We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Wilson's Funeral Chapel & Crematorium - Lacombe
Bernice Alfreda Lotzien
1931 – 2022
Who becomes an accomplished piano teacher growing up without a piano? Our mother, Bernice Lotzien.
Bernice Alfreda Lotzien (nee Erickson) was born to Scandinavian immigrants, Alfred and Ragnhild Erickson, in Tompkins, Saskatchewan on July 26, 1931. Raised during the early stages of the Great Depression, one might not be surprised at Bernice’s innate resourcefulness, however, Bernice was in a league of her own. Oh yes, and in a girl’s hockey league, a girl’s softball league and a women’s curling league.
Bernice was the eldest of four children, brother Roger and sisters Arlene and Linda. Raised in a homesteading community of Swedes and Norwegians, Bernice innocently skipped off to grade one without knowing any English. She would often recount her first day, shyly singing the Swedish anthem for the class at the request of her teacher which was followed by relentless teasing at recess. Thus, at an early and delicate age, Bernice learned how to handle adversity – get back up, dust off your knees and learn English. As much as we, her kids, would roll our eyes at Her never-ending attempts to correct our grammar, we did reap the benefits of her valued review of our school essays and 4H speeches. Bernice had a gift with language and taught many of her grandchildren to read at a pre-school age.
As a child, Bernice longed to play the piano, but alas, they had no piano. At age 11, the local piano teacher offered her a deal: if she would come to her house to practice every day, and play in church every Sunday once proficient, she could have lessons for free. By age 12, Bernice played piano in church every Sunday and could both read music and play piano by ear.
Her love of piano and her gift for teaching lead her to instruct many farm community children. Even in her last days at Royal Oak, Bernice played for the residents who gleefully shouted out requests. She had a love for music, and as you will discover, the piano was “key” to marrying the love of her life.
In her youth, Bernice enjoyed sports. Who knew that there was a girl’s hockey league in the mid 1940s in rural Saskatchewan? Bernie, as she was known to her friends then, was on a strong team which could whoop the pants off the other girls’ teams, so their coach decided to ratchet up the competition with a game against the local pee wee boys. As she would later explain, “Those boys were insulted. They didn’t come out to play, they came out to slaughter.” She laughed as she described how their goalie would hide behind the goal when she saw one of those riled up boys winding up for a slap shot. Bernice also pitched for the girl’s high school softball team and curled in a lady’s league using regular household straw brooms. Though Bernice eventually replaced most of her sports with other endeavours, she gladly endured a cold ice rink to watch her grandchildren and great grandchildren play.
After finishing school, Bernice worked as a bank teller. The bank manager took all the tellers out for a round of golf. It was her first-time golfing and she got a hole-in-one! Well, sort of. On her first swing of the beaten-up rental club, the head flew off behind her and dropped down into an open-roof outhouse… one can picture where it landed. It was a crappy ending to her golf career.
During this time, Bernice agreed to a blind date with a young farmer named Jack Lotzien. It wasn’t a stellar start. Jack was so tired from working the farm that he fell asleep in his car during the dance. Despite being offered rides home from other potential suitors, Bernice politely declined and got into the car with Jack to be escorted home at the end of the dance. When asked why, she explained as if we should all know the decorum of the day, “You always ride home with the one who brought you.”
They courted for a number of months and Jack clinched Bernice’s heart when he took her to meet his mother, Freyda. While visiting with Freyda in the kitchen, Bernice’s ears shot up. She could hear piano playing; beautiful, accomplished piano. She had absolutely no idea that her beau could play, let alone play with such ease and grace. She claimed that’s when ‘she knew.’ They married June 10, 1951 and moved onto Jack’s family’s farm in Major, Saskatchewan. At that point, Bernice became a full-time partner in their farming operations because in those days one could not be married and work as a bank teller. They had five Saskatchewan babies Robert (“Bobby”), James (“Jimmy”), Colleen, Kim and Glenn and three more Alberta babies Lori, Janet and Jackie after moving to their forever farm north of Lacombe, Alberta.
During the early Alberta years, Bernice became involved with the community at the grass roots level. She would often arrange musical recitals at seniors homes for her students and children to play and sing. Her curation of relevant songs for the residents was always enthusiastically appreciated.
Bernice understood the business of farming and she had common sense. Ever resourceful, she decided to learn farm taxation herself after questioning their tax accountant about a particular tax treatment, and she managed all the financial matters thereafter, including self-taught tax planning and filings.
Bernice always had a massive and well-tended garden and in later years she referred to herself as a farmer. Jack would often playfully suggest that she ‘missed a weed’ which was so untrue if you had ever seen her garden. Everyone benefited from her green thumb, as she shared the spoils of countless carrots, cobs of corn, green beans, potatoes and berries.
During their ‘retirement’ years Bernice and Jack often set up a production line in the kitchen, baking dozens of pies in one day. In her life, Bernice was creative with the proliferation of vegetables from her garden. She was famous for her carrot pie that tasted like pumpkin pie and her zucchini pie (yes, zucchini) that incredulous tasters would swear was apple pie. Anyone who came to the farm was invited to raid the garden or stock up on the myriad of take-home goodies ranging from pies, cookies, muffins, cakes, pickled beets, chokecherry syrup and homemade jams and jellies. Going into their basement pantry was like a kid let loose in a candy shop.
Bernice and Jack stayed on the farm throughout their lifetime until the last few months of their lives with Jack predeceasing Bernice on November 15, 2017. Bernice passed peacefully on August 1st, 2022. They were predeceased by their eldest son Bobby (Robert John Lotzien) in 1982 and their grandson Jon (Jonathon David Wood) in 2013.
Together, Bernice (Mom, Grandma, Auntie Bernice, Bernie) and Jack (Dad, Grandpa, Uncle Jack, Jackie) leave a joint legacy of love, grace and integrity; cherished by their remaining children and spouses, numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and a lifetime’s worth of friends.
If friends so desire memorial tributes in Bernice’s honour may be made directly to the Heart and Stroke Foundation at https://secure-support.heartandstroke.ca/, or Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 1200, 2300 Yonge Street, Box 2414, Toronto, Ontario M4P 1E4, 1-888-473-4636.