Heritage Highlights is a column submitted by the Winkler Heritage Society and will appear regularly in the Winkler Times. The first one, found below looks back at the creation of the Winkler Heritage Society. Future columns will highlight people and items that have something to say about where the community came from.
It was in 1999 that Margaret Penner paid a visit to Grace Schellenberg to discuss the need to preserve the unique history of Winkler. It was met with great approval and interest and the two ladies extended invitations to the first meeting of what was to be “The Winkler Heritage Society” (WHS).
Attending the first meeting on April 20, 1999 in Julianna’s Restaurant in the Kroeker Farm building in Winkler were: Margaret Penner, Grace Schellenberg, John J. Elias, Ben Rempel, Naomi Bergen, Ellie Reimer, David Wall, Gloria Dyck, Peter & Margret Krahn.
At their second meeting on May 11, 1999, new comers were Ed Falk, Bruce Wiebe, Erna Elias, and Marie Doell. The committee was then formed with Grace Schellenberg as chair and Gloria Dyck as secretary. In the meetings following the initial ones, John Zacharias agreed to be their treasurer and Bev Suderman the vice chair. Ann Klassen also joined the active membership. They were now ready to move ahead.
The Goals and Objectives at the first meeting were:
1. To collect, preserve and display materials relating to the history of our community.
2. To encourage public interest in history and the preservation of records and artifacts.
3. Work towards establishing a Museum and or Heritage House in the Town of Winkler.
4. Identifying existing Heritage sites. Possible sites are the Senior Citizens Friendship Centre and the former Anne Redekop House at Hoffnungsfeld.
5. To commemorate historic events and mark historic sites.
6. Establish a Heritage Fund.
7. Development of a Historic Town Tour – walking or driving.
8. Run a historical news column “Did you know?” in the local paper with ongoing information about the heritage committee work as well as other historical features.
9. Millennium project ideas: “Road of Remembrances”. Acquire a site from the town for planting trees in memory of past citizens. The cemetery was suggested as a possible location. Allow family members to donate a tree that would be specified for this purpose, and attach a small named marker by each tree.
10. Establish a genealogy archival research center – one idea was to do this in conjunction with the proposed new library expansion.
Also projects for the Winkler Centennial year, 2006 were a Centennial quilt, a pictorial calendar and a pictorial history book. The new Winkler Heritage Society met in the new boardroom at the Civic Centre.
During the early years the Society was busy with erecting cairns to honour the past people groups of Winkler with the first one being the 1876 settlers of Hoffnungsfeld in the year 2000, followed by the Jewish settlers’ cairn in 2002 and the German settlers’ in 2006. The cost of the cairns was usually paid for by the descendants of the names on the cairn. At the suggestion of Irvin Kroeker that the Society have a newspaper, the Legacy Links was born in January of 2002 with Sally Harms as the first editor. Erna Elias made the Centennial quilt and Ken Loewen made the Centennial book, Living Between Worlds by Hans Werner, happen. Other projects were printing a number of series of place mats with pictures of Winkler and its people, and benches were added to the parks.
Slowly some of the goals and objectives of the first Society meeting were realized. In January of 2007 the Winkler Heritage Archives (WHA) were formed and made their home in the new Winkler Centennial Library in a room of about 800 square feet. The first archivist was Ed Falk working along with committee members, Grace Schellenberg and Marjorie Hildebrand. “The Role and Mission of the Archives was to serve the entire population & district by protecting information and archival media of fundamental significance in establishing, maintaining and developing community identities”.
The Stones & Stories project was initiated in 2010 with Arnie Neufeld at the helm. They were a collection of pictures of headstones, with pictures of the corresponding deceased and the obituaries and then assembled in alphabetical order into binders. They would include people of Winkler and the surrounding area who are buried in the two Winkler cemeteries – Winkler Cemetery and West Ridge Cemetery.
It was at the November, 2010 meeting that the Winkler Heritage Society “voted unanimously for the committee of Arnie Neufeld, Bill Siemens and Deb Penner to proceed to establish a museum within the city of Winkler.” The committee met many times to discuss the future location and at the March meeting of the Society the group voted unanimously to rent space in the Southland Mall to finally bring a museum to Winkler! A space of 752 square feet was rented for $800 a month. Abe Suderman, Shirley Banman and Dora Hildebrand were added to the committee in May of 2011. A small “Museum Artifacts Display Committee” of Hilda Fehr, Alyce Klassen and Dora Hildebrand as co-ordinator were also appointed and they set up the displays in the museum and also catalogued them. In 2012 the catalogued items were given numbers for easy identification. The Winkler Heritage Museum (WHM) opened in August of 2011 with the following Mission Statement: “The Winkler Heritage Museum exists for the purpose of preserving and presenting the cultural heritage of Winkler and region”. They were open 10 hours a week working only with volunteers.
The Society was asked to fill 6 display cases at the Civic Centre in preparation of the city’s centennial in 2006. This was the responsibility of Marjorie Hildebrand and Dora Hildebrand. They continued to do this changing the displays at suitable intervals.
The Winkler Heritage Museum is located in Southland Mall and is open Tuesday to Friday, 12 to 4 pm, Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm and 7 to 9 pm on Thursday evenings. Work is being done to revive the Fridays open evening from 7-9 pm. You are invited to come and tour the Archives or Museum at any of the given times. They love visitors! Look for future stories of the past and present in this newspaper.