by Barry Dyck with Gary Dyck
I (Barry Dyck) met Seaton Coleman shortly after starting my job at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in 2009. One pleasure of working at the museum was meeting people from all over the world, and another was getting to know a lot of local people through their support for MHV. Seaton was one of those who supported the museum in several ways: as a visitor, as a donor, and as an “owner.”
It was not uncommon to encounter Seaton and Norma Coleman enjoying the food, activities, and socializing on festival days like Pioneer Days. They were both cordial and had interesting experiences to talk about. Reading Seaton’s obituary, I noted with interest the role that dancing played in their lives as a couple. One of MHV’s traditions on festival days is to feature local bands. Down the village’s main street, the Colemans heard the amplified music, and I saw them start dancing in front of the Blacksmith Shop.
One of the notable ways Seaton contributed to the museum was to provide vintage trucks for the transportation exhibit, housed in the big red steel building just south of the windmill. We typically had three or four old trucks from the Southeast Transfer era on display in that exhibit. They played a significant role in telling the history of Steinbach, a community that did not seem to need a railway but developed two of Canada’s major freight companies. Throughout the summer season it was common to see Seaton drive up in his half-ton to spend a bit of time in the exhibit.
The transportation exhibit itself came into being through the vision of Seaton and his friend Milton Penner (Penner International) to provide shelter for these older vehicles that tell a part of Steinbach’s story. Prior to my arrival at MHV, they saw to it that this building was erected. Perhaps it was because of Seaton’s frequent visits to the exhibit he was able to note building maintenance needs. Not only did he point them out to us, but he and his friend Milton ensured that there were funds available to do the needed repairs.
Seaton’s visits to the museum, his contributions to the exhibits, and his concern for the wellbeing of the museum demonstrated to us that he felt a high degree of ownership for this important community meeting place. MHV is fortunate to have had him as our friend.
I (Gary Dyck) met Seaton Coleman this September. As the new Director at MHV I had heard a lot about Seaton. He was now 94 and I had the privilege of picking him up, serving him a meal of Vereneke and Farmer Sausage at MHV with Milton Penner and then paying a visit to the Transportation shed. He was a delight to converse with and I had wished I had been ready to ask him more about the trucks at MHV. MHV has trucks from the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s and 60’s. Eventually we hope to have an informational display about the development of these trucks and the help they brought to Steinbach.
Seaton told me how in those first years it could take days to get to and from Winnipeg, just because the roads were so poor. You had to be prepared to camp out for a night. He was short enough that he could lay across the truck bench. Our sympathies to the Coleman family as you mourn the loss of your husband, father and grandfather. MHV also extends condolences to others who have lost loved ones this year.
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