Peter Klassen, son of Johann and Elizabeth Klassen, younger brother to John and a twin to Margaret was born on May 18, 1936 in Steinfeld, a Mennonite village in the Ukraine.
His father, a farmer and a carpenter, was apprehended upon confession of his faith, in September 1937. Two weeks later he, and others, were sentenced and executed. The situation in all of Steinfeld was dire, and in October 1943, the entire village joined The Trek of 350,000 people that would eventually bring them to Germany. They travelled by foot, by horse, by oxen, by wagon, by train; sometimes in large groups, sometimes with just a few families, almost always on impassable mud roads in the midst of military combat.
In 1948, Pete, along with his mom and siblings, left West Germany and came to Canada, on board the RMS Aquitania. Uncle Cornelius and Aunt Margaret, whom they hadn’t seen in 22 years, welcomed them into their home in Boissevain. They lived together for one year, but eventually settled in Winkler where Pete received 3 years of formal public education.
Pete left school at age 15 to work on Ed and Mary Hoeppner’s farm for two years full of fun, adventure, and hard work. Mr. Hoeppner’s influence on Pete was profound and long lasting. At age 17, he received his wages, $900, which he gave to his mom. She bought him a one way bus ticket to Vancouver along with $29 spending money. He was going to start a new life in BC.
His first Sunday in Vancouver, he attended 43rd Avenue MB Church and noticed 13 year old Hilda Neumann. “I’m going to marry her someday…” he said to a friend. And then he set his mind to figuring out how to earn a living. He was a hard worker and was highly motivated to succeed. His lack of education and limited work experience did not prevent him from aggressively learning a trade. His determination to be prosperous along with his sense of responsibility to provide for his family contributed to his success as an ‘Arborite Man’.
Pete attended an evangelistic crusade in 1957 and went forward during the altar call. He surrendered his life to the Lord and was baptized a year later in 1958 at Fraserview MB Church. Shortly after that he asked Hilda to marry him, and in August 1959 they were wed.
Together they had 3 children, Jane, born in 1961, Jim in 1963, and Julie in 1966. They built and lived in homes in Burnaby and Coquitlam before eventually settling on a 25 acre farm in Surrey, where they raised their family, then watched it grow as their kids got married and had babies.
In 1987, a new phase began for both Pete and Hilda. Pete built a stunning Victorian building for Hilda where she could run her business from, “Billie’s Country”; a craft and gift store at the front of their property on 96thAve. They won an award for Excellence in Commercial Design and Pete was a proud supporter, not only talking it up whenever he met with his countertop clients, but also supplying her with all the wood pieces her business required.
That same year, in 1987, the first of 8 grandchildren arrived, and Pete became a “Bups” – a devoted and loving grandfather. He took on this new role, the same way he did everything, with all his love and energy.
On Dec 18, 1990, Pete had a massive heart attack, which eventually resulted in open heart surgery and the need for two pacemakers. He chose to live life fully and completely despite various heart and health issues and in 2006, with Jim's expertise, built his dream home, a Victorian palace for him and Hilda to retire to. Sadly, shortly after that, Pete was diagnosed with dementia and would need full time help. Hilda lovingly saw to his needs and cared for him faithfully until Feb 2012 when he had a massive stroke. Due to paralysis, complicated with Parkinsons’ and congestive heart failure, Pete was moved to the Kinsmen Lodge in Surrey where he felt like the luckiest man for his last three years.
On March 12, 2015, Pete passed from our arms into the arms of Jesus, where he is laughing and hugging and feeling good. We miss him but have great peace, knowing he is in heaven teaching Moses and Johnny Cash how to create a fire bomb with sawdust and a blow torch.