Bert Kroeker, director of music at Sturgeon Creek United Church, quotes Winston Churchill as saying: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
"Anita and I have felt that way about our lifetime -- to give -- towards the greater good of the people and communities we serve," Kroeker says.
Bert and his wife, Anita Kroeker, have devoted 50 continuous years of service to the music ministry of Sturgeon Creek United. In honour of their amazing dedication, the church will celebrate the couple with an evening concert on Wednesday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m.
"This event is named Long Deep River of Song after a title taken from a tribute song their son, Chuck Kroeker, wrote for their 40 years celebration," says Naomi McLeod, chancel choir president and facilitator for the event. "Performance of this song will be part of the evening concert."
"Bert, besides being choir director, is a very active member of the congregation and in the community. He has been involved in many community choir projects over the 50 years -- a supporter of many outreach projects, in particular, refugee sponsorship. It is due to Bert's unflagging energy and vision that many fundraising events have happened at SCUC."
Anita, who has music degrees from the University of Manitoba and the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and sings soprano in the choir, "has spent many years as voice teacher and as junior and teen choir leader at the church -- and is, in many ways, backup support to Bert," says McLeod.
A high school teacher and principal for 37 years, Kroeker says they began their involvement at Sturgeon Creek United in 1961.
"I had served in the United church in Altona for eight years as a choir director. We moved (to Winnipeg) in 1960 and Rev. William Conly soon knocked on our door to ask if I would consider directing the choir at Sturgeon Creek."
Kroeker's father was a choir director for 36 years at a Mennonite church in Winkler. "I learned by osmosis," says Kroeker.
Anita's father was also very musical.
"There was always a singsong with dad at the piano," she says.
The two met while singing in the U of M Glee Club and have made it a point to stay together serving at the same church.
"All of our kids went to Sunday school and church," says Kroeker. "In the '60s when our son played hockey, virtually the whole team sat in the front pew on a Sunday morning."
All three of their children are musical.
Kroeker had a major impact on the formation of band programs in schools throughout Manitoba and was instrumental in incorporating the Manitoba Band Association. He was a founding member of Choral Fest and of the Manitoba Music Educators' Association and a longtime member of the Manitoba Choral Association.
He has received many awards throughout his long career. The Manitoba Choral Association's Bert Kroeker Scholarship recognizes his long-standing contributions.
Although retiring this year, the couple hopes to stay involved in Winnipeg's music community in supporting roles.