Farewell to a Friend
This week Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is saying goodbye to a friend and loyal supporter. Mr. Arthur Kroeger passed away on Friday, November 13, at the age of 93. His memorial service was held on Monday, November 23.
Mr. Kroeger was born into a clock-making family in Rosenthal, Chortitza, in Russia. The Kroeger clock-making business goes back to the Vistula Delta near Danzig (Gdansk), Poland, in the early eighteenth century. The business was relocated to Southern Russia when the family migrated to that area. Since then, many of the clocks made by the Kroeger Company have been brought to North America through subsequent migrations of Mennonites to this continent. Given the stressful circumstances under which many of these migrations took place, it’s quite remarkable how they actually managed to bring these relatively large and delicate clocks with them. Clearly the clocks were very important fixtures in their homes.
During the time of the Russian Revolution and the Second World War, the Kroeger family experienced considerable trauma. Arthur Kroeger’s father was taken from the family by the Soviet Secret Police; his mother was sent to a forced-labour camp and was lost to the family for 13 years; his brother died in the forced-labour camp.
By 1950, with the help of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Mr. Kroeger and his fiancé succeeded in immigrating to Winnipeg where they established a home, family, community and career.
My contact with Mr. Kroeger goes back about five years when he asked us to publish his book about the Kroeger clocks. The resulting book is a beautiful collection of information about Kroeger clocks, including many photographs and drawings, as well as stories about the Russian Mennonite experiences. This was a significant accomplishment for someone approaching the age of 90, and MHV is proud to have had the opportunity to publish this fine work.
In the past, whenever people asked us where they could have their Kroeger clocks fixed, we always referred them to Mr. Kroeger, and he was always willing to try to help. Now we will need to find other resources.
Mr. Kroeger had a passion for Russian Mennonite history in general. He was very aware of the monuments in our village which recognize Johann Bartsch and Jakob Hoeppner for their work in negotiating the agreement which made it possible for Mennonites to emigrate from Prussia to Russia in the late eighteenth century.
Last summer Mr. Kroeger noted that the lettering on those monuments had become quite difficult to read. In collaboration with our MHV Curator, he arranged to have a craftsman redo the lettering on the Bartsch monument at his own expense. He was planning to have similar work done on the Hoeppner monument next summer. He was also in the process of fine-tuning a booklet he had written about the Bartsch story when his health failed recently.
We are deeply grateful to Arthur Kroeger for his commitment to preserving and telling important stories from Russian Mennonite history. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.