April 14th, 1920 – June 29th, 2011

Helmut Ruebsaat was born in Straelen in the Lower Rhineland region of Germany. After serving in the German army as a medic in WW II he emigrated to Canada and in 1952 settled with his family in Castlegar B.C. where he realized his dream of being a country doctor. He was well known for his warm bedside manner, his concentrated listening to medical histories, and his patients, among whom many were local Doukhobor, were devoted to him, as were his patients in Vancouver, where Helmut moved with his family in 1960. His favourite work as a doctor was delivering babies, many of whom, now adults, remember him fondly.

Helmut sang and played the guitar everywhere he could, including in the back seat while the family drove on camping, hiking or skiing trips. He taught his children the many German folk songs he grew up with, and English songs he learned in Canada. His songs are still deep in the memories of his children and were sung by them and their children at his bedside in his last days. Some of the tunes were lullabies he would often sing to his daughters while they were falling asleep, or trying to.

He taught his children not only how to sing and yodel in harmony, but also how to swim, ski, pick out the names of wildflowers in the alpine meadows the family would often hike in. One of his favourite activities was imitating sounds, particular bird sounds, the cackling of the seagull being the most hilarious. His decision to become a doctor was strongly challenged by his desire to become a professional clown. Really, he was both. His endless jokes, particularly those in various German dialects as well as those about mixtures of English and German – “Gerlish”jokes – kept everyone around him laughing.

Helmut also had a more serious side and always maintained a philosophical perspective on life and death, realities he regularly encountered in his work. In his own life Helmut pondered the meaning of suffering, and in his last months was reading a book about the meaning life after death. His wife, children, grandchildren great grandchildren, many friends and former patients hope that he has now found that meaning, even as they find their own meaning in his death and the gifts he has left them. For information on the memorial celebration contact mailto:sgruebsa@lynx.net or Jon_bartlett@telus.net.

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