He Would Have Been 100

If my father-in-law Cornelius Driedger were still alive he would have turned 100 today.

Dad was born February 26, 1921 in Tiege, Ukraine. His parents fled there after bandits led by Nestor Machno, repeatedly entered their Schoenfeld home and threatened to kill Dad’s father Abram Driedger.

The Marientaubstummenschule was a School For the Deaf with an excellent reputation established by Mennonites in Ukraine in 1890

In Tiege they stayed in the Mennonite School for The Deaf closed to students because of the revolution. Several other families also took refuge there. Abram worked for some local farmers. Cornelius was born there just a month after his one and half year old sister Kaethe died of pneumonia.

My husband Dave stands on the porch of his father’s birthplace in 2011 on a visit to Ukraine

Cornelius was a sickly baby. Worried she would lose another child his mother took him outside the School for the Deaf and held him up to God. She vowed if God spared her child she would dedicate him to the work of the church. Perhaps hearing his mother tell this story is one reason Cornelius became a pastor later in his life.

A famine began shortly after Cornelius was born so his parents spent a few years living in the village of Petersagen with his maternal grandparents Cornelius and Agatha Friesen. His younger sister Agatha was born there.

Cornelius, his sister Agatha and their parents. This photo is from their immigration papers.

On June 23, 1924 about 1000 Mennonites including Cornelius, his parents and sister crowded into box cars at the Lichtenau train station in southern Ukraine.

My husband stands on the railway tracks at the Lichtenau Train Station in Ukraine where his father’s family began their long journey to Canada

They traveled to Latvia where they took a ship to Antwerp Belgium. From there they boarded the steamer the Minnedosa which took them to Quebec City landing July 19, 1924.

Cornelius’ family in the late 1930s Cornie is in the middle back row with his sister Margaret on his left and sister Agatha on his right. His brother Abe is on the far right and his youngest brother John stands between his parents.

When they first arrived in Canada Cornelius’ family stayed with Mennonite families in Welesley and Zurich Ontario. In 1925 they moved to Newton Siding Manitoba and also lived in Glenlea Manitoba for a time. In 1929 his parents decided they should move to Pelee Island, Ontario to join his father’s relatives living there. Cornie quit school at age 13 to help out on the farm.

In April of 1937 Cornie’s family left Pelee Island for the mainland and lived on a farm where they worked as sharecroppers. Cornie hired himself out to other farmers to earn extra money and also worked in a tobacco factory.

Dad was baptized in 1941. He is third from the left in the back row and his future wife Anne is fifth from the right in the middle row. They were baptized by Cornie’s uncle N. N. Driedger in the Essex County United Mennonite Church.

Cornie married Anne Enns on September 26, 1942 in the Oak Street Mennonite Church in Leamington, Ontario.

Dad is the worker in the middle of this photo.

They had only been married a few months when Cornie had to leave to work in a logging camp in Montreal River. He had been drafted and since he was a Mennonite and a conscientious objector, he did this alternate service.

Dad working in the family greenhouse.

After working on the Hadley and Marsh Wigle farms for nearly a decade in 1956 Anne and Cornie bought their own farm on Highway 77 in Leamington.

They had five sons Robert, John, Paul, David and William.

Dad with his friends and fellow ballplayers. Dad is to the far left in the back row.

Although their family worked incredibly hard on the farm there was still time to indulge in their passion for baseball. Dad played and so did all of his sons.

Mom and Dad on the right at Dad’s ordination

Over the years Cornie took on many roles in his church including Sunday School Superintendent and pulpit assistant. He was ordained to the ministry in 1970. In 1974 when his brother-in-law Jacob Neufeld who had served as the pastor of North Leamington United Church died Dad became a full-time pastor. He and Mom rented out their farmland.

Mom and Dad celebrating their 50th anniversary

Cornie and Anne’s five sons all married but sadly their oldest son Robert died of cancer in 1974. Cornie and Anne were blessed with ten grandchildren.

Dad with other staff members at the Leamington Mennonite Home

Dad retired from his job as a pastor in 1989 and he and Mom sold their farm to their son Bill and his wife Julie and moved into a townhouse in Leamington. In 1984 Dad took a job as a chaplain at the Leamington Mennonite Home and served in that role till 2008.

Anne died on October 14, 2011, and after living in the Leamington Mennonite Home for several years Cornie passed away June 6, 2016.

At his funeral, many people spoke to the family about all the ways Dad had cared for them in his pastoral role. In a tribute, his sons Dave and Bill thanked their Dad for teaching them to work hard and for sharing his passion for the game of baseball with them. They noted that the role their father seemed to have enjoyed most in life was that of a grandfather.

My father-in-law Cornelius Driedger would have been 100 years old today.

Other posts………..

Anne Driedger

Remembering Rudy York

Baseball Legacy


Filed under Family

6 responses to “He Would Have Been 100

  1. Edie Peters Williams

    This is a great tribute! My grandparents were residents of the Leamington Home during this time.


  2. Abe Warkentin

    Hi MaryLou,

    Thanks for sending me your blog. Today’s item was especially interesting. My late mother, Agnes Driedger Warkentin, was the son of Abram A. Driedger of Schoenfeld. I was named after Abram. I have a map of Schoenfeld and there were several Driedger families living there before the unrest.

    I travelled to the Soviet Union in 1971 and wrote a series of articles but that visit, during the Cold War, didn’t include a trip to the Ukraine and Schoenfeld. I would still like to do that but am running out of time.

    If you have more stuff about Schoenfeld from your visit there that you could share, I would be very interested.

    I will send you a pic of some of the books I have related to Schoenfeld if you send me your email address.

    Thanks again,

    Abe Warkentin


    • Dear Abe, I didn’t send you my blog but perhaps you saw it on one of the Facebook groups where I posted it but I thanks so much for your interest. I do have a fair bit of information about Schoenfeld because my husband’s cousin John Braun interviewed their grandmother extensively. I do have a map of Schoenfeld because Victor Penner was our guide in Ukraine and he was such a professional. I sent him the names of the places our 3 sets of grandparents had lived and he had maps and histories and all kinds of things at the ready for our visit. Sadly Victor has died taking with him an invaluable storehouse of information about the Mennonites in Ukraine. My e-mail address is maryloudriedger@gmail.com and I’d be happy to talk with you any time.


  3. Interesting post. I saw your post on the Mennonite Genealogy Facebook group and I know the family well. Just of bit of genealogy trivia, your husband David’s great grandmother married my great grandfather after both their respective spouses passed away. Children from their previous marriages were adults at that point. If you’re interested, I have a picture of the combined family. They married in 1907 and the picture was taken somewhere circa. 1910-1915. Let me know and I’ll forward it one to you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.