Wanda Emelie RegerCourtesy of family

Wanda Emelie Reger: Sports fan. Storyteller. Mother. Chief. Born May 2, 1925 in Wola-Korybutowa, Poland; died July 6, 2022 in Huntsville, Ont, of natural causes; 97 years old.

Wanda Lockstadt truly believed that hard work would bring her success and happiness. It’s a lesson she learned as the youngest of seven children growing up on a farm in Poland with parents of German descent. At the age of 9, he was asked to go to the barnyard, catch, kill, pluck and cook a chicken, then prepare a pot of chicken soup for his sick mother . Later, when her horrified grandchildren asked her how she could do such a thing, Wanda replied, “I just did it as if nothing had happened.”

Wanda’s teenage years changed dramatically when she was interrupted by World War II. She was forced to flee her village in Poland with her mother when German and Russian troops approached from different directions. They only took a feather blanket and a cooking pot.

In 1945 she fled East Germany before there were strict border restrictions. Wanda settled near Munich near her brother and met his friend, Erich Reger. Wanda and Erich both liked to dance and although the men were in great demand after the war, he always chose Wanda as his dancing partner.

With her usual enthusiasm, Wanda decided to immigrate to Canada to escape post-war Germany. She arrived in Windsor, Ontario in 1949, while Erich stayed there to complete his training as a tool and die maker. Wanda worked three jobs, attended night school to learn English, and became a Canadian citizen when her English was proficient enough to pass the test. Erich eventually joined her and they married in 1952. They had four children, Walter, Ingrid and twins Erin and Eric, before moving to Oakville, Ontario, where they both worked for Ford Canada.

Wanda was a working mother and held her children to a high standard. Education was her number one priority. When Walter refused to eat borscht, she told him he would never have to eat it again if he came home with straight A’s. So he did. Wanda’s children were forever grateful for the five summers she worked as a camp cook in Muskoka since they were able to stay overnight at camp for free.

The couple bought a farm in Huntsville, Ontario, and moved there for their retirement years. Wanda’s hobby farm was teeming with all edible forms of livestock and poultry.

Oma loved the small pleasures in life: a crackling fire, his beloved Leafs winning a game, a Blue Jays home run. She baked cakes and fried bacon on her wood stove. She used a washer-extractor and a clothesline. She had a rotary phone until Bell cut her service. In her 97th year, she was still pushing the lawnmower and chopping firewood.

The farm had constant visitors and became a hub for family and friends. Oma was famous for its cooking and baking. Butter tartlets, apple pie, streusel kuchen, potato salad, rouladen. Everything was prepared from memory and taste. She tried to teach her family, but without written recipes, they were never able to recreate her creations.

In 1985, Wanda became a grandmother. After that, she was known as Oma to everyone. She loved playing the SkipBo card game with her grandkids, and she also had two of them stand back to back and see who was taller. But instead of measuring, she was banging her head – hard – and laughing hysterically every time.

Oma enjoyed a glass of vodka she called “white water” and was obsessed with detail when telling stories. She was constantly correcting people in what year something happened.

For her funeral, she also left explicit instructions: her dress, her shoes, what hymns to sing, what psalms to read. A 1976 chronicle by Ann Landers defining a grandmother was to be read at her funeral. (She had kept it in confidence for 12 years before becoming Oma.)

Oma would have loved his serve. It went perfectly.

Heather Sinclair is Wanda’s granddaughter.

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Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary and little-known lives of recently deceased Canadians. To find out how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

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