Carl Buermeyer


   My father was an avid gardener. In the spring, after a long, cold prairie winter, he would put on a pair of old, brown pants with the shiney knees, slide into gum boots and head out into the backyard with a hoe in one hand and a shovel in the other. Carl Buermeyer-1960And by mid-summer, a backyard full of black clay was transformed into a lush, bountiful garden. A garden that would supply his wife, two boys and daughter with fresh vegetables long into the winter months. I can still remember retrieving potatoes well into the spring months from a brown sack tucked deep in the cold, forbidding basement.

    My father was born in Bremen, Germany in 1925 to Ernst and Anne (Scharbeau). His father was stricken with polio in 1919 and confined to a wheelchair. My father grew up during the Nazi era so it's hard to describe his childhood as normal. Certainly in the early years while the economy was humming along, he and his family would travel to the Black Sea each year for summer vacation. The family had a nanny and a chauffeur. His father's jewelry business was doing well but all that came to an abrupt end in 1939.

   Luckily, my father's involvement in the war was limited to 18 months. His unit was captured almost as soon as he put on the uniform and he was shipped to France where he spent the next three years as a prisoner of war working on a farm outside of Paris. He seldom mentioned the war but he once told me his luckiest experience in life was to be captured by American soldiers and then shipped off to a farm that had a family with two French daughters.

The Buermeyer kids-1960    When I was a kid, my father would take the family to the beach every summer and I remember asking him about his deformed "big toe". He told me he injured it during the war when a railway tie dropped on his foot. I suppose, if that was the worst of his "war injuries", he did all right but I think now, in retrospect, the war years must have taken away many things that he never shared with us. He always kept his feelings to himself.

    When he finally returned to Bremen, the family business had been destroyed and his father dead. Germany was in ruins and the prospects for a decent living was buried under years of Nazi rubble. My father married his childhood sweetheart, Margot (Witt), and they emigrated to Canada in 1951 where sponsorship was not required.

    The first year was spent in Toronto where my brother, John was born. The young family eked out a living on my father's part-time job working in a factory when he was offered a full-time job in Winnipeg (central Canada) as a jeweler for McKinney's Jeweler's. The next 30 years were spent raising three kids, paying off a mortgage, all the things that come with family life in a prairie city. That's not to say some of those years didn't have its' share of drama. My parents divorced in 1975 and he lost his job after almost 30 years when McKinney's closed. Too young to retire, he partnered with two others and started a business repairing jewelry and watches. In seven years he managed to accumulate enough to retire where he left those cold, flat prairies after so many years and settled on the west coast in Victoria, British Columbia. After all those years of early morning commutes on trolley busses in the dead of winter and working in a small, cramped room at the back of the store, Carl could finally enjoy all the freedom retirement could offer. He loved his apartment overlooking the ocean and enjoyed the simple pleasures in life.

    In 1990 he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I learned later his Aunt Marie was afflicted with the same disease. My father managed his independence for another five years before finally submitting and moving to a nursing home in White Rock, BC near his children. He passed away September 9th, 1999 at the age of 74.

   I'll end this short biography with a photograph that my great aunt Margaret gave me. My father is five years old and when I see it, I think of him waving good-bye for the last time. My father was a good man. I was lucky to have him as a father.

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