By Lorene Keitch
It was 50 years ago that Heinz and Ricki Meyer became Canadians.
Were committed. We decided to be Canadian and I wanted to be 100 per cent Canadian, said Heinz. We made our living here, our kids were born here, and you know what? We live in the best country there is.
The two came at separate times from Germany, immigrating to Canada in the 1950s. They met and fell in love in Calgary and eventually made their way to Fairmont Hot Springs where they live in a cozy and quiet corner of the country.
Before they met, the Meyers journeys to Canada looked different, but the end result for both has been a life of satisfaction and joy. It is here they raised their three sons; their legacy now includes six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter who call them Oma and Opa.
Rickis father came to Canada in 1953, to Calgary. A year later at the age of 14, Ricki, her mother and two brothers joined him. When she moved to Calgary, Ricki thought she would not stay. But, as time went on, she settled into life in Canada and it became home to her.
Then one day, she caught sight of a young man across the street. Heinz would come by his brothers place to help him out. The two connected, fell in love, and in 1962 were married.
Heinz father had been drafted to fight in the Second World War. A Nazi party member had told him that because Heinz was not a member of the party, he would be the first one drafted if the time came. Heinz was born in 1938; his father left for war in 1939.
After the war, his father was sent to a Russian internment camp. Finally in 1949, he came home. The Russians gave him up because they said he was on the verge of death.
I was going on 11 when my father came home. He was a total stranger to me, recalled Heinz. Ten years of his life (had been) taken out of him.
Heinz mother nursed him back to health. Over the next six years, the family went through a great deal of change. Their home of Germany, the Saar, was annexed to France. Heinz father started a shoe repair shop and factory. But then politically, things changed again. The Saar was given a chance to reconnect to Germany. Overnight, industry that had been in France went downhill.
There was talk of rearmament. Heinz father didnt want his boys to go to war, so they began to look outwards.
In 1955, Heinz two older brothers left home and ended up in Calgary. A year later, 17-year-old Heinz and his parents crossed the Atlantic by boat a seven day journey followed by three days and nights on the train from Montreal to Calgary.
For Heinz, it was an adventure to travel to a new country. He learned English by buying a pocket book and looking up word for word in the dictionary. He picked up phrases needed right away I look for job and landed on his feet. He became the right-hand man at his fathers shoe company, followed by a series of successful career choices through the years.
In 1967, while the country celebrated its centennial, the Meyer family officially joined this great nation. Fifty years later, they agree it was the best decision they could make.
We became proud to be Canadians, said Ricki. When asked if they did something special to celebrate their 50th year of being Canadians, Ricki said, We celebrate being Canadian every day. We live in the best place we possibly could.
What does it mean to be Canadian to Heinz and Ricki?
In Canada, you have freedom. You can be whatever you want. If you want something, you can go and make it happen, said Heinz.