Kathy Klassen hopes to inspire with memoir

·3 min read

Aylmer resident Kathy Klassen hopes that stories from her life, captured in a newly published book “Bits & Pieces of My Life”, will help people become more grateful for their surroundings.

The book documents her life’s journey in small excerpts, from working in cotton-picking in Mexico to tobacco fields in Canada, learning to speak a second language in an unfamiliar country, and building a family and life for herself, as well as adventures with long-time friends.

When asked what she hopes people learn from the book, Ms. Klassen said, “To be thankful, that people will appreciate having a good life. When people read my story, they will find out I had a really hard life.”

Ms. Klassen emigrated from Mexico to the Aylmer area with her family, along with 45 others, in 1954. They travelled on a three-ton truck and the trip took several days, with a few bumps in the road.

“We crossed the border into Canada on Victoria Day and we were welcomed,” wrote Ms. Klassen. “They even gave us food at the border.”

The group ended up between Aylmer and Tillsonburg, but when they arrived, the house they were to occupy—which Ms. Klassen later found out was a railroad station—was nailed shut.

They were left with no alternative but to sleep outside in the cold. When it began to rain, some group members broke into the railroad station for a place to stay out of the elements.

Eventually, they found a more permanent residence in a Victorian-style house just west of Brownsville. There were enough rooms that every family was able to move in.

“It was a very exciting time,” wrote Ms. Klassen. “We had $12 to our name when we got here and no work for some time.”

Working at a grocery store in Brownsville helped with the finances. Some Mennonite churches in St. Catharines and Port Rowan heard about their arrival, and brought furniture, food, clothes, and cooking stoves.

Eventually, Ms. Klassen built a life for herself here in Canada, She married Peter Klassen in 1960 and had five children. Now, she has 16 grandchildren and great grandchildren. Many of her relatives reside in British Columbia.

Part of the inspiration to memorialize her life story came from a writing class called “How to Write the Story of Your Life.”

She began the writing process in 1997, initially intending to only share with family members. Eventually, she decided to publish it to share with the world. There are plenty of photos from events over the decades included in the story, including family, birthdays, cars, and more.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic regulations have limited gathering and public activities, Ms. Klassen has found more time to dedicate to creative hobbies, including quilting and writing.

Bits & Pieces of My Life was printed by The Aylmer Express print division, and can be purchased in Aylmer at the Gordita Shop, Sunrise and Campbell’s, and in Mount Salem from Talbot Variety.

Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express