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Helen Ratzlaff

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Helen was the youngest of 7 children born to Peter and Marie Heide. The family moved from Manitoba to B.C.’s Mt. Lehman area shortly afterward. Helen married John Ratzlaff Aug. 9, 1950. After John spent one year teaching in a one-room school in Northern B.C., they returned to Vancouver and started their family. In the late 1960s, Helen, Walter Paetkau, and other local residents helped set up what is now Archway Community Services. In addition, Helen and John set up a crisis line in the community. Helen believed that one’s faith must be lived, a tenet she followed throughout her life. Their home was always open to students and friends of their 4 children, especially when they moved to Sumas Mountain in the 1970s. When John retired from teaching, they spent a year in China under Mennonite Central Committee, teaching English as an additional language, until their evacuation during the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. Helen was an avid, dedicated, and skilled gardener, as evidenced by the beautiful two-acre garden surrounding their home on Sumas Mountain. They lived up on the mountain until their late 80s when they reluctantly moved into Abbotsford, B.C. Helen continued to garden at her apartment complex in town to the delight of her wonderful neighbours. Here are some of her own memories: “We have lived almost two thirds of our life on Sumas Mountain. Just 20 minutes from the busy streets of Abbotsford, we pioneered without hydro or telephone, dependent on ourselves. We lived with spectacular views of the Fraser River, Hatzic Lake and Prairie, and the North Shore Mountains. We watched the seasons change, the resident eagles soar outside our living room windows, and the deer wander across our driveway. We never tired of the view and we loved all the hard work. We learned to be self-reliant for our water, heating, and electrical needs. Our children brought home many friends, for free bed and breakfast services. This is where gardening became a passion, and we planted every tree and shrub and flower that was not part of the forest around the property. We were happy to share our garden for wedding parties and anniversaries and birthdays and other celebrations.” Helen had a very full and joyful life, and many happy and adventurous years with John. Her final message to her family: “Our love will be with you always. Our prayers for you will never stop.”

  • Birth: June 17, 1928
  • Birthplace:
  • Death: January 10, 2023
  • Parents:
    Peter & Marie Heide
  • Married:
    John Ratzlaff, Aug. 9, 1950
  • Family:
    children Jonathan (Lorraine), David (Ruth), Mitzi Payie, Carol (Terry) Sawatsky; many grandchildren & great-grandchildren
  • Church:
    Highland, Abbotsford, B.C.