Elli (Heffke) Giesbrecht

December 4, 1926 ~ July 27, 2021 (age 94)


Elli was born in Belchatow, Poland on December 4, 1926, the first child of Hermann and Susanna Redlich.  At her birth, it became apparent that this baby was in deep distress, and it seemed her life would be very brief.  Her burial gown and coffin were ordered as she grew weaker, then her heart stopped.  Her parents fell on their knees and pleaded with God to revive and restore their precious baby, and to their amazement, her little body stirred and she began to improve.  She soon became an active and happy toddler, playing with cousins and enjoying her grandparents and aunts and uncles. 

During the next couple of years, her parents wrestled with the decision to leave Europe and set out for a better life in Canada.  She and her parents left Poland and arrived in Quebec City in August of 1929, when Elli was 2 1/2, and they settled at Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan for the first year, then moving on to Forestburg, Alberta for work and for fellowship with other German speaking folks who they had met on board the ship. 

When Elli was about 10, her parents moved the family out to Kelowna, B.C. for the opportunities of fruit orchards and abundance of jobs.  Being the oldest of 10 children, Elli was ‘privileged’ to care for younger siblings from an early age while both her parents worked to provide for their family.  Sunday School, church and youth group were an integral part of her life, and it was at the age of 11 that she made the choice to follow Christ.  From an early age she showed a love for music and, with some basic instruction from her father on their treadle organ, she taught herself how to play.  Her life-long passion for music provided many opportunities for ministry, as well as earning an income by teaching piano lessons.  During her growing up years, Elli often dreamed about being a pastor’s wife.

Elli met Fred Heffke at church youth group in the fall of 1944.  He had come to Kelowna to work during the summers while attending Christian Training Institute in Edmonton.  They were married June 29, 1946, and two years later accepted the call to the Glidden Baptist Church in Saskatchewan.  Their home was blessed with two children, Don and Judy.  Throughout the course of their ministry, they served churches in Glidden, Saskatchewan, Rolla, B.C., Erskine, Alberta, Soap Lake,  Washington, Brooks, Alberta, Onoway, Alberta, Taber, Alberta, and lastly in Vauxhall, Alberta. Elli found many avenues to serve in the various churches where they ministered. From teaching Sunday School, leading Pioneer Girls, directing a girls choir and a community choir, playing piano and organ, singing, being involved in the women’s ministries. In every place they lived, Elli made their home warm and inviting, with paint and homemade curtains, etc.  One of her great joys was gardening, and her green thumb produced bountiful vegetables, and flower beds that transformed each yard into a paradise.

After 40 years of ministry, Mom and Dad chose to retire in the friendly small town of Vauxhall.  When Dad required dialysis three times a week, many friends and neighbours graciously helped out by driving him to Lethbridge, taking some of the burden off of Mom.  In the fall of 1995, they moved into a condo in Lethbridge to be closer to medical care.  When Dad passed away in December of 1995, Mom did her best to adjust to her new life.  She made friends in her condo building and at her church. Mom attended a Seniors’ Retreat at Briercrest Bible College in June of 1997, and it was there she met a widowed gentleman from Calgary who had spent some years as a pastor.  Believing that God had brought them together, Mom married Abe Giesbrecht in November of 1997.  They purchased a home and lived in Lethbridge until October of 2012, when they moved to the Newbrook Lodge in Brooks, to be closer to Judy and Ray.

Declining health brought a number of challenges, but Mom and Abe were privileged to lead in the Lodge’s hymn sing on Sunday evenings for a time, and enjoyed visiting with the other residents as it was possible.  Further health issues made it necessary for them to move to Sunrise Gardens in January of 2019.

Elli was predeceased by her first husband Fred, her parents, one brother, Jerry, two sisters, Ruth Welder and Lil Blackman.  She is survived by her husband Abe, her son Don and his wife Sally of Laughlan, Nevada; her daughter Judy and her husband Ray Erker of Brooks, Alberta; four brothers:  Albert, Henry (Linda), and Bill (Jan) all of Kelowna, B.C., George of Summerland, B.C.; two sisters:  Agnes (Hugo) Steurle of Kelowna, and Edith Hagen (Glenn) of Vancouver; grandchildren Tabitha (Jim) Sloan, John (Melissa) Heffke, both of Phoenix, Arizona, Wendy Holloway, of Okotoks, and Ben Holloway, of Red Deer; 13 great grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, as well as Abe’s children Cheryl Koeppen and Rawland Giesbrecht, and their families.

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