With the 1980’s economic crash, their return to Manitoba was imminent. Laura was just five days old when they departed for a fresh start in Winnipeg. After several moves within the city, their third daughter Miranda was born. They settled in Valley Gardens area, close to schools and amenities for their girls within walking and biking distance.
Helen was baptized in 1984 and became a member at Erin Street Mission Chapel. The trajectory of her children’s upbringing was being set with her steadfast faith in Christ and commitment to the body of believers. This remained an intrinsic part of her that stayed all her days. She valued being a homemaker which gave many opportunities to be the neighbourhood “Mom” or “Tante Helen” to the many children she babysat. This title stuck with her church family and the friends of her girls. For years Helen ministered through various ways including a musical quartet called The Sunshine Group, as Awana Cubbies Director, Kitchen Coordinator, Sunday School Teacher, church Librarian, and many summers in the camp kitchen at Roseau River Bible Camp.
Helen was happiest spending time with family and friends, especially so when any granddaughters were present. Her home had a revolving door and a bottomless pot of coffee. Taking in a Bomber game on TV, shopping for others, filling our tummies and exchanging laughter amused her. To us all she is an incredible example of unconditional love, generosity, selflessness, simplistic living, and resiliency. Helen’s life was full of blessing and burden, but she was never one given to complaining. If anything, these difficulties drove her closer to her Savior, her friend, her confidence, her hope. Even in the face of devastating family losses and an incurable diagnosis a few short months ago, she resolutely set her mind’s eye to Zion. How fitting that Heaven’s brilliance is the first thing she’s ever clearly seen!
Helen will be held in the heart of her husband of 42 years, Hans. In the hearts of her three daughters Sylvia (Duane Goertzen), Laura (Ryan Allain), and Miranda Sawatzky. Her granddaughters Isabelle (Joseph Dueck), Payton, Willow, Ember Goertzen and Norah and Tristan Allain. In addition, her siblings; Eva (Peter Kehler), Abe (Liesa Giesbrecht), Ed (Helen Giesbrecht), Lea (David Gallop) and Viera (Larry Bergen) along with their families.
A come and go viewing will be held from 6:30-8:00pm on Wednesday, March 15th, 2023, at Crossings Funeral Care, Steinbach, MB, as well as 1 hour prior to the funeral service. A funeral service will be held at 2:00pm on Thursday, March 16th, 2023, at the River East Mennonite Church, 825 Panet Road, Winnipeg, MB. For those unable to attend in person, the family invites you to join them via livestream. Please click here to view the livestream.
A private family interment will take place, in the Roseau River Community Cemetery, at a later date.
The family is grateful for your prayers and every visit or phone call to Mom whether in the hospital or while at home, along with deep appreciation for the warm attentive staff in GD-6 ward at HSC.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Helen's memory to CancerCare, Manitoba.