Rev. John K. Friesen was the son of Aeltester Johann F. Friesen and Elisabeth Klassen, delegate David Klassen's oldest daughter. John K. Friesen grew up in the village of Neukirch, Molotschna Colony, Russia and moved to Rosenfeld, Borosenko with his parents. In March 19, 1871 his mother passed because of an injury sustained when pregnant in a sleighing accident. The child died as well. His father married again within 3 months. He became ill shortly thereafter and passed away in 1872 .
John was taken in his grandparents, David and Anganetha Klassen, for several years. He immigrated to Rosenhoff in 1874 with them. He was baptized and joined the KG on Dec. 18, 1875, the first baptism held in a new country. Justina Warkentin became his wife on July 2, 1876. Her twin brother and another brother almost perished in a blizzard in December of the same year. From 1880-1883 John taught in Rosenhoff. In August of 1881, Justina's twin brother Heinrich died (anybody know of what and where?). On Mar. 22, 1882, at age 25, John was elected as a minister. By June 11, he was already preaching on the East Reserve.
He assisted his uncle the Aeltester Jacob M. Kroeker, Bishop of the Kleine Gemeinde, for as long as he lived. After the death of his uncle, he was the leader of the local church for almost a decade until Rev. Jacob B. Kroeker became the Bishop of Rosenort - Rosenhoff area. In spite of his church related responsibilities, the Friesen family became quite successful at farming. In his younger years, Mr. Friesen served the village as school teacher for a minimum of three years and also farmed on the side line. When not serving as a teacher, he naturally was on the school board. Off and on, it seems, he would be called on to fill in for teachers.
Justina was a busy and frugal woman. She would let the cats lick the dishes before they were washed. Nothing was wasted. Meals were plain with plenty of fried potatoes and fried eggs. "Schinkefleisch" (ham) was for special days. Justina had a large kjist (chest) full of hankies and shawls and other interesting trinkets. It was a real treat when she=d let her children and grandchildren explore it with her.
Children brought both joy and sorrow to their lives. Their oldest son Johann died at 10 months of age Feb. 1878. 2 more sons named Johann also died in 1886 and 1896. According to John=s letter book one son died in 1891: AThe beloved heavenly Father has taken our son at the age of 10 years, 1 month and 4 days away from us through the temporal death after a 38-hour of severe sickness. We suffer bereavement, as he could save us so many steps, and when I went away, he would do all the work in the barn. This is also the greatest reason why we miss him so much. But otherwise one must gladly wish him the rest, as he is now spared many a grief, seeing that so many children are enticed by the world, which is for the parents a grave matter.@
They had 6 children that reached adulthood: Justina (HF Brandt), Aganetha (JF Dueck), Anna ( G Schelleberger), Henry W. Friesen, Elisabeth (DK Eidse), Maria (Mrs. P.D. Harms). Several of their children had marital difficulties, which caused their hearts to ache.
John K. Friesen had a heart of compassion for his children. When his daughter Anna was dying of uterine cancer, he made sure the children were all called home from school and were able to say goodbye. He also shared communion with her on her deathbed, (though she was never baptized, because of her husband's objections). Following her death, he built her coffin himself. The following month his daughter, Mrs.Elisabeth Eidse, was in labor with son Nick. He walked three miles in a raging blizzard just to be with her.
Until he and Justina were too old, they fostered some of their Schellenberg grandchildren. In 1923 spring flooding forced their children, the Harms=, to move into their home. Granddaughter Tillie who lived with them, died at their home in 1924 of diptheria after a short illness. It was a huge shock for the family. Again he used his carpentry shop and weathered hands to lovingly build a coffin. The funeral had to be held at his sons, Henry Friesens, next door and the body kept in the hay barn. Rev. Friesen preached.on Phil 2:5-7? In 1926 the couple celebrated their 50th Anniversary. Friend and neighbour John W. Dueck wrote a special song for the occasion.
He entertained his grandchildren with little things such as walking with his fingers across the table toward them. He was a kind, teasing grandpa who would hold his grandchildren on his lap. He had more time for his grandchildren than his wife did. Sometimes the grandchildren noticed him sneaking food under the table for the cats. He is fondly remembered sitting at his writing desk and writing by the hour. There were many cubbyholes in it to fascinate. At Christmas the Friesens made little fuss but usually gave each grandchild a pencil. Perhaps in hindsight it reflects deeply the priorities of this man who loved the written word.
In 1903 John K. Friesens had built a fine house with a basement of bought stone. In 1907 John taught school again and continued for two years in Rosenhoff. In 1908 fellow teacher Abram T. Friesen was visiting and suddenly passed away from a stroke.
John, his wife Justina and family lived on the west side of the Morris River. They owned a boat which they lent out to others. John K. Friesen was known as a skilled carpenter. He had a workshop full of old-fashioned carpentry tools. He built all the caskets in the area and framed a number of homes.
He and his wife lived a simple, quiet life. In the early years they lived in a one-room house with a stove in the middle. Later they owned a 1 2 story house with two rooms upstairs. In 1910 they hosted David Kroeker=s engagement party to Elisabeth Warkentin - his second marriage. On their farm yard they had a gabled barn, a few granaries, the tool shed and the top sleigh would be stored in the carpentry shed. They had another building near the house, which contained a bake-oven which was used to bake bread. It was heated with flax straw. (Bill Schellenberg remembers falling asleep on the straw in the corner while his grandma baked bread. In the other end of this building was a large old-fashioned maengel for pressing clothes. They had a couple of pigs and chickens and so on - a mixed farm. Never owned a tractor but used horses. Bill remembered hauling hay with his grandpa from beyond McTavish, an area referred to as the Adempel@. One day they=d cut it and then they=d go back and rake and pick it up. It took a full day to haul in a load of hay.
Rev. and Mrs. John K. Friesen celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, a very rare celebration at that time. John shared his life story (anyone have that?) and his fellow minister Rev. A.E. led the service. Sadly toward life's end John K. Friesen's senility became apparent. He was asked to speak at a wedding and it became painfully obvious it was too difficult. He had to be reminded to stop speaking. After all the years of dedicated service it was a sad end to a life of faithful servanthood. Wife Justina lived at her daughter=s, the Peter Harms til she died which was one mile west of Rosenhoff. She suffered from a bronchial condition for many years (possibly asthma) probably aggravated due to many winters in poorly insulated housing.
In studying this man I realize he was truly the Lord's willing servant. His sermons are described by friend and fellow church member John W. Dueck as compelling, well-prepared, excellent, edifying. He wrote hundreds of letters and sermons. He preached in Rosenhoff, Rosenort, in every church of the East Reserve, and in Nebraska. Seldom was he without responsibility. Once he read an old message delivered by his father in Russia, Aeltester Johann F. Friesen. In 1922 he preached at a double funeral. The ministerial was in charge of education as well and so he visited schools and attended school conferences. In 1922 John took the train to Winnipeg to petition government to allow religious teaching in German school. He was a business advisor for the community. He even led singing when no songleaders made it to church in 1924. As a minister he accomplished many things. The most noticeable was the uniting of the Rosenhoff-Rosenort congregations in one location, in the first building that served first and foremost as a church.
The home place was owned by grandchildren Jake Letkemans for some years afterwards but was finally burnt because of an infestation of bedbugs.