Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Angels and Castles

According to a 1991 census, 129,950 people residing in Vancouver claimed German ancestry. There are German churches of the major denominations, German clubs, which provide entertainment and recreation and German schools. There are German newspapers to keep the language alive and help German immigrants adjust to the Canadian way of life.

The German community maintains the German-Canadian Benevolent Society,, which looks after several German-Canadian Intermediate Care Homes.

Other German organizations in Vancouver include the German-Canadian Baltic Society, the German-Canadian Congress, the German-Canadian Culture Society, the German-Canadian Business and Professional Association, the Trans-Canada Alliance of German-Canadians, the Edelweiss Credit Union, the Kolping Society of Vancouver and the Goethe Institute. There is even a German Consulate in Vancouver.

One of the outstanding German citizens of Vancouver was Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken who arrived in 1850, from the Hanover area. For a long time, he was the only medical doctor here. Children called him "Doctor Heal My Skin'. Helmcken married Cecilia Douglas, the future Governor's daughter.

Dr. Helmcken eventually entered politics and was one of the politicians who brought British Columbia into the Confederation. A street downtown is named after him.

Agnes Watts was known as the 'telethon angel'. She was born near Bunzlau in 1889 and came to Victoria at the age of 19 to work as a nanny.

Agnes was the first female employee when Scott Paper opened a mill in New Westminster and stayed with them for 22 years. She rolled toilet paper and saved her money. She was frugal and wisely invested in the stock market and real estate, making her a wealthy women.

Ms. Watts was a generous patron of the Variety Club telethon, donating more than $500,000 to children's projects. Prince Philip gave her the Variety Club award in 1987. Agnes travelled to London to accept the award in person. Not bad for a ninety-eight or ninety-nine year old!

I can't mention notable Germans in my city without mentioning one of the more colorful, Fritz Ziegler. Ziegler moved to Vancouver with his parents when he was nine. In 1923, he entered the family business - the famous Ziegler Chocolates.

During the war, Fritz was interned. However, he was released after a few years on the condition he no longer reside in Vancouver. He settled in Fort Langley.

There he created Schloss Klipphaus, a castle he built with his own hands. In 1997, the year the book I'm consulting was written, the 93 year old Fritz still lived in the castle with his wife Nancy - the great granddaughter of Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell and entertained visitors from around the world.

Thanks to Sylvia Reinthal and her article 'Germans' in the book the Greater Vancouver book, an urban encyclopaedia for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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