The grave marker for early MB leader Jacob D. Reimer and his wife Wilhelmine, brought to Steinbach, Man., from Ukraine by Reimer family members, was unveiled in a permanent location in the Mennonite Heritage Village. Some 120 people – of whom 70 were descendants – attended an afternoon ceremony July 25.
Visitors from Ontario and Western Canada crowded into the Old Colony Mennonite Church on the museum site to participate in the service. Harold Wiens, great-great-grandson of J.D. Reimer and a music professor from Alberta, led the group in a number of hymns – Reimer’s favourites – throughout the service. The songs reflected the singing tradition of the Mennonite Brethren.
Gert Martens, Reimer’s great-great-grandchild, recounted how the stone was found in 2006. Interviews with area residents revealed a tombstone in a Molochansk field was that of Jacob and Wilhelmine Reimer. The neighbour had moved it from the forgotten cemetery and abandoned village of Wiesenfeld when that village was levelled to become a wheat field. Founded by Jacob Reimer, Wiesenfeld was deserted in 1919. With the help of Olga Shmakina, Ukrainian tour guide, and others, the grave marker was allowed to be shipped out of Ukraine to Canada.
Ken Reddig, former director of the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, provided some historical background on Jacob D. Reimer, an early leader in the MB church. An assistant elder and often meeting host, Reimer was excommunicated for his criticism of the exuberance movement which swept over the early MB church, but was later restored to fellowship. Several relatives spoke about Reimer’s family and wider influence.
Abe Dueck, executive director of the MB Historical Commission, added that monuments such as the Reimer grave marker help us remember and remind us to be faithful. (See “A stone to revive memories,” Nov. 2009 MB Herald.)
Outside, family members unveiled the marker, and Abe Dueck led in a dedicatory prayer. Museum executive director Barry Dyck then invited guests to the Livery Barn Restaurant for dessert.