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Vernon Herman Ratzlaff

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Vern was born near Waldheim, Sask., where he helped run the farm as his father’s health failed. At 15, Vern and his parents joined his older siblings in Delta, B.C. There, during Vern’s Grade 13, his father died. To help his mother, Vern began work as a meteorological technician with the B.C. Department of Transport (1956–62). At University of B.C., he completed a BSc Honours degree in Physics & Math, BA in English & History, BSW (Social Work), an MA in Political Philosophy, and theology coursework at United Church Seminary. After marrying Helen in 1958, Vern taught at Sharon Mennonite Collegiate, Yarrow, B.C. (1962–66). In 1966, Vern and Helen settled in Winnipeg, where their family grew to 5 children and many foster children. Vern taught philosophy and religious studies at MB Bible College and U of W, from 1966–76, continuing part-time until 1982. Meanwhile, he assumed full-time duties as executive director of Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba (1977–82). He was instrumental in the formation of Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Vern became director of MCC Egypt (1982–87), taking their two youngest children along to Cairo. His interfaith contributions involved Muslim, Christian, urban, and rural communities in development, healthcare, and education. Vern pastored Nutana Park Mennonite Church, Saskatoon (1987–2005), and spoke regularly on the Abundant Life radio broadcast (1988–2003). After pastoring part-time at Aberdeen (Sask.) Mennonite Church (2006–2018), Vern continued as congregant. Vern was founding chair (1989–99) of the Spiritual Care Advisory Committee to the Saskatoon Regional Health Board, a member of the Ethics Committee of the Regional Health Board, and a Bioethics instructor in the College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan. From 2007–2021, Vern served Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon; they granted him an Honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2011. Vern enjoyed singing in choirs, listening to classical music, attending and hosting garage sales, cheering for the Canadiens, frequenting doughnut shops, reading mysteries, being recognized as Santa Claus, and telling jokes. As a father and grandfather, he could pull off a mean wiener roast even in winter, construct custom bookshelves, build models, listen deeply, make enormous breakfasts, cultivate an incredible garden, and share awe and joy in the natural world. He demonstrated his devotion to Helen by caring for her in their home during her final years. He missed her profoundly after her death in 2014. With Philippians 2:5–8 as his model, Vern committed himself to the work of the church. He was predeceased by his siblings Matilda (Art) Unruh, Frieda (Nick) Unruh, Jack (Agnes), Sadie (Herman) Schuetze. More life details at www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/saskatoon-sk/vernon-ratzlaff-11677918

  • Birth: June 16, 1937
  • Birthplace:
    Waldheim, Sask.
  • Death: February 16, 2024
  • Parents:
    Jacob & Sara (Voth) Ratzlaff
  • Married:
    Helen Koehn, June 21, 1958 [d. Aug. 17, 2014]
  • Family:
    children Shirley, Patricia (Perry) Ng, Norman, Diane (Kevin) Friesen, Bruce (Darlene); grandsons Reuben, Micah (Amber) & Stephen (Molly) Ng, Samuel & Louie Friesen
  • Church:
    Elmwood MB, Winnipeg
  • Baptism:
    Brotherfield MB, Sask., 1951