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Tribute to Junita Nielsen-Goertzen

Sept. 24, 1945 - Aug. 12, 2018

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A Tribute to Junita Nielsen-Goertzen

by Jake Goertzen

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As a widower, I live and work in a grand and spacious building with a built-in art gallery in the small village of Horndean in southern Manitoba. In addition, I own and use a large shop where I construct larger works. The grounds offer a small outdoor sculpture park, which is growing.  My late wife Junita graduated to a spiritual world on August 12, 2018, leaving many of our earthly dreams unfulfilled.  We spent our last hours together, still deeply in love and thankful for the wonderful 21 years we had enjoyed together as soulmates. 
The following background will help you to understand how Jake Goertzen Sculptures and this art space came to be.  In 1994, I purchased a former three-classroom country school building in Horndean for use as a residence and sculpting studio. For several years I worked full-time as a mechanic at various local industries and sculpted part-time.  My life changed in 1997 when I met Junita Kirby, a local teacher who lived in Morden, Manitoba.  We were soon inseparable and then married in 2006. As an expression of my deep feelings for my wife, I wrote a song for her birthday in 1997 and made a bust of her in 1999. Both can be accessed on my website.
Junita was a master organizer; she was knowledgeable,  resourceful, supportive, and helpful in every way. She served as a muse, offered constructive criticism, suggested ideas for sculptures, and sometimes posed as a model for my work: A perfect wife for me.  We loved ballroom and