of Alberta

Richard Penner fonds

Accession 2015.013

Title and Description

Richard Penner fonds. –  1969. –  1 cm of textual records

Administrative/Biographical History

Richard Penner was born and raised in the Mennonite community of Rosemary, Alberta the son of George Penner and Frieda (Friesen) Penner.  He attended the University of Alberta, graduating in 1964 with a degree in agriculture genetics. He worked most of his life as a private agronomist specializing in commercial seed development for developing countries.  He sold his California company in 2013 and returned to Canada.  He interviewed Dr. John and Mrs. Anna (Dyck) Klassen in Bluffton, Ohio, on 21 November 1969.  Richard’s maternal grandmother was a sister to Dr. John Klassen.

Scope and Content

The fonds consists of a 19-page transcript of an interview by Richard Penner with Dr. John Klassen (1888-1975) and Mrs. Anna (Dyck) Klassen (1893-1975) in Bluffton, Ohio, on 21 November 1969.  Dr. John Klassen was born in Kronsgarten, Russia, on the northern border of the Chortitza Mennonite colony.  At one year of age his parents moved to some new lands just west of the Dneiper River where two new Mennonite settlements – Miloradowka and Yekaterinowka – were established.  There John Klassen and his 3 siblings grew up.  He demonstrated natural abilities in the field of art.  So he was sent to Switzerland and Germany to study art.  Upon his return to Russia he became an art teacher and also worked as a sculptor, serving members of the Russian aristocracy.  This connection to the royal court was helpful when he assisted young Mennonite men seeking alternative rather than military service during World War I.  He also played a leadership role in facilitating Mennonite emigration to North America after the Russian Revolution.  In 1921 John Klassen married Anna Dyck, the youngest daughter of Aeltester Isaac Dyck, the Bishop of the Chortiza churches.  In 1923 John and Anna Klassen, along with a young son, emigrated to Canada, first to Saskatchewan, then Alberta, and finally to Bluffton, Ohio, where he was offered a postion in the art department of Bluffton College.  He served as head of the Art School and his work still dominates the college.
Anna Klassen was born in Rosenthal, Russia, where she lived until her marriage to John Klassen in 1921.  She was the youngest daughter of the bishp of the Chortitza Mennonties.  Dr. John and Anna Klassen lived most of their adult lives in Bluffton, Ohio, where they raised 4 sons.  Anna predeceassed her husbant by a few months in 1975,
The fonds consists of a typescript of the interview, together with several pages of supporting correspondence.

Source of Aquistion

Gift by Richard Penner


GRANDMA #685731