Just 10 days after he watched his wife’s memorial via an online stream from his bed in a Winnipeg burn unit, 79-year-old Wally Kroeker of Boissevain died earlier this month.
The home of Wally and Martha Kroeker went up in flames in the early morning of Feb. 25 in Boissevain, claiming the life of Martha and leaving Wally, who was rushed to Winnipeg, with serious burns.
"We are praising God and crying," read a post on a blog maintained by one of the couple’s eight adult children. "He passed surrounded by his children. He was not in pain and was very peaceful."
The family waited a month to have Martha’s funeral in hopes Wally — who sustained burns to about 30 per cent of his body — would heal enough to attend.
Wally died on April 5 at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre of heart complications, just a few days after he got out of intensive care.
"His heart just couldn’t handle it," said Dorothy Whetter, a close friend and neighbour of the couple. "It was too much for his body to handle the healing and his heart just gave out."
His memorial was held on April 12 and Whetter said there were more than 250 people at each Kroeker funeral. The two were buried together.
Wally was a retired minister who was a pastor at the Mennonite Bretheren Church in Boissevain for about 15 years.
The couple left Boissevain for a couple of years to do mission work in the United States. When the couple returned to Boissevain, Wally worked as a part-time pastor at the Whitewater Mennonite Church.
The two have spent around 30 years in Boissevain.
"Wally and Martha have been pillars," Whetter said. "He (Wally) would be just as comfortable in the coffee room having coffee with somebody that didn’t belong to his church as he was on the golf course."
The family, described as tech-savvy by Whetter, have been maintaining an in-depth blog of their parents, which included frequent updates, stories and photos.
"They are an extremely close family," Whetter said.
With a thick chin beard, Wally was known in the community as Santa, an avid golfer, and a woodworker, though he referred to himself as a "wood butcher," Whetter said, and rarely did you hear one Kroeker name uttered without the other.
"It was always Wally and Martha."
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