1935 – 2015
Our Alice was born on May 7th, 1935 to Erich and Olga Gantner in Wladislawow, a small Polish town approximately half way between Posnan and Warsaw. She has two older brothers Bruno and Walter. Two sisters, one older and one younger died in infancy. Her parents of German descent operated there for generations a flour mill. At the start of the Second World War in 1939, when Alice was but 4 years old, the peaceful family, being fully bilingual, in order to save their lives by avoiding marauding German hating polish mobs that mistakenly blamed ethnic minorities for the war, was forced to hide and flee east in a trek of Polish refugees. One of Alice’s earliest memories was running for cover with all the others to avoid German planes dropping bombs on the roadway. After the Nazis occupied Poland, life for the family quieted down again. Still new rules were introduced. Alice sometimes recalled with a chuckle a little episode from that time. The up to then customary greeting of “Guten Tag”, perhaps in the Polish language, was replaced with the Nazi salute and a “Heil Hitler”. One fine day little Alice walking on the sidewalk encountered a Polish woman. Debating with herself, which greetings would now be appropriate, she decided on the new version. The hurt and upset expression on that poor woman’s face however taught her very quickly, to always be courteous and treat people with politeness and never to hurt anybody. In late fall of 1944, Russian tanks overran Wladislawow, and life changed drastically for the Gantner family. Immediately the flour mill was lost, and they were confined to a single room in their house, the rest being occupied by Russian officers, but worst of all, Alice’s father, a civilian, was abducted and shipped as a slave labourer to far away Russia. Late in 1945 after the war’s end during a bitter cold spell, the family was ordered to pack a suitcase and get out. In the largest ethnic cleansing of modern times, they were loaded into open boxcars in the direction of Germany. After several refugees camps the family eventually wound up in Linsenhofen near Stuttgart, where Alice’s grandfather, who made the trek with them, soon after their arrival passed away. Despite tough times, the family was destitute and reduced to almost beggar status, Alice still was, after almost two years of missed schooling, able to return to school, eventually graduating from middle school. In 1948 her poor father returned from Russia and with a breadwinner in the family again life improved substantially. In 1951, with help of an uncle in Regina, Saskatchewan, the family was able to immigrate to Canada, but by then 16 year old Alice, because of financial reasons, regretfully was no longer able to resume schooling. Her very first job was as kitchen help in the RCMP depot in Regina, where she was amazed at the plentiful food available. In time she held several jobs, such as operating a buttonhole machine in a garment factory, being a saleslady at a department store and eventually working her way up to senior bookkeeper at Simpson-Sears, a position she held for many years. In 1956 she married Horst Peick, a young man she already knew from Germany. With her industriousness she financed his university studies to become an engineer. Over the years the couple moved several times eventually settling and buying a house in Cambridge, Ontario, and 1968 her daughter Denise was born. Unfortunately in 1975 shortly after the birth of her son Andrew, the marriage collapsed, and together with her recently widowed mother Alice and her two children moved to Chilliwack where a house on Marshall Avenue was purchased. In 1983 Alice married her second husband Hermann, and she moved with her two children onto her new husband’s little farm in Agassiz where she stayed for 31 years, until just about a year ago, when the couple relocated to a smaller house in Sardis. Alice lived for Yoga, many years ago she studied under Swami Sivananda in Val Marin, QC to become a Yoga teacher. Subsequently she taught Yoga for many years in Cambridge and later in Chilliwack, Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs. One of Alice’s big concerns was the environment. She was a founding member of the now defunct “Kent Harrison Green Legacy Society”. Although far from being a fanatic or radical, it pained her, to eventually recognize, that so many people and governments still don’t see this issue as of the paramount importance it deserves. Alice had a green thumb. Four years she supplied the family table with succulent vegetable form her garden, but to her chagrin, she also fought a constant battle with the ever-present plentiful weeds. Her one demand before moving to Sardis was to have again a vegetable garden established at the new home. She loved her barnyard chickens and most of the time even tolerated them in her flowerbeds. Alice will be remembered forever by her daughter Denise Watkins (Andrew), her son Andrew Peick (Jackie), grandchildren Harrison Watkins and Maggie Peick, husband Hermann and brothers Bruno in Kelowna and Walter in Saskatoon as well as many cousins, relatives and friends across Canada, USA, Germany, Switzerland and Poland.
May Alice rest in peace.
A celebration of life will take place in the Agassiz United Church on Saturday, October 3rd at 2:00 pm.