Heather Witzel – Rest in Peace

 

Fred Witzel speaking at our sister Heather's memorial Dec 8-2018 - fran witzel photo

The last 6 weeks I have been quietly grieving the death of my sister Heather. My brother Fred (above), gave a eulogy for my sister at her memorial on Dec. 8th, 2018 along with one of Heather’s friends, Dave Hardy from Saskatchewan.

 

Here, I give my own eulogy for Heather.

 

Heather's memorial Dec8-2018

   

Heather was a person who always “gave it her all.” Amidst her long difficult struggle with illness in the last few years of her life (most pronounced during her last 4 months),  she bore witness to everyone  she saw with incredible grace and dignity.

Though now Heather has left this earth, she left us all with a beautiful legacy – a life, well lived.

 

Heather and sasha

Through out her life Heather loved people, though she dearly loved pets – here, with Sasha.

 

And here, with one of her so-called “f-errs”  (Ferdinand, or Finnegan?)

Heather loved to have a good laugh.

Heather Witzel Aug 09, 1918  

 

Rose and Heather

 

And yes, Heather was a twin  – Rose is on the left.

 

Heather and Rose 1950

 

Heather and Rose playing a piano duet - aunt edith Fisher photo

 

 

Grandpa Marean with Witzel kids (minus Bruce)

  In this photo of Heather, again on the left, with 5 other siblings and Grandpa. I’m missing in action.

 

Witzel family(2) about 1958

All the Witzel clan in 1958, with Heather on the left again (me too now, the baby of the family).

 

Rose, Heather, Bruce, Fred and David at Christmas 1958 - photo by aunt edith fisher 

Heather is standing with the candy cane – 1958.

 

Christmas, the early 1960’s.  Heather never tooted her own horn, but this time I’m not sure?

Witzel Christmas in the early 60's - Al, Fran Heather, Grandpa, Rose & bruce

 

Witzel kids at Lake Louise 1965

1965 at Lake Louise, a family trip back to the Canadian prairies. Heather on the right, next to Fred.

 

Witzel sisters with swim coach Casey Cessford - Heather (left)  Rose, Casey and Frances (right)

Heather (left) with Rose, swim coach Casey Cessford and Frances (our oldest sister).

 

Over the years Heather became a great athlete. She excelled at swimming. Fred recalled how on one competitive 4 mile swim Heather was the first person to stumble out of the water, even ahead of all the male swimmers.

“That‘s why we we all looked up to Heather so much,”  Fred joked. “She was always on top of the podium.”

Rose (far left – catcher), Frances (third on left), then Heather – Mom was coach (on the right)

Mom's Softball team

 

Here is Heather at one of her 1st Saskatchewan homes, with Mom visiting in the early 1980’s

Heather and Mom in Saskatchewan

 

After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a B.S., M.S. & B.Ed in 1974, Heather became a highly respected and sought after teacher, counsellor and coach during her 29 years within the Saskatoon Catholic School system. A past student posted this reflection on December 3, 2018:

 

Condolence from Andrea Urquhart

 

 

Heather Witzel, my sister - photo by bruce witzel

Heather in 2005, at the beginning of her retirement years in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

 

Much earlier in her life, Heather was a member of Canada’s National Women’s basketball team from 1969 to 1974. On August 16 to Sept. 3, 1972, the Canadian team travelled to China during the same period of time the Canadian Minister of Trade, Mitchell Sharp, led a trade delegation there (Aug. 15 – 24th).

Heather passport photo

Heather Witzel passport stamp in Aug 1972 - China trip as captain of Canadian Women's National Basketball team

 

Heather met Prime Minister Chou En Lai during her visit . Fred also joked that when Heather talked to the Chinese Prime Minister, she told him to “watch out for Nixon.”  Completely false, for certain.

This summer Heather described  how the Chinese spectators didn’t cheer during the games, only responding “ooooooh” to an excellent play – from the Chinese and the Canadian team. Heather then told us when one game was tied the officials wouldn’t allow overtime. Each team could then “save face”.  

Championships usually goes until there is a winner.

 

My sister, Heather Witzel meeting Chou En Lai

Heather shaking hands with Chou En Lai in 1972

 

Bruce, Heather with Christina, and Rose at the Comox Airport, late 1970's - Mac Witzel photo

Taking Heather to the Comox airport – Bruce, Heather (holding our niece Christina) and Rose, Tina’s mom.

 

In Heather’s retirement years beginning in 2004, she moved back to Vancouver Island, her birthplace.  She became an avid golfer. As in all things she did, Heather excelled. She continued to golf on her “good days”, up to the last month of her life.

Heather and Rose Witzel with golfing partners in Nanaimo  2018

 

The day after Heather died and as the family gathered, Rose told us that often on Heathers car drive to the golf course she took food to a homeless person she had come to know – a plate or a sandwich.       She explained her action simply to Rose by saying how wrong she felt hunger and poverty was.

True to her form, Heather looked out for the underdog.

 

My sister Rose Witzel & brother Fred Witzel, Dec 8-2018 - fran witzel photo

Rose and Fred (also both retired teachers) planned the memorial

with much help from family and friends.

 

Heather often looked out for the least of her students, sometimes with a gift at Christmas or on their birthday and by bringing or taking them out for a meal. And yet as Rose said, Heather rarely went out to a restaurant herself, believing  it was a waste of money. 

 

CARD FROM MOM ON HEATHERS 12th BIRTHDAY

 

Letter for heather from Mom (1962)

 

Heather was not only athletic, she had a keen intellect – good at crossword, Sudoku and she loved a game of Bridge – here with Dave, Fred and probably Rose (because it’s in her kitchen – Dec. 23 2013).

 

Dec 22, 2013 My siblings Heather, Dave ((center) and Fred Witzel

 

Her strength and will was strong.  48 hours before Heather died she awoke from semi-consciousness and said “lets play some bridge!” Dave said she played five hands with excellent defence before retiring back to her bed. She never arose on her own again.

 

Brother's Dave (left), Heather and Fred Witzel on Nov 4- 2018 a few days before heather died  Dave, Heather and Sara   

The last few weeks of her life – Heather is at her home in BC with brother Dave, niece Sara and brother Fred. 

 

As Fred concluded his memorial, he noted that Heather was quite a private person and not a women of many words. Rather, Heather was a women of actions.  All those who had the gift of being with Heather and coming to know her, would say it was so.

In words from her obituaryHeather will be remembered for her indomitable and loving spirit, as well as her thoughtfulness, kindness and loyalty.

                               

                                          Rest in peace, dear Heather

                                                                          Lovingly, Bruce

 

“Something has spoken to me in the night…and told me that I shall die, I know not where. Saying: “[Death is] to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”

― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

 

White rose, flowers and flames at Heather's memorial Dec.8-2018 - bruce witzel photo

36 thoughts on “Heather Witzel – Rest in Peace

    • Your love and caring is felt dearly Carol. I do miss Heather, as her soul moves into the great beyond. My brothers and sisters will spread her ashes in the spring. Peace to you Carol and may you and your family be well.

  1. I am so sorry to hear this Bruce. I can hear the deep love you had for her in these lovely words. She was a beautiful gift to the world. I send you and your family love and peace and the knowing that she is always with you.

    Here is an excerpt from a poem I love:

    To live in this world
    you must be able
    to do three things:
    to love what is mortal;
    to hold it

    against your bones knowing
    your own life depends on it;
    and, when the time comes to let it go,
    to let it go.

    – Mary Oliver, In Blackwater Woods

    You can read the whole poem here:

    https://poems4peace.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/mary-oliver-to-live-in-this-world-you-must-be-able-to-do-three-things/

    • This is such a beautiful poem Angela. Thanks for sending it with your message of condolence. Fran read to me the wonderful Christmas note you wrote for us. Thanks for that so much too – it definitely brought brightness to our day. We do hope to some day travel down to visit your “neck of the woods.” in Pennsylvania – though probably not in the next few years. And of course, you are always welcome to come again to visit us too. You only hit the tip of the iceberg in BC …( ol. we don’t have icebergs, of course). Give my regards to Jeremy…. Cheers, Bruce

  2. thank you for sharing this tribute so lovingly, dear Bruce.
    sorry to hear of her passing on.
    may she continue inspiring your compassionate
    heart’s kindness towards yourself & the world.

  3. Thank you Bruce for preparing and for sharing this wonderful loving tribute to your sister Heather. With each person’s passing, those of us left to live on are reminded of the preciousness of friends and family and of the miracle of each living day.

  4. I’m so very sorry to learn of your loss, Bruce. What a loving woman you’ve shared with us, even in this brief description of Heather’s life. I’m so impressed with the beautiful letter your mother wrote to her when she would have been about 12 years old. It seems clear that Heather really lived her life with purpose and intention perhaps even exceeding your mother’s hopes for her. I know you are a man of faith, and I hope that as family and friends absorb the loss of one held so dear, you will experience comfort and a quiet healing. Peace, Bruce.

  5. Such a loving tribute, Bruce. I can feel your sense of loss and also how well you thought of your sister. I’m glad to know of her, even just this little taste. Hope the edge of this loss eases up with time. Susan Shawn

    • Dear Susan,

      I continue to have faith in spite that Heather’s death and dying has brought much suffering, and for me at times, the reality that the world seems so messed up. Heather gave a wonderful example how to live – with humility, endurance and to hold your head up amidst it all.

  6. You did your sister proud Bruce, a great tribute. Of course I knew Heather because she was part of the famous Witzel clan at school but I knew nothing of her journey through adult life. You filled in many blanks. Thanks.

    • Your welcome Chris. Heather was a good person, a good sister. My memory as the youngest child is that Heather really looked out for me – as she did for many. I believe that amidst the grief she would also want us all to move forward with our heads held high.

      On a separate note, It was good news from the the Comox Valley Land Trust, on yesterday’s formalization of the Father Charles Brandt Conservation Area. Now we must hold our fingers crossed for tomorrow’s announcement to see about BC Electoral Reform – Yay or Nay.

      All the best to you & Molly and your family over this Christmas season of love and hope.

      Bruce

  7. I am deeply sorry for the loss of such an amazing sister and friend. May God provide you with peace and fill your mind with all the beautiful memories you have of her until you see her again.

    • Thank you Deb. I appreciate this dearly. I know you have experienced many personal trials, like in the past few years with the health difficulties of your grandson, your husband and yourself. I hope amidst this, you are able to continue to enjoy beauty and wonder – especially in this Christmas season of love and peace.

      In faith and hope – Bruce

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