Benno Friesen – who represented South Surrey and White Rock for a record five terms as MP between 1974 and 1993 – passed away quietly at The Residence at Morgan Heights on Wednesday, Sept. 29.
Friesen – also an English literature professor and one of the founders and dean of students of the small college that became Trinity Western University – was 92.
“It was only in the last 10 days that he had been in decline,” daughter Cyndi Friesen Scholz said. “He was using a walker and was impeded by a loss of hearing, but he was still very sharp on politics, history, literature and theology.
“He was quoting King Lear right up until his passing. His favourite poet was John Donne, but Scripture was his main go-to – he loved to quote the scriptures.”
Pre-deceased by his wife, Marge, in 2019, Friesen leaves behind Cyndi, her sister Lynne, in Michigan, and their families, including seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Born in Nelson, B.C., Friesen had been a college professor since the 1950s, and came to the White Rock-Surrey-Langley area in 1962 to help start Trinity Junior College, which later expanded to become TWU.
Renae Kuhn said she and her husband, former TWU president Bob Kuhn, met at the college when they were both students of Friesen.
“He was a really beloved professor for his students,” she recalled. “Many of them stayed in contact with him over the years. He was an important mentor for my husband, who came full circle when he became president of the university.”
In notes on Friesen prepared for TWU, Bob Kuhn credited both Friesen and Marge for much of the “ultimate success” of TWU.
Friesen left the university to run as MP for the Progressive Conservative Party in the Surrey-White Rock riding in 1974, Renae Kuhn noted.
During his years in Ottawa his duties included roles as parliamentary secretary for the Secretary of State for External Affairs, the Solicitor General, the Minister of Sate for Agriculture and the Minister of Employment and Immigration.
When the riding reverted to Surrey-White Rock in the 1988 federal election, he won again, but decided to retire in 1993 to spend more time with his wife and family.
“Whenever an election was coming, even before it was called, we always had a family meeting,” Scholz recalled. “He’d always ask ‘should I continue?’ because he felt the family, for all these years, didn’t have him around much.
“But he always felt he still had a lot to contribute and get done – he felt his job wasn’t done. I think when he finally decided to quit, he felt it was time. It was time for (him and Marge) to enjoy their time together.”
Scholz said he felt one of his proudest moments in politics was putting forward a private members bill, as a back-bencher, that subsequently became legislation making it illegal for estranged or divorced parents to abduct their own children.
He was also proud of the role he played as caucus chair for the Progressive Conservatives during one of his terms, she said.
“He was a very good mediator,” she added. “He was proud of the fact that he could take two (factions) that didn’t see eye to eye and bond them.”
Services for Friesen have been scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 18 at Peace Portal Alliance Church.