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Museum Blog

Mary Westera (Toerse)
Den Ham, Netherlands


Mary Westera and husband at docks

Image: Mary and Ties Westera ready to depart on the boat, 1948.

Marrigje (Mary) Toerse was born in October 1926. She grew up on a small farm where her family grew vegetables and grain. Mary was 13 when Germany invaded the Netherlands.

During the war, the Germans took everything. When they were threshing, there was someone watching. Neighbours would sometimes take the watcher and offer him a cup of coffee inside their house. The threshing farmer could then hide some grain. Mary’s family hid grain, potatoes, and vegetables to eat later.

Mary met Ties Westera in August 1946. Ties wanted his own farm, but after the war it was expensive. Determined, Ties heard Canada needed help farming.

In June 1948, Mary and Ties were married. At the time, you couldn’t buy anything, including fabric. But Mary was working in a factory and they gifted her some light blue material. Her sister made it into her wedding dress. By July, they were sponsored and had departed for Canada.

The Trachsel’s picked them up from the train, taking them six miles west of Sylvan Lake. Mary and Ties didn’t know English, which made communication difficult. One day, Mary was asked to peel potatoes, but she didn’t understand until she saw the potatoes. They worked hard to learn the language.

They lived on several farms between 1949 and 1971 before purchasing their own farm. During this time Mary and Ties raised five children and helped found the first Christian Reform Church in Red Deer. They farmed until 1997 when Ties passed away in December. Mary passed away in November 2017.

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