Alphonse Mathias

February 28, 1923

November 9, 2007

84 Years

In Loving Memory of

    Al was born February 28, 1923 in Lake Lenore, SK.  Al enjoyed a long teaching career, and was among the first to recognize the talent of the Trapp Family Singers, organizing their concert tour in Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1953.  Following this desire to nurture his German heritage, he set out to arrange what became a lively musical exchange between Germany and Canada.

    In the late 1970s, Al paid his first visit to Northeastern Brazil to work with the Mission to the street people established earlier by the Benedictine Monks of St. Peter’s Abbey and the Ursuline Sisters of Bruno, and this cause, the “movimentos populares”, became Al’s passion in the last thirty years of his life.  He worked tirelessly to improve the lot of the dispossessed and impoverished in Brazil, and went about “conscientizing” us all, insisting that we sit up and pay attention to the political struggles of others.  Al insisted that it was not a question of charity, but of justice.  If he was not himself working alongside those marginalized and oppressed, he was moving mountains to raise funds for projects designed to help them help themselves. 

    It was especially to this end that he was able to indulge the other great passion of his life, and this was for music.  With the same sort of single-mindedness, Al injected music and the joy of music into lives wherever he went by staging or directing everything from impromptu singalongs to ambitious dramatic and musical productions, festivals and choirs.  Most of these roles were filled by ordinary, local people who might otherwise not have realized their talent.  He devoted himself in this way especially to children, whom he clearly loved and enjoyed. 

    It was this grassroots devotion to improving the lot of ordinary people that led to Al being appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1989 and awarded the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal in 2005, among many awards and recognitions he received for his contributions to society. 

    All who knew Al were touched in some way his by unflagging enthusiasm, his generous spirit, and his wonderful unconventional self.  His grace and dignity in face of his final illness were representative of the manner in which he had lived his entire life.  Al was an extraordinary person who touched the lives of many people and he will be dearly missed. 

    Alphonse is survived by his Aunt Louise Schulte, sisters, Laura Berscheid, Rosemary (Bert) Lalonde, and Pauline (Maurice) Merkosky, and his brothers, John (Evelyn), Clement (Hedy), Felix (Eleanor), Charles (Rita) and Frederick P. (Marie); sister-in-law, Julie Gerwing, and a multitude of adoring nieces and nephews and friends from around the world.  He was predeceased by his parents, John and Amalia Gerwing (née Schulte), his sisters, Sophie (Anton) Buttinger and Esther Zimmerman-Grant (Joe Zimmerman; Jim Grant), his brothers, Ewald (Irene)  and Gerhard, along with three brothers,  John,  Hugo  and  Frederick,  who died in infancy and brother-in-law, Bill Berscheid.

    The Prayer Service was held on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 7:30 p.m. and the Mass of Christian Burial on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 2:00 p.m., both at St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church, Lake Lenore, SK, with Fr. Andrew Britz, OSB officiating.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alphonse Gerwing Charitable Foundation (c/o Box 207 Lake Lenore, SK S0K 2J0).  Funeral arrangements were entrusted to Malinoski & Danyluik Funeral Home, Humboldt (306-682-1622).

There is beauty and there are the humiliated—

May we never prove unfaithful to the one nor the other

(Albert Camus)

Read about the Alphonse Gerwing Foundation                              Read Thomas Yu’s tribute to Al