April 24, 1937 - January 14, 2019
My dad, Jake Friesen Rempel, passed away suddenly at St. Boniface Hospital on January 14, 2019, with his beloved wife Lorraine Rempel (née Borkowsky) and me, his only son Hugh Russell Rempel (Hugo), at his side.
Jake had a bad run of luck with a series of health issues over the past few years that finally took its cumulative toll, though he fought hard as he always had right up to the last minute.
Jackson (as he was known to many) was a friend and inspiration to many. Over the years, he touched the lives of all he connected with in his many careers -- known especially for his sly sense of humour, contagious and sometimes rare smile, a magnetic and charming personality and frankly...movie star good looks. Those whose lives he really touched knew him for his dedication to friends and close family but also any stranger he may have come across that just needed a friend to talk to. He had that great ability to listen and make anyone he was with feel special at that moment. Compassionate and giving till there was nothing left to give. He loved to work and engage with whoever came his way. It wasn't really the kind of job that was important to him, but the chance to interact with people was his specialty. Dignified and well dressed daily, I remember the slight scent of cologne dad would put on every day before he left for work, hair combed perfectly and coordinated to the 9's, thanks to his personal stylist Lorraine. "Boy does Jake look sharp today" was a compliment I have heard many many times over the years. As was "You dad is such a kind gentleman , your mom is a lucky lady"- and I was a lucky son to be able to take notes from them both.
Sometimes short on words, he was never short on action to prove his love to me. Mom told me the story recently that at childhood Christmases he would get excited and drive all over the city and beyond to search out the perfect toys for me so that I had everything growing up that he never had. The year I got my Johnny West and GI Joe sets for Xmas, dad had gone the distance to the States to get me the hard-to-find GI Joe helicopter from the set to make sure I had the best Christmas ever...and I did. Again and again and again. Mom and dad instilled a sense of giving to make others happy in me that is my most precious gift from them both. Never caught up in a need for a bigger house or bigger car they lived simply, worked hard and focused on the love between each other, that I was always looked after and that their friends or mine could call or come by anytime.
We were a tight and small version of a Rempel family. When I married Corser, he was welcomed into our family as a perfect fit--he and dad shared many laughs. I think that when someone gives a lot of themselves to others in the work field they appreciate to come home to a quiet safe zone of curated people to recharge and then have more to give for the next day, and dad did just that. The three of us could always hang out and talk and tell jokes for days on end at home. There is a certain kind of humour that comes from a life of sometimes hard times that resulted in us all being able to somehow laugh our way together through this life journey. We were a tripod of support for each other over the years in many ways and were close to the very end. I always felt my dad was my most trusted friend as well and a respected father.
Lorraine and Jake were a tight couple and were role models to many for how to live a love story. Side by side through it all, they loved a good party (and also had secret signals with each other when it was time to leave the party early). I think they had the most fun when they were together alone, either at home or on a vacation together to Vegas, vacation spots in the Caribbean and especially his beloved Vancouver where it 'never rains' and he could always walk on English Bay with mom. His favourite nephew Dr. Gerry lived right on English Bay and was his best bud in town and mom and dad spent many nights at his place enjoying the sunsets of English Bay. Their 50th anniversary hosted by my 'adopted' sister Barbara Jane was celebrated on a rooftop patio of Joe Fortes in Vancouver and was a total cherry on their cake.
These are the lyrics to their fave slow dance by Vince Gill
Look At Us
Look at us
After all these years together
Look at us
After all that we've been through
Look at us
Still leaning on each other
If you want to see
How true love should be
Then just look at us
Look at you
Still pretty as a picture
Look at me
Still crazy over you
Look at us
Still believin' in forever
In a hundred years from now
I know without a doubt
They'll all look back and wonder how
We made it all work out
We'll go down in history
When they want to see
How true love should be
They'll just look at us
Dad had a long and winding road of many kinds of employment. Always happy for the opportunity to interact with a new group of people: The Tourist Hotel in Steinbach, John Deer and Co in Winnipeg, Driving long haul transport trucks for Penner's, Transfer with his brother Oscar, the Gordon Hotel Chain, DeFehr Furniture, Lazy Boy Furniture, Sears garden supplies, Resident Manager at Rideau Tower
Jake came from a large, prominent Rempel family in Steinbach. Son of Peter S. Rempel and Elizabeth Friesen Rempel. They were a pioneer family that today has a plaque on a bench marking their original homestead on Main St. A large family with 9 brothers and 4 sisters but sadly, Dad's parents died six months apart when he was at the age of 6. He had fond memories of his father taking him for long drives together on the number 12 highway. After they passed, the family splintered and dad was eventually taken in by one of his sisters to be raised at the Tourist hotel in Steinbach. With no real room at the inn for him at that time he slept in a bathtub and was put to work helping out at the hotel stacking beer empties. He cherished the dinner plate that he was given after wards which was his entire inheritance from the family. His dear Brother George (that remained his lifelong buddy) appreciated the soup bowl that he received and they both laughed years later at how that all turned out. Tough times back in the day, eh?
Working at the tourist hotel became his thing. It was there he got to look after his beloved pony Lil' Abner. He moved up from counting beer bottle empties and eventually became an underage bartender at the hotel to earn his keep. This would later lead to a career in hotel management which he and mom both loved being involved in. I was lucky enough to come along for the ride when they relocated to hotels across the province instilling a sense of love of travel in me that eventually became my thing. People thought it was strange for a family to move around like that but I can attest to the great benefits of my parents free wheeling take on life. We were happy doing anything as long as we were together.
I have fond memories of him working at the Brooklyn hotel with mom and being babysat by exotic dancers and magicians working at the hotel at the time. It was awesome, and we all had a lot of fun in that unusual environment. His move to the furniture industry meant that dad was able fill our home with the finest and newest versions of things that caught his eye in store. He always made sure to put a smile on mom's face with a special something brought home from DeFehr's. His final most perfect career placement was at Rideau Towers in Winnipeg were he lived with mom and was resident manager for 20 years. Talk about creating a fan base. I always would come home at Christmas to see all the gifts left from tenants in appreciation of mom and Dad's devotion to helping them throughout the year. He loved being in the office, greeting people as they came in, chatting for hours with tenants and also using his golf club late at night to chase out trouble makers who entered the building. Don't mess with Jackson.
After retirement, Dad liked to take walks to Assiniboine Park to feed his friendly squirrels and rabbits and go for a drink with mom to the Keg and loved a good game of golf either on the course or on tv, laying on the couch (mostly the couch.)
He never lost his great fun spirit throughout his health battles and you just never knew what was next with him, which we loved. A hero to many, many people but mostly an ever-loving and protective husband to mom and role model to me.
Dad's favourite piece of advice to me was "Take it easy and things will work out". He was right.
No service will be held at Jackson's request. Mom and I are hoping to get out to Vancouver this summer to spread his ashes somewhere near his favourite spot on English Bay where they watched many sunsets together. Please raise a glass of whatever you like to toast his life. Cheers Jackson ...you did it your way.
My dear friend Kristy sent me this poem yesterday and it really suits dad's life philosophy and ours too.
-by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?
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