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Family gathers at PWL Stettler to honour
father’s brave sacrifice eight decades ago

May 10th, 2019

Points West Living Stettler resident Anne Thulien still remembers the day her father John Durksen died. It was June 28, 1935, and 8-year-old Anne was playing with her sister outside their home in Sedalia (Alberta). Her mother called the girls inside and left to deliver lunch to their father at his garage across town. 


By the time she returned, the news had emerged that John had perished attempting to rescue a neighbour and his son. The two had succumbed to carbon monoxide that lingered at the bottom of the septic well they were mending, and in attempting to save them, John also fell victim to the deadly gas. The funeral for the three men that followed the tragedy drew 1500 mourners to the tiny community.


Through the recent efforts of John’s granddaughter Brenda (Durksen) Reesor, the Royal Canadian Humane Association posthumously bestowed upon him the Silver Medal for Bravery. It was awarded in December 2018.


On March 30, 2019, thirty-four members of the family gathered at PWL Stettler to view the award, and to honour John Durksen’s legacy. Anne says she recalls at the time and in years that followed that other people would comment on what a selfless person he was, willing to do anything for anyone, and so generous. She says she is very proud to have that as part of her heritage. Another PWL resident, Bill Kroker, John’s nephew, was 3 years old when John died. He said he remembers that day, and all the people that were crying in the house.

More on the story

For more on the story and photos, read Anne’s daughter Yvonne Thulien’s summary online article in the East Central Review. PWL Stettler reception care partner, Susan Haustein took a full page print copy of the full article and had it laminated so Anne can read it and share it anytime.

Photo: Anne Thulien and her brother Walter Durksen (at centre, on either side of the framed certificate and award) commemorate the award and the life of their father, John Durksen. They are surrounded by family members, including those of their late siblings, Helen (Wiltse) and Vernon Durksen.

More photos at Flickr: Family gathers at PWL Stettler to honour father’s brave sacrifice eight decades ago

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