Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta
Pankratz, David J. (1906-1973)
Written and presented by Peter Regier, Jr. to the MHSA-sponsored "Celebration of the 80th Anniversary of Russian Mennonites coming to Coaldale, Alberta (1926-2006)"
David J. Pankratz came to Coaldale in 1928 with his wife and one-year-old son. He first worked for Henry Daine on the farm north east of Coaldale. They lived in a small house a little ways north and across the road from the Daines family.
Sometime later he bought a farm 2 miles south of where they lived. It was an irrigation farm but last on the ditch, so it was hard to get enough water to irrigate properly. I heard him say years later, seeing his crops wilt in the heat and not getting enough water caused him to weep.
He and his family attended the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church. The people in the church noticed that God had gifted him with speaking ability and in 1946 he was ordained. In 1948 Mr. B.B. Janz resigned from church leadership. Mr. Jacob Siemens became the leader and Mr. Pankratz became his assistant. In 1956 Mr. Siemens resigned and the church asked Mr. Pankratz to become leader or pastor. He did not want to take on this responsibility, but he said God had spoken to him through His Word and also through the sudden death of his brother John. He was our Pastor for 17 years. Together with his years as associate [pastor], he served us in leadership for 25 years.
He was also a Sunday School teacher for a while, and believed in being well prepared. One Sunday morning a number of us teachers were in a room together before classes, for prayer and conversation. One of the teachers was busy reading his lesson for last-minute preparation. Mr. Pankratz said to him, “All the Lord will tell you now is that you have been lazy”.
For 13 years he was the speaker on our German Radio Program, “Brot des Lebens”. He was involved in leadership in the Alberta Conference and Canadian Conference. I think he was probably the biggest influence for our congregation leaving this location (the old church building north of Coaldale) and building our church in Coaldale.
I vividly remember our board meetings. He always insisted that we all had our say, but when it came to decisions he managed to get us to vote almost unanimously the way he wanted the vote to go.
He was good at home visitations. He even took me along once.
When my brother Abe was ill he visited him many times. For a while Abe and Martha lived on dad’s farm, and one evening while Mr. Pankratz was there, there was a knock on the door. Abe went to the door and there were two Native men wanting gas. Abe had a drum of gas in the barn. While he was in the barn, they attacked him and said, “We don’t want gas, we want money”. Abe said, “Then you have to come back to the house”. They followed Abe right into the living room. In the German language Abe told Mr. Pankratz and Martha what the two men wanted. Mr. Pankratz stood up, looked at them and said, “Get out,” and out they went kicking out a window beside the door as they left.
One Sunday morning as we were going out of church Mr. Pankratz took me aside. I had been asked to preach and had refused, so he reprimanded me. I don’t remember all that he said, but I've been preaching once in a while ever since.
All in all, he was a good pastor, the spiritual well being of the individual and the church were very near to his heart and he was respected and loved.