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"SEE" 2003 Obituary


SEEGELKEN o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-08-18 published
By Jennifer LEWINGTON, Jean LEWINGTON and Antji GILES Monday, August 18, 2003 - Page A14
Farmer, opera lover, wine maker, improviser of machinery. Born June 24, 1932, in Gibeon, South West Africa (now Namibia). Died June 16, in London, Ontario, of cancer, aged 70.
The place called "Werner's Paradise" is special, hidden from roadside view on a farm north of London, Ontario The Nairn River, lined with weeping willows, cuts through the rolling property as a fast-flowing stream. On humid summer nights, Sabrina the turtle may poke her head out of a spring-fed pond at the sound of her name. In winter, deer and fox meander through a nearby woodlot of maple, pine and cedar.
This 14-acre sanctuary for people and wildlife is one of the legacies of Werner SEEGELKEN. A farmer "through and through," so aptly described by daughter Antji, Werner had a knack for creating something from nothing.
For example, Werner saw the potential of a rough piece of land on an otherwise productive farm of corn and white beans. He bulldozed aside a few of the thorn trees and tapped into natural springs to create two ponds that attracted birds and wildlife. Year by year, Werner and his family planted native trees, creating a place of beauty and tranquility.
Born in South West Africa, Werner was raised in Germany from the age of 5 and as a young man emigrated to Canada after the Second World War. He came with little money but sharp memories of war-related privation. He decided to be a farmer so he would never be hungry again.
In 1957, temporarily leaving behind his fiancée Marga in Germany, he arrived in Canada and worked on a dairy farm in Ottawa. A year later, Marga joined him and they were married in the fall of 1958. At first, they lived in London, Ontario, where Werner worked in several industrial jobs to save money for a farm.
Werner and Marga bought their first farm in 1963, after the birth of their two children, Antji and Werner, Jr. During the next 30 years, the SEEGELKENs acquired five farms in the London area, including the Pond Farm of "Werner's Paradise."
Like many farmers, Werner was a frugal and practical man. He had a talent for adapting farm machinery to extend its life. In the wintertime, Werner was busy in the large metal-working shop at the family homestead, tinkering and improvising to get more from a cantankerous combine for the next crop season.
He knew what it meant to respect the natural environment. On one occasion, he found a young heron with a broken wing. Ignoring the bird's angry pecks, Werner nursed it back to health and released it back into the wild.
Spring planting and fall harvest are the most exhausting times for farmers. In addition to farming their own land, Werner and Werner, Jr., worked the land of several neighbours, including my mother Jean's farm some 30 kilometres away. In spring and fall, the SEEGELKENs would arrive with their imposing equipment and work all night, if needed, to beat any forecast of rain. Since there was no time to stop for a meal, my mother would prepare a picnic supper for them to eat on the run.
When Werner pulled up in his big tractor to meet her, he would be singing along with the German operatic music that boomed from his glass-enclosed cab. He always was ready with a joke or a funny story -- or a blunt assessment of the planting conditions or the likely crop yield.
Werner saw any visit to his family's farm as an excuse for little party. Out would come the stubby glasses filled with his homemade beer and wine. He made you feel welcome, even if you had interrupted a sprawling Sunday dinner of the immediate family (six young grandchildren), assorted relatives visiting from Germany and Friends. Werner's big heart embraced family, Friends and the land.
Jennifer and Jean are Friends of Werner and Antji is his daughter.

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SEEGER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-07-30 published
By Janice MANCHEE, page A16
Wife, mother, folk music supporter, fundraiser. Born January 15, 1921, in Montreal. Died May 15 in Ottawa, of cancer, aged Melva MANCHEE had a wonderful, wry sense of humour. Even as cancer wore her away, she invited the neighbourhood children to move in if their parents bothered them too much. When her doctor visited, she'd warn him to stay healthy for his most important patient and she never forgot to remind her children that the cat inherited everything on her death. She had the eyes of a thinker, but then there was that quirky, humorous mouth.
Melva was born in Montreal. Early pictures show her on her toes pirouetting across the lawn, and in cross-country skiing gear boldly setting out across Montreal parkland. When Melva was 14, her family moved to Toronto, where her father, Joe LAING became plant manager for Canada Malting Co. She left behind two large, extended families for life in a strange city, with only her younger brother for company. In Toronto, Melva entered Havergal College, a private girls' school, as a day student.
During her Havergal years, Melva began to date Eric MANCHEE. They continued dating while she attended Trinity College at University of Toronto, where she specialized in household sciences. The Second World War only temporarily delayed their marriage until 1945. The couple's first two children, Rod and Ellen, were born in Toronto and the small family moved west to Edmonton where Eric took a job with the oil industry. A third child, Janice, was born shortly after the move.
Melva was not a big fan of either the West or the oil industry he said the wind was always blowing out there, but it was the Americanization of the West by the oil industry that really upset her. And she didn't hesitate to let her views be known.
The couple became involved in the small folk music community in Edmonton and played host to Peggy SEEGER, Pete's sister and the woman for whom the song Black is the Colour of My True Love's Hair was written. This interest in folk music and concern for Canadian culture was not particularly popular in Alberta and Melva was happy when Eric took a job with the federal government in Ottawa in the early 1960s.
This began as a period of relative tranquility for Melva, but the late 1960s changed all that. Melva patiently and lovingly supported her children as they protested for peace and against war; her daughters became "liberated women" and generally pushed the envelope, as baby boomers then did.
Melva's concern for the children of the sixties went beyond her own. At that time, medical institutions, in particular hospitals, were not providing sensitive or supportive care for young people experimenting with street drugs. As a result, young people organized to assist each other with medical problems and one of their initiatives in Ottawa was to set up a street clinic. Melva worked on findraising and providing nutritional information and resources to street kids through the diet dispensary project. Since that begining, the clinic has developed into Ottawa's Centretown Community Health Centre, a large, forward-thinking and well-respected community health service.
Melva loved words. She was one of those rare non-visual crossword players. She could sit back in her chair, close her eyes, hear the clue and the space configuration and simply give you the answer. She was an avid reader and collector of Canadian fiction. Robertson Davies and Timothy Pindlay were two of her favourite authors.
When Melva was told she had terminal cancer, she gathered and considered all the information. Then she made her decision: let nature take its course. But while nature was doing its thing, she did hers. She toured Ottawa's museums and art galleries one more time and waited for the spring flowers. In April, they came.
Janice MANCHEE is Melva's daughter.

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SEEGER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-29 published
A champion of Canadian textile workers
By Barbara SILVERSTEIN, Special to The Globe and Mail Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - Page R5
A pioneer in the labour movement within Toronto's once-vibrant garment industry and an early advocate of basic social-welfare programs has died at the age of 105.
As a union activist, William (Velvl) KATZ survived blacklisting in the 1920s to establish the embroidery local of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and later went on to co-found the Labour League, a Jewish radical left-wing mutual-benefit society that later evolved into the United Jewish People's Order.
"He was a man of integrity, intelligence and idealism," said his daughter Ida ABRAMS. "He held... an exacting moral standard. If he gave his word, he meant it."
Mr. KATZ, who died in April of heart failure, was born in 1897 in a small Polish town just north of Krakow. He and his three younger siblings were raised in the sheltered communal life of Hasidism, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect. Mr. KATZ studied at a religious school and later apprenticed as a cobbler and had almost no exposure to the secular world until 1918, when he fled to Germany to avoid military conscription. In 1997, he told the Canadian Jewish News that his life changed dramatically. In Poland, the only books were religious, he said. "Suddenly there were books on every subject imaginable."
By all accounts, Mr. KATZ became caught up in the intellectual fervour ignited by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. "He thought communism would bring an end to anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination and injustice," said Ida ABRAMS. "He believed the revolution was just around the corner."
In 1920, a cousin who was suddenly unable to travel offered Mr. KATZ a free boat ticket and he arrived in Toronto with the address of the relatives of a German friend. Mr. KATZ became their paying boarder. In the course of his stay, he courted their daughter Bluma and married her in 1922. Two years later, he brought his brother Ben and then his sisters Lil and Eva to Canada. Similar efforts to bring his half-sister Esther failed and she did not survive the Holocaust.
Around that time, Mr. KATZ quit shoemaking and turned to the garment industry where he took up union organizing. Eventually, his reputation as a "lefty" alienated bosses and by 1924 he was unemployed. Ida ABRAMS recalls vivid memories of May Day parades she attended with her father. "People marched with banners and flags and sang union songs. There was always the threatening presence of policemen on horseback."
His job problems ended in 1930 when Mr. KATZ became a partner in a modest embroidery shop on Adelaide Street. Although he was an employer himself, he continued to support the efforts of the labour unions. In those years, Mr. KATZ campaigned for basic social-welfare programs -- such as old-age pensions and unemployment insurance -- through the Labour League Mutual Benefit Society, a Jewish radical socialist organization he co-founded in 1926.
Mr. KATZ had initially belonged to the Workmen's Circle, an established left-wing Jewish proletariat benefit society but in the mid-20s it ruptured over ideological differences. Mr. KATZ was among a radical group that broke away to establish the Labour League which, in later years, even ran political candidates. In 1945, the league was renamed the United Jewish People's Order.
In its formative years, the Labour League established several cultural institutions that still exist today: the Morris Winchevsky School, the Toronto Jewish Folk Choir (formerly the Freedom Singing Society), and Camp Naivelt, a collective of 90 cottages near Brampton, Ontario The camp was a popular venue for folksingers Pete SEEGER and Phil OCHS performed there -- and it was where the Canadian folk group The Travellers got its start.
United Jewish People's Order flourished until 1956, when Mr. KATZ learned of the atrocities of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and disenchantment set in. Instead, he supported institutions in Israel, and the preservation of Yiddish culture. Through this he became Friends with Canadian Yiddish poet Simcha SIMCHOVITCH, whose latest book Toward Eternity: Collected Poems, is dedicated to Mr. KATZ.
Mr. KATZ, whose wife died in 1972, leaves his daughter Ida ABRAMS and his sister Eva GANTMAN.

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