It is with great sadness that the family of Astrid Erika Volkenant (nee Heinrich) announce her passing, after an extended battle with dementia, on Monday, November 23, 2020, at the age of 80 years.
Astrid Erika Volkenant was born on May 16, 1940 in Kirschberg Germany (today part of Poland) to Ama Gratia & Theodore Heinrich amid World War II. She was the 3rd of 4 children, having 2 sisters and an older brother, Herbert, who predeceased her, dying of pneumonia at age 3 before Astrid was born. Astrid’s father owned a butcher shop in Poland. Her mother continued to operate the shop while her father served first in the Polish and subsequently the German army. Near the end of the war, her family had to flee from Poland into Germany from the advancing Russian army. Unfortunately, her mother was not permitted to leave with them because she ran the Butcher shop, and it was deemed an essential service by the government. Separated from their mother and uncertain of the status of their father, Astrid and her sisters travelled by train with their grandmother to Dresden Germany. Her mother was thankfully able to escape Poland as well and later met up with her daughters and mother in Dresden. Dresden was the choice destination proclaimed as a place of safety but to the contrary, Dresden endured heavy bombing and the family was forced into bomb shelters. Not quite 5-years-old, little Astrid bravely ventured outside the shelter to get milk for her family. Her bravery, confidence, and willingness to sacrifice her own needs for those of her family would become a common theme throughout her life.
Astrid later shared with her family that the worst part about living through the war was not knowing whether her father and Opa had survived. It would be several weeks before they would learn that indeed, they did survive. Once the family reunited, they settled in Northern Germany close to Hanover as war refugees. After living 10 years in Northern Germany, her family made the decision to immigrate to North America to start a new life. At the age of 14, Astrid and her family left Germany on March 21, 1955 and landed in New York. As an adult, Astrid would always tear up as she remembered the story of her family’s escape during the war. She truly felt like the hand of God was upon them, protecting them from harm.
The Heinrich family members were dispersed after the war, settling in Massachusetts and California & British Columbia. Astrid’s grandparents eventually made their way to Vancouver while Astrid and her family finally settled in South Gate, a suburb of Los Angeles. There she learned English and attended South Gate High School.
In the summer of 1958 before her Senior high school year, she and her Mother ventured north to visit her Oma and Opa in Vancouver. Vancouver is where she met her husband to be, Herman Volkenant. Herman was a carpenter and a boarder in her grandparent’s home. Rumor has it that Herman & Astrid first met on the stairway in Oma’s home and that it was love at first sight. They began their relationship and continued writing letters to each other for the next year.
In 1959, Astrid graduated from high school as the class valedictorian. After graduation, Astrid worked in a law office and a Savings and Loan company as a teller. Soon after her graduation, Herman and Astrid were engaged and would later wed in Los Angeles on September 12, 1959.
After the wedding, Astrid said goodbye to the warm, sunny climate of southern California and moved north to Vancouver with her new husband. They started married life in a basement suite and Astrid began working as a teller with the Royal Bank of Canada. They soon purchased their first home on 63rd Avenue in South Vancouver as Astrid was expecting their first child. Kenneth (aka Kenny) was born in November 1960. Astrid travelled to California with her young son to spend time with Astrid’s mother who was terminally ill with cancer and who subsequently passed away. She was devastated by the loss of her mother, but she was somewhat comforted by the news that she was pregnant again. She was elated when she birthed her second child, her daughter Sonnia, in August of 1962. Astrid embraced her role as a mother and was a dedicated stay-at-home mother to her children. They were the love of her life. She always prioritized their needs above her own. She always kept an immaculate house and loved entertaining. She took joy in cooking authentic German meals for her family and friends. Astrid was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church for many years, sang in the German Choir and enjoyed the fellowship of the Ladies’ Auxiliary and served faithfully as their treasurer.
Astrid’s sister Irma and husband Willie also lived in Vancouver and Astrid and Irma were very close throughout her lifetime, raising their families together, living next door to each other for many years, and spending many happy hours together making jam, sharing meals and playing cards late into the evenings.
Astrid continued to work as a part-time teller at the Royal Bank on Fraser Street. In the days of separate lines, people would purposely wait in Astrid’s line, even when other tellers were available because of her kindness and helpfulness.
In 1982, Astrid moved Delta where she lived next door to her daughter and son-in-law. She became an Oma for the first time in 1986 with the birth of Amanda. It was at that point that she stopped her work at the Bank, and she transitioned to delighting in the lives of all six of her grandchildren. In 1991, she moved to South Surrey, the home that she most enjoyed. She continued to use her gifts of bookkeeping with her TOPS group and for counting tithes and offerings at White Rock Baptist Church.
Astrid loved to travel. She enjoyed taking cruises with her friends and especially loved visiting her sister Lisa and family in California. She also treasured trips to Germany to visit family. She would often learn new torte recipes from her sisters-in-law and could not wait to share them with the rest of the family upon her return to Canada.
In 2015, Astrid received a devastating diagnosis of incurable dementia, a day she referred to as the worst of her life. Even though this disease slowly eroded her faculties, she remained a positive, cheerful person. In 2019, Astrid and Herman celebrated their 60th Anniversary together with family and friends. Herman lovingly cared for Astrid at home until her medical and safety needs were simply too great to manage and she was transitioned to full time residential care at Crescent Gardens in South Surrey in August 2020 where she received excellent care but continued to decline in health. Under Covid protocols visiting was limited to Herman only but with the end near Ken, Sandee and Astrid’s grandchildren were able to see her one by one in person and to say goodbye.
After one final visit from Herman on the morning of November 23, 2020 Astrid passed peacefully into the arms of her loving heavenly father, reuniting with family lost during her beautiful life and meeting her brother and her great grandson for the very first time. She is survived by her husband Herman Volkenant, her two children Ken Volkenant (Sandee) and Sonnia Burgoyne (Shawn), her grandchildren, Amanda (Andrew), Brayden (Katrina), Tami (Peter), Rhys (Emily), Desiree (Nelson), Lindsay (Ajay), her surviving sisters Irma (Willie) and Lisa (Leo), 11 nieces and nephews, and her beloved 16 great-grandchildren.
Covid protocols do not permit a large funeral gathering and the family will hold a graveside service and service of remembrance and celebration on Monday December 7, 2020. For those who wish, the burial and memorial service may be viewed here.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer Society.