Walla Artisan Bakery’s beloved baker Ben Manea died unexpectedly on June 15, 2019, due to complications from ALS. His wife, Sharon Wiener, said the bakery will be operating one final week using dough Manea had prepared. (Jordyn Thomson – Western News)

Beloved South Okanagan baker dies

Beloved baker Ben Manea died suddenly on June 15, bakery to operate for one final week

The beloved baker at Walla Artisan Bakery died on June 15 due to complications from ALS.

Ben Manea, 62, died peacefully with his wife, Sharon Wiener, at his side. Wiener said Manea “was in good spirits” and had already prepared the bakery’s dough for the coming week so it will be the community’s last chance to have one of his delicious creations.

“He did what he does every week with the staff, which was prepare the dough for the week in advance. So it’s already sitting there ready to be shaped and baked,” said Wiener. “His friends said they want to do what they think Ben would have liked, which is to use the dough. So, of course, we’re going to honour him in that way.”

The bakery, located inside the Cannery Trade Centre, will operate for its regular hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until June 21. Wiener said she and community members “tried a whole variety of possibilities” to keep the business running these past few months since the symptoms of Manea’s disease resulted in him needing help in the kitchen. There are no plans to continue operations after June 21.

READ MORE: Penticton’s beloved Walla Artisan Bakery has plans to re-open

“I have the recipes of his on video and on audio, and I had intended to keep them for the purpose of sharing them with whoever might have taken over the business but that didn’t happen,” said Wiener. “I have no plan at this moment with what to do with them, but they’re here for us.”

Wiener said since Manea’s diagnosis, they’ve been taking every opportunity to spend time with one another and enjoy the small moments. While they were given a general time frame by doctors of how long Manea would have, Wiener said he was full of life right until the end.

“He was in wonderful spirits. He had been showing me all of his recipes and given me a long list of items to buy so that he could make nougats and gelato. He was planning to make all of that this week with his staff. So he was excited about what was happening,” said Wiener. “We had two friends visiting (this past weekend) from out of town whom we were having a wonderful time with. So all in all, it was really very wonderful.

“But as a consequence of the ALS symptoms, you just never know when these things are going to happen, and in some ways perhaps this may have been a blessing for him.”

READ MORE: Meeting at Walla in Penticton to discuss bakery’s future

While baking was his passion and the symptoms of his disease prevented him from continuing to run the bakery on his own, Wiener said Manea happily transitioned to a supervisory role to see his work continued.

“It was still exciting for him to be in the bakery every morning. He didn’t want to be at home watching television,” said Wiener. “He wanted to be of use in some way. It was important for him to have a purpose and for him to get out of bed every morning and come to work. Even if it was just for a few hours, so he could be there when the baking happened.”

Wiener said memorial cards featuring a quote Manea wrote will be available at the bakery all week.

“It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearful of the future. Because such a thing could have happened to any man, but not every man could have borne it without pain. So why see more misfortune in the event than good fortune in your ability to bear it?” Manea wrote.

She said there will also be a guest book for customers to sign, and everyone is encouraged to post tributes to Manea on the bakery’s Facebook page.

Wiener said Manea was eternally grateful for the support he was given by his friends, which he deemed his “band of brothers,” and customers at the bakery. In the future when she has more time, Wiener has plans to return to her career of teaching meditation and counselling.

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