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FREELS, Dietert “Denis”

August 30, 1931 – Brake, Germany
December 26, 2014 – Calgary, Alberta

Denis was a published author of maritime history, loved reading, dancing, traveling, conversation, and a good cup of coffee and piece of cake.

During his childhood, Denis had a front row seat to the horrors of World War II. The experience made him passionate about human rights and social justice.

Denis joined the United States Naval Forces Germany. During his time at sea, he visited many exotic locations including Cairo, Turkey, and Greece. When discharged, he was commended for his excellent efficiency in the performance of his work and for exemplary personal conduct.

As a young man, he watched Saskatchewan, a movie set amidst mountain ranges and beautiful rivers, and he decided Canada was the place he wanted to build his life. He told his fiancée, Erna Ricklefs that he would check Canada out and then send for her. In 1955, Denis boarded the Neptunia and sailed to Halifax, and then traveled by train to Moose Jaw, SK.

Upon arriving, he searched for the mountain vistas depicted in the movie only to learn the film had actually been shot in Alberta. Having found work and a place to live, he stayed in place for the time being and in 1956, Erna joined him and they married in Moose Jaw. The young couple faced many hard times as they worked to build a new life in a country so far from family and childhood friends.

A few years later they moved to Calgary, AB, both found jobs and saved enough money to buy a house where in 1965, they were joined by his only child, a daughter they named Rebecka. During these years, he established a painting business, which grew to become a successful residential and commercial painting company.

In 1975, he married Eileen Graves (nee Morey) and welcomed to his life Richard, Patricia, Janice and a dog named Brownie. A few years later, using his carpentry skills, he constructed a large building in Deadman’s Flats (Canmore), which mirrored his ancestral home in Brake, Germany. The building housed a tea room, art gallery, and bed and breakfast which they operated successfully for many years. The two traveled to Europe and Wales many times in pursuit of historical points of interest and to visit family. In those years, Denis also saw the arrival of his much loved grandchild, Rachel.

In 1999, he retired to Gibson’s Landing, BC. The mild ocean climate suited him well and he especially enjoyed finding so many like-minded individuals who were equally passionate about social justice and environmental causes.

Retirement afforded him time to enjoy a pint at the local pub with friends, coffee at Molly’s Reach restaurant (made famous by the Beachcombers TV series) and indulge his much loved interest in building ship models.

His return once again to being single prompted him to step-up participation in activities designed to advance social causes.

He enjoyed the companionship of his special friend, Lucille Holden, with whom he danced, traveled, and enjoyed her cooking while the two watched ocean liners sail by her seaside home.

Retirement plans were curtailed when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and associated dementia. Facing difficulties, he moved to Alberta to be closer to his daughter.

He bore his illness with the resolve, steadfastness, grace and humour that punctuated his entire life. He was supported during this very difficult journey by Rebecka, Jennifer Winkler, and Erna and Lutz Floegel.

A private celebration of his life took place on December 29, 2014. His final resting place will be a family grave in his homeland where he will join generations of his ancestors.

Forward condolences through Thank you to the staff and medical team at Walden Heights Assisted Living who provided excellent care and support during this most challenging period in his life.

In living memory of Dietert Freels, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Fish Creek, 14441 BANNISTER ROAD S.E. Telephone: 403-256-9575.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Jan & Mike Weir, Nanaimo BC :

    We are so sorry to hear about Denis’ passing. We remember him and his quiet, gentle ways. He was an intelligent gentleman with a strong love for his daughter and grand-daughter. He was a hard worker and spent many hours helping with home improvements. We have fond memories of sharing meals and conversation with Denis. Rebecka & Rachel, our loving thoughts are with you and your families.

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  2. Cindi Johnston :

    Denis’ legacy and his spirit lives on within you. He was a wonderful man and you are a beautiful person. It’s time his spirit rested for a bit and it’s time for you to take some time for you. You have been a very kind and loving daughter and he knew you loved him by your genuine and heart felt actions. Trust that life lives on and that happiness will be his on the other side of the veil. We are praying for you and your heart to heal.
    Cindi, Bob and Bryce

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  3. Gabi Bruns, Emden, Germany :

    People come into our life and stay with us a short while. Some stay forever, because they leave traces in our heart.

    Please allow me to extend my condolences to all of Dietert’s family for their terrible loss. These words can only be a small comfort, but they express my profound sympathy.

    I will never forget our trips in Germany and in the Netherlands, nor the two wonderful vacations in Canada, during which Dietert with me shared his immense knowledge of the land and its people.

    Books were an important part of his life. A fond memory of mine, among many others, is that whenever he visited us in Emden, he liked to get up early, before anyone else, so he could browse our bookshelves.

    We all have lost a man who was affable and had a great sense of humor, but who was also very thoughtful.

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  4. Denis and I enjoyed many a conversation in the pub across the road from Molly’s Reach, solving the problems of the world while quofing a libation or three and looking out at the ocean. He will be sadly missed. Miss me but let me go.

    Bill Morey.

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  5. My very fond memories of his quiet humour, his vast knowledge and the wonderful guidance will always stay with me. I count myself lucky to have known him and thankful for people such as Denis (always known as Uncle Denis!) who have touched a part of my life. My deepest condolences to you and your family Rebecca.

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