After 16 years at the helm of the Warman Seniors Centre, 87-year-old Peter Guenther is stepping down.
On Thursday, July 26, over 100 people turned out to the seniors centre to honour Peter and his wife Mary for their many years of service to the community.
Guenther resigned from the post of President of the seniors association last month. Incoming President Brian Lise said the membership felt it was important to say thanks to the couple in a very public way.
“At our June board meeting, Peter announced he was stepping down,” said Lise. “Peter has done so much for this organization, from organizing the monthly suppers to handling the finances, we just want to say we appreciate everything.”
The Warman Seniors Association board presented the couple with a plaque to commemorate the occasion, as well as a special cake to polish off the catered supper that evening.
Warman Mayor Sheryl Spence said Peter and Mary are a “shining example” of how individuals can make the world a better place.
“Peter and Mary have spent their lifetime giving back to their community,” said Spence. “They have a strong foundation in faith, and have worked hard over the years, as parents to four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They have built a strong family and also a strong community.
“It’s a legacy to be proud of.”
Spence and Warman City Councillors Gary Philipchuk and Kevin Tooley presented the couple with a bouquet of flowers and framed certificate of appreciation from the city.
Warman MCC Thrift Shop co-managers Sheila Friesen and Maria Guenter paid tribute to the many volunteer hours Mary Guenther has devoted to the store.
“It’s an honour to have worked with Mary at the shop for the past ten years,” said Friesen. “She was very dedicated. Every Tuesday she was there and her contribution helped raise funds for the less fortunate here locally and in other countries.”
Tributes to the couple were also paid by Osler Mission Chapel Pastor Bill Janzen and Hague Mennonite Church Pastor Artur Esau.
Peter Guenther said it was a tough decision to step down from a job he’s enjoyed for many years, but he felt his other responsibilities were a priority. Mary Guenther was recently diagnosed with cancer, and the couple are focusing on her recovery. Peter is also teaching monthly Bible study classes and Sunday School for adults at the North Mennonite Haven residence where they live.
“I had to resign because my plate was full. I’m looking after Mary and I also want to continue with the classes,” said Peter in an interview. “It’s a relief to turn the duties over to Brian and the rest of the board, but I’ll certainly miss this place. I walk by here and think about all the good times we had here.”
At the same time, he’s happy he was able to make a difference over the years.
“I felt it was something I could do to contribute to the community,” he said.
Peter and Mary farmed in the Hepburn area for 36 years before moving to Warman, where they each had parents in the seniors home.
“It was a natural move to come here,” said Peter. “We felt right at home from the very first, and we still do.”
Peter is also not the first Peter Guenther to hold the position of President of the association. His namesake uncle was in that role when the couple first moved to Warman.
“My uncle, Peter Guenther, tried to get me join the association back then,” said Peter. “But I didn’t think I was old enough. I was under 70 at the time. After I turned 70 then I joined up.”
Henry Friesen served as association president for four years before Peter Guenther took on the job in 2002.
“It was a learning experience,” said Peter. “I made mistakes in the beginning, but I learned how to become a diplomat. In order to please people there is a lot of give and take. I realized I had to take two steps forward and one step back in order to get things done.”
Peter said his philosophy was always to ensure the seniors centre is a “welcoming place” open to everyone.
“We see people here who might otherwise not go to a regular church,” said Peter. “This isn’t an official church, it’s simply a place that’s not intimidating. They can come here and listen to a different speaker every month, from another denomination. All the differences are left outside the door.”
Over the past several years, the seniors centre, which is housed in the former Warman train station, has seen many upgrades.
“We’ve got a high-capacity dishwasher, air conditioning, new furnaces, new roof, a lot of improvements,” said Peter. “It takes a lot of work and running around to get the grants for those things, but we had a lot of help from the town and the care home. They were both very supportive.”
The senior centre also relies heavily on volunteer labour to keep things in shape and to ensure operations run smoothly.
“We have people helping out and working together who otherwise might never meet each other,” said Peter. “This place is a great asset to the community.”