Eugen passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family on Saturday, June 19, 2021, at the age of 82. Eugen was predeceased by his wife Hilda (Byers) who passed away in February. Eugen was the dearly loved father of Gary and Heather (John) and much adored Opa of Garrett and Haydn. Born on June 18, 1939 in St. Wendel, Germany, Eugen was the youngest of three brothers born to Karl and Hedwig Hersemeyer. He was predeceased by both brothers Karl (Anneliese) Hersemeyer and Leo (late Rosie) Hersemeyer.
Eugen was raised during WWII and often shared stories about a time many of us can’t even imagine. His father was killed in the war when he was five, and from that young age he developed an especially close bond with his maternal grandmother who instilled upon him his love of nature and the wilderness. Eugen survived an enemy airplane attack at five years old, retaining the scar where the bullet grazed his head. It was only moments later that he watched that plane crash into a nearby hillside and he said he never forgot the smell of that burning plane. He was with his mother when their passenger train was attacked by an enemy airplane. His mother was shot in the hip, and he was pulled to the safety of a nearby ditch by a train engineer. Many died that day. Years later, Eugen ran off to join the French Foreign Legion, and on one harrowing occasion, had to hide inside a dead camel to escape enemy gunfire. His uncle, who was a member of the police force, eventually found him and returned him home to his family’s great relief. When Hilda visited Germany in 1985, his uncle told her that as a young lad, Eugen was not just bad, he was “terrible!” There are many more stories like this that will be passed on for generations to come.
Eugen went to trade school from ages 14-16 to be a Millwright. He worked in the Heiligenwald coal mine as a Millwright until he was 18, where he had gained a reputation for being fearless, getting danger pay for doing risky work like inspecting the cables from the top of the moving cage. He admitted that at times, he was indeed afraid, like when he had to hoist large tools up precarious ladders. He recently told us a story of how he just missed jumping into an automated cage and fell multiple stories down the mine shaft into water below, which fortunately he hadn’t yet drained. He got 3 weeks in a rehabilitation centre, which he said was quite enjoyable.
At the age of 18 his appetite for adventure led him to Canada, where he dreamt of visiting the northern-most regions of the country. Eugen arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax in August of 1958 on the steamship SS Reindam. He took the train to Hamilton, settled there and a few years later he met Hilda. Soon after they were married and started their family. Eugen discovered his love of northern Ontario through his wife Hilda, who was born and raised in North Himsworth Township. In 1973 they moved from Grimsby to Nipissing Township where they lived the remainder of their lives, warmly embraced by Hilda’s family and many friends. Eugen especially enjoyed ice-fishing with family and friends on Lake Nipissing where, with his trusty Polaris and family in tow, he jumped many jagged pressure cracks and unfailingly navigated through blinding snowstorms and freezing temperatures. In the summer he loved boating to Cross Point in his Giesler cedar strip boat with a 40 hp Mercury motor. He held the boat steady through one particularly rough storm that saw 8-foot waves crashing down. He also enjoyed deer hunting in November with the Bear Creek Road gang. His father was a ‘Gartenmeister’ and Eugen acquired his green thumb honestly, working with Hilda in their small greenhouse and garden. They were known throughout the region for their bountiful tomato plants and beautiful bedding plants. Eugen was also a well-known local handyman who could craft anything, from buildings to boat props and everything in between. He could do it all and many sought out his expertise.
Eugen was a founding member of the Nipissing North Volunteer Fire Department, helping build the current firehall/community centre. He was an active member of the Powassan Bee Club, attending monthly meetings to share his knowledge and always to learn more. As a beekeeper for over 35 years, he remained abundantly enthusiastic about his hobby, seeing his six hives survive strong through this past winter. He was introduced to beekeeping as a youngster by his great uncle, who was a well-known beekeeper in Saarland, Germany.
Even though he made Canada his beloved home, he remained a resolutely proud German and visited his mother, brothers, nieces, nephews and friends as often as he could. Even when he could no longer travel, he kept in touch with regular phone calls. When the whole family visited Germany with him in 1989, he proudly took them to all the places that held special memories for him growing up. It was a trip to be treasured. He spoke German to his grandchildren from the day they were born and ensured they got their German citizenship.
As with Hilda, spending time with his twin grandsons Garrett and Haydn was his greatest joy. Opa was always teaching the boys something, from making a fire from cattails on the frozen creek, to building a shelter in the bush and a snow fort in the yard, to making tools on the forge, growing giant pumpkins and this past year, he taught them to weld. The handmade knife and flint set he crafted for each of them will be forever treasured. His always smiled the brightest when they were around, told the funniest stories and enjoyed the biggest hugs. The day before his passing he happily celebrated his 82nd birthday hanging out with Garrett and Haydn.
During the last few years Eugen underwent many procedures and treatments to battle esophageal cancer, from major surgery to multiple radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Even as his health declined, he continued to live his life his way, making his own choices and remaining his independent and, at times, stubborn self. He was so grateful for all the support he received, being sure to thank everyone with a big smile and of course, readily giving his opinion on how to do things right. He never once lost that boyish smile with that hint of rebellion.
The Hersemeyer family wish to extend special thanks to his very dedicated Northeast Cancer Centre health care team and his exceptional at-home VON palliative care team, most notably Natalie (VON) and Dr. Jinnah.
The family will be holding a private funeral service, followed by interment at Nipissing Cemetery. Should you wish, memorial donations to the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association or the Northern Cancer Foundation would be welcomed. To donate or leave a message of support/tribute for the family, please visit Paul Funeral Home at paulfuneralhome.ca or call (705)724-2024.