Ernst Karl Mitterhuber, a man who came to Canada without a breath of English, has managed to do more than his share of shaping the community around him!
Born in 1934 in Linz Austria, Ernst lived there until he was 24. After training with the Austrian police force, he became an Officer of the Austrian Army and later joined the Garde-Battalions Music in Vienna where he played the clarinet. He met his future wife, Irmgard in Austria, who has been already living in Canada and had returned to Austria to attend her sister’s wedding. In 1959 Ernst emigrated to Canada and then they got married.
Ernst has no regrets about his move. "Coming from another country I really appreciated Canada. People always say Canada’s the best country to be in, so I felt I should be part of the decision-making and help in any way I could. At the same time, it was a great learning experience, and I got to know a lot of people by moving here.”
His first job in Canada was driving for Allied Van Lines, moving families across the country. "I got the opportunity to see the country from coast to coast. I got to learn a lot from Canada, even if I could hardly speak any English.” The young couple were living in Yorkton where Irmgard was a music teacher at Howie’s Accordian College. In 1964 Ernst’s passion turned to farming and they decided to settle in Marchwell.
Soon Ernst began putting his commitment to good citizenship to work. In 1976 he became RM of Langenburg Councillor and served for eight years. In 1987 he was elected Reeve of the RM of Langenburg and served for 12 years till 1998. Ernst recalls how much of honor it was for him to become the Reeve, "Especially for a so-called immigrant or newcomer.” As Reeve he had to chair meetings, make sure business was handled according to the appropriate acts and regulations, and to see to it that all the ratepayers were treated with fairness. He also had to contend with the finances of the municipality. They got a curve ball thrown at them when the government cut back funding for roads. "It was quite a hard thing to keep up with the quality of service with the cuts.” When it came to dealing with problems of the people he believes in following the golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.’ "Treat the people like you’d want to be treated yourself. Listen to them and try to solve disputes in a diplomatic way.”
Overcoming obstacles was a feat often accomplished by Mitterhuber during his time as Reeve. At one time he was faced with a controversial conflict pitting area farmers wanting to drain their land against the concerns of SaskWater, Ducks Unlimited, and the Department of Environment.
There was much to be resolved right from the beginning but communications between the opposing sides was less than amicable. The farmers had little say in the decision-making according to Ernst. Smith Creek, which was the central focus of the dispute, was becoming clogged with beaver dams and debris. The creek was being used by farmers to drain access water from their fields but because of the clogged condition of the creek the farmland was becoming flooded. The RM proposed to clear the creek of the dams and debris to allow the water to smoothly pass through. In the beginning the Environment Department did not want to allow this to happen and since approval was needed from all sides a lot of negotiations had to take place. Over the course of time farmers were able to express more opinions and the degree of communications grew substantially. "They are now all able to sit at the same table, and there is a good working relationship,” Ernst says. The end result has been approval for the clearing of the creek as well as additional funding.
Through the years Ernst fulfilled his desire to help in any way he could by taking an active role in many committees and organizations in the area:
-Local Community Church – 30 years;
-RM of Langenburg 181 Council – 20 years (during this time he provided extensive service on a wide variety of committees which included the Finance, Power, Doctor Recruitment, Medical Building, Emergency Measures and Mutual Aid, Community Health Trust Board and others);
-Marchwell and Langenburg School Trustee - 21 year;
-Volunteer Ambulance Driver - 18 years;
-Germania Mutual Insurance Board of Directors – 12 years;
-Carlton Trail Board – 10 years;
-Vice Chair Langenburg Union Hospital Board - 10 years;
-Chair Langenburg Centennial Care Home – 8 years;
-Potash Country Home Care Board – 7 years;
-Member of Band boosters for many years.
He also served as a director of the rural telephone company, sat on the committee to form North valley Health district and helped to build the Langenburg Health Centre. Some of his involvements were due to the activities of their three daughters, Melinda, Hilda and Lisa, and their son David, including a term as president of the Langenburg Figure Skating Club and three terms as president in Potashville Music Festival.
Ernst received several formal acknowledgements of his community work. One he is particularly proud of is a letter of congratulations from Saskatchewan’s Lieutenant Governor. Ernst was nominated for the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Outstanding Service in Rural Saskatchewan!
Ernst is 85 years old now and is actively living helping everywhere he can. Ernst and his wife Irmgard are looking forward to spending their future years here on the farm outside of Langenburg, complemented with lots of visits with their four kids and 8 grandchildren!
This year (2019) Ernst is celebrating his 60 years in Canada, his 60 years wedding anniversary and joining Langenburg Culture Days, where he will present his origin country Austria and where we all will celebrate 60th year as Langenburg was incorporated as a Town!
Source: private family archives and the Four Town Journal