November 14, 1926- January 16, 2015
Peter Retzlaff of Coaldale, beloved husband of the late Helena (Baergen) Retzlaff passed away peacefully at the Sunny South Lodge on Friday, January 16, 2015 at the age of 88 years. Peter was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Peter was born in Duchess, Alberta on November 14, 1926 to Heinrich and Elizabeth (Barg) Retzlaff. He spent his early years growing up on a farm outside of Rosemary, Alberta with his parents and six siblings. He considered himself to be a “high school drop-out” because he had to stop his schooling after Grade 10 to help out on the farm; however, after spending one winter at home, he chose to attend Mennonite Bible Institute (MBI) in Didsbury, Alberta for four winters. It was there that his faith was firmly established, and this led to his baptism on May 28, 1944. It was also at MBI that he met Helena Baergen. Peter attended Rosthern Junior College for two years and completed high school, after which time he married Helena on October 15, 1949. The couple briefly settled in Rosemary before moving to Winnipeg for 1950/51 so Peter could study at Canadian Mennonite Bible College. After this time they returned to Rosemary.
In Rosemary, Peter was ordained to the Ministry in 1954. In 1955, after doing lay ministry work and experiencing five crop failures in a row on the farm, Peter, Helen and their growing family of three children moved to Saskatchewan to serve at the North Battleford Mennonite Mission. Three years later, in 1958, the family moved to the US where Peter studied at Bethel College, received his Bachelor of Arts degree, and eventually become a teacher, with a focus on English. Students remembered him as having high expectations but also preparing them extremely well for university studies. His combined skills of pastor, teacher, and handyman enabled him to earn income through the family’s nine years in the US. Two additional children arrived during this time. Having received his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, he was called by the Coaldale Mennonite Church to be their first paid pastor.
Peter’s studies and work took the family to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Kansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. A dedicated church leader, he pastored at Faith Mennonite Church (Greensburg, KS), Turpin Mennonite Church (OK), Evangelical United Brethren Church (Brimfield and New Paris, IN), Coaldale Mennonite Church (AB), Bethel Mennonite Church (BC), and Vineland United Mennonite Church (ON). Beginning in the early 1970s, Peter was actively involved on the Canadian Mennonite Conference Executive Board. He influenced progressive change through those years, but one of the most significant contributions for him was his ability to help establish salary guidelines for workers in the church, something most pastors are grateful for to this day.
In his retirement years, Peter enjoyed woodworking, reading, and helping family with renovation projects. He also enjoyed a number of volunteering opportunities, including preparing income tax return for low-income people and seniors, working at the MCC Thrift Shop and serving on various Conference and church related committees and boards. He was a life-long learner, reading and discussing books like “I am Malala” with his nurses up until the week before he died.
Peter is survived by his children Leonora (Henry) Paetkau, Anna Mae (Jack) Neufeld, Dan (Mary Lynn) Retzlaff, Luella (Ken) Bartel, and Rose (Doug) Klassen; two sisters Betty (Dave) Nickel, Helen (Alvin) Lepp, three brothers Henry (Erna) Retzlaff, Jake (Lydia) Retzlaff, John (Heidi) Retzlaff, and sister-in-law Anne Retzlaff. Peter was proud of his grandchildren Paul (Julie) Neufeld, Heidi (Jorge) Garcia, Kristy (Brandon) Oberg, Shari (Richard) Janzen, Josh (Stacy) Pritchard, Reece Retzlaff, Angie (Tyler) Carlson, Becky (Greg) Oulahen, Maggie (Chris) Barry, Steven and Jonathan Bartel, Danielle, Jana, and Levi Klassen; and great-grandchildren Brooke, Grace, Tyler, Madisen, Haydn, Alison, Hudson, Kaitlyn, Brody, Natalie, and Jacob. Peter was pre-deceased by his wife Helena, his parents, and his brother Bernie.