May 23, 1912 – March 31, 2009
Dad passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, at the Vernon Hospice House Tuesday evening. With his body failing and quality of life draining away, he was ready both mentally and spiritually.
He was born in Poland to Jacob and Bertha Odenbach and was the second youngest of four boys – Albert born 1908, Ernest 1909 and Bill 1915. Jacob, a farmer, relocated his family to East Germany after employing a family to sneak them across the border. In order to distract border security, a violin was used to gain a guard’s attention while the family was shuttled across.
Dad recalls a Lutheran school where the teachers used lilac switches to enforce rules. “It was strict but it was good.” He could gauge the mood of one teacher by his attire. “When he wore black and white pants, you knew you were in for a bad day.” As a young teen, he remembers hanging out with his cool city cousins, Lydia and Alma, in Berlin. Jacob eventually immigrated to Stony Plain, Alberta in 1926 with his eldest son Albert. The rest of the family came over the following year. On the boat coming over to Halifax, Dad and Bill stood at the bow of the boat and were fascinated by schools of flying fish.
Jacob purchased a 160-acre farm with a small house. Dad said it wasn’t insulated well, but the family used heavy tick quilts to keep warm during harsh Prairie winters. In 1929 his uncle called a young Hugo to come work for him in the BX tending 500 turkeys. Dad purchased a new bike for $35 and rode it into town from the BX. He liked coming into Vernon on Saturday nights to enjoy the downtown and maybe watch a ball game.
After working with Mom’s brother Irvin making railway ties, he eventually won the heart of Olga (Mom) Eckert and they married 70 years ago, March 20, at a little church on 27th Street. The couple moved to Cherryville in 1941 before Dad built a house on Swede Road in Lumby. As a young man, he remembers using a team of horses to skid logs out of the hills above Cosens Bay. Being a sawyer/millwright by trade, Dad moved to Williams Lake and worked for Dan Basaraba for 11 years. Eventually, he was hired to build a mill in Stewart where the family lived until relocating back to the Okanagan in 1972. He worked for mills in Coldstream and Grindrod before retiring from Rogers Flour.
He has five children – Jerald (Cris), Norma (Harry), Dorothy (Len), Beverly (Ira) and Dan (Marnie). Dad also enjoyed nine grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents, brothers, one grandchild (Tammy) and son-in-law (Harry).
Cremation preceded a private family service yesterday morning.
Until you experience the Vernon Hospice House you somewhat take it for granted. You have an understanding they do good work in supporting families during their time of need. However, once a loved one exits this life in the care of the Vernon Hospice Society you appreciate what a valued service this non-profit group does for the community. Even if Dad had not been surrounded by family, he would have left this world knowing he was cared for and valued. So if you’re looking for a “local worthy cause,” nobody could ever fault you for supporting this non-profit society where staff and volunteers hearts are all in the right place.