11 June, 1927 – 23 March, 2021
Jake Sudermann went to be with the Lord on March 23, 2021 at White Rock, British Columbia at the age of 93.
Jake is lovingly remembered by Henry Sudermann (Ellie), Ellie Hanson (John), grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Thank you to all the friends and family for your prayers and support.
Jake Sudermann was born on June 11, 1927 in Steinau, Ukraine to Jacob & Helena Sudermann (nee Klassen). Jake was the oldest of 3 children, with 2 sisters Helena and Margarita eventually living in Germany (Margarita deceased).
Jake’s life was an amazing journey. His early childhood years were happy times with his wonderful family in a small Mennonite village in the Ukraine. Dad’s mother was a homemaker and his father was a carpenter and minister in the village. He had grandparents, uncles, aunts, & cousins in the village where he attended school through grade five. Dad loved animals throughout his life and he loved to ride horses bareback into the local river for a swim and to cool the horses down. He tended to the animals well, including horses, cows, pigs & chickens. He related stories of helping his dad make knives for the villagers. Dad would manually turn the grinding wheel for his dad as they made and sharpened knives for others. He would not make many more memories with his dad.
The political climate in Russia and the Ukraine changed drastically for the worse when Stalin’s decade of terror began. Grain production and all food products were rationed and controlled, resulting in region wide starvation.
Soon Russia declared war against Germany. The Mennonites were regarded as a threat to Russia because they were German speaking people. In 1937 all men and older boys of Mennonite heritage & Christian beliefs were rounded up and taken away from their families, including Jake’s father, and were sent to far away places in Russia. Years later it was learned that Jake’s father had been executed. With all the shortages of food forced by Stalin, Jake’s family had no way to sustain themselves with the loss of their father. One of the local political leaders approached Jake’s mother to ask her how she was going to take care of her family, to which she responded that she didn’t know how she could. He had an idea to help them. He proposed that Jake, at 11 years old, would become the village herdsman because he was so good with animals. He would have to quit school after grade five to tend all the animals from sun up to sun down. In exchange, they received a sack of flour every few weeks. He excelled at his new challenge and became an expert herdsman to support his family. Often his mother would lament: Jake, I have no food to give you today. So Dad would pull a few carrots to eat somewhere in the fields. Water was available in the nearby creek. Sometimes his mother would pack a little bag of popped corn, which was all she had. When Jake came home from work, mom would ask him to take off his clothes to mend them overnight while he crawled under the blankets with no clothes on since he had only one of everything.
Due to the war, in September 1943, Jake was separated from his mother and sisters. He had no idea where they were taken. Eventually he learned that his mother and sisters were taken to Siberia in northern Russia where his mother died of starvation. His sisters survived the war, eventually got married and started families of their own. Dad was conscripted to the German army & eventually landed in an American prison camp in Austria. While in prison camp, somehow he acquired a small harmonica and set about trying to learn how to play it. He literally drove his barrack buddies nuts while he practised playing the harmonica. When the war ended he was released and worked for an Austrian farmer for 2 years. Even in his 90s, he’d repeatedly talk about the first home cooked meal he had there as though it was yesterday and described each dish of food in great detail. He felt forever blessed by being treated like part of the family rather than just being a hired hand.
The next part of Jake’s life started with him leaving Europe for Canada in 1949. He applied to immigrate to Canada with the help of the Canadian Red Cross and the Mennonite Central Committee. Contact was made with his uncle & aunt Gerhard & Maria Dyck in Chilliwack BC and he would eventually make his way there. This chapter of Dad’s life was the happiest for him. Dad arrived by ship on the Cunard White Star Samaria on Oct 25, 1949 in Quebec City, Quebec. He repaid his journey to Canada by agreeing to work for one year as a farm labourer in La Salle Manitoba, not far from Winnipeg.
While Dad worked in La Salle he befriended other Mennonite immigrants through the church in Winnipeg. Jake Bergen became a dear friend and they met two beautiful Penner sisters in Winnipeg. Dad started seeing Katie Penner and they fell in love. Dad fulfilled his farm labour obligations and then made his way to Chilliwack to be united with his uncle & aunt. Dad made it clear to his relatives that he was not going to take advantage of them and intended to find work right away. Within two days he had a job in a logging camp in an area that was called Ruby Creek (between Agassiz and Hope). Dad also wanted to solidify his Christian faith and was baptized in 1951. After letter writing dad and mom decided to marry on April 19, 1952 in Arnaud Manitoba.
Son Henry was born in 1953 and daughter Elenore was born in 1955. They purchased a 2 acre farm with a little 2 bedroom house and that became our home. Dad continued working as a logger for eight years. The work was very seasonal with long hours. He used to regale us with logging stories of choker men, high riggers, whistle punks, and riggin’ slingers. Not to mention the brush monkey (newbie guy) or the infamous barber chair or crummy (loggers bus) and widow maker. When I used to say to my dad that I had a long commute to work in the big city of an hour or so, he would let me know that he would routinely get up at 3 am, walk half a mile to the corner store to wait for the crummy to pick up the loggers and make their way to the Fraser River bank just short of Hope BC. There they would cross the river on a makeshift barge and wind their way up to the logging camp on the north side of the river. Then they would take their lunch bucket and all their gear sometimes up to 100 pounds and make their way uphill and into the wind to the logging site, all in time to start the power saws by daybreak. Then he would say, how long did you say your commute was? Sometimes he would remark that during those dark walks up the mountain to the logging site, all the stumps they passed looked like big black bears, until one day one of the stumps started snorting and moving with speed. He simply yelled at the bear and it was gone! Dad was a great story teller and all he needed was a few sets of ears close by and it was story time! Sometimes people would say: Hey Jake, we already heard that one, but he would just ignore them and carry on with a smile.
Since logging was seasonal work, he sought out more reliable employment at the East Chilliwack Co-op which offered year round steady work with regular hours. They produced livestock feeds for all the farmers in the lower mainland. That worked very well with running their raspberry farm after hours. Work was not easy manhandling 100-200 pound bags of feed continually. Soon dad was the key “Mixer Man”, mixing all the feed and running the production operation. Eventually he became the Mill Supervisor until he retired in 1992. He had to learn to do the hiring and firing. He was always very thoughtful about the latter since a family’s livelihood would be at stake. When hiring I asked him how he interviewed prospective employees. He said that was easy, he simply asked a few questions & then listened very very closely to their answers. Then he said, “I would size them off.” He was a keen observer of character.
Church life was very important to Dad & our family faithfully attended Eden Mennonite Church in Chilliwack. Dad was always consistently involved with volunteering at church. He was not one to speak at a microphone or chair meetings but he was known for his dedication to ushering, greeting, parking committees, & helping with many building projects around the church. For decades he chaired the ushering and parking committees. To this day friends still remind us how great it was to be welcomed by Jake when they entered the church. He had a big presence and big handshake, welcoming all alike with a big smile which was absolutely genuine. He continued going to church faithfully until the Covid pandemic hit hard in 2020.
Christmases in our home were always special. Usually around Christmas time Dad would find his old harmonica from Austria and start playing some tunes for us. We really enjoyed that & were impressed that dad had learned it amazingly well. He could play entirely by ear and it sounded great! Very few knew he could play a very good harmonica.
When his wife Katie passed away in 2011 it meant a big adjustment for Dad. Often when people would ask him: “How’s it going, Jake?” he would say, “Well, I just have to get used to it.” After mom passed away, Burger King became a weekly stop, especially on “Whopper Wednesday” after Seniors Bible Study at church. Eventually Dad adjusted to his new reality and he stayed on the family farm tending chickens and his yard until November 2018. At 91 years old, he moved to Birchwood Retirement Home in Chilliwack into his own little apartment there. Again Dad adjusted well to his new environment. Dad said it like it was, so when we talked of retirement residences, he used to say: “You mean old folks homes!” Dad loved his food, so when we talked on the phone, we asked him how the food was there. He said, “pretty good but there is not much food on the plate. But that’s OK because there are a lot of old people that live here, they don’t work anymore, so they don’t need much food.” Dad was not one of those “old people” at 91!
On February 5, 2021 Dad had a fall and was unable to get up. He was taken to Chilliwack Hospital where he declined rapidly due to several cancers spreading in his body. After 4 weeks in hospital, doctors decided to transfer him to a long term care home. We wanted him closer to us in Surrey/Delta so we could visit him regularly. He was moved to Evergreen Baptist Care Home in White Rock on March 8th, where he declined rapidly & passed away peacefully two weeks later on March 23, 2021.
Many thanks to relatives & friends for all the love and support throughout Jake’s life. We also thank all the medical professionals, nurses, & staff who helped Dad on his journey home to glory.
Jake was a gracious, genuine & caring father, brother, uncle, grandfather, & great grandfather. Always willing to help others and faithful to all around him. He had a warm heart, big smile, and a warm embracing handshake. He privately read his Bible and prayed for us daily without any need to be seen or praised. His world was a positive one and his glass was always much more than half full. All this in spite of him losing everything that was near and dear to him so early in his life. He was never bitter, always positive and always hopeful for the future. He came to Canada with two things, a very small suitcase and a very big dream to live his life in a free country. He felt blessed.
Dad, we are so proud of your consistent, faithful walk with the Lord and how you lived out honesty & integrity every day. Well done, thou good and faithful servant. You’ve been released into the glorious presence of your Heavenly Father!
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
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Janet and Corney Les
4 April 2021
We were blessed to have Jake as a wonderful neighbour for almost 25 years. Friendly and hospitable, he was always in a good mood and loved the Lord and his people. Thank you for sharing about his life. God bless you Henry and Ellie as you live out the heritage of your godly father.
3 April 2021
Nice words about a great guy. I’ve heard some of those stories, the last time just a few years ago at his favourite Chinese buffet. Many memories of him on the barrel at the feed mill
27 March 2021
Dear family. I have fond memories of your dad when we were kids and spent great visits together. I talked with him awhile back when he visited our church with his friend Bill Berg and he still remembered me and my siblings. Our thoughts are with you as you celebrate a wonderful jolly man. Adina Krahn-Kornelsen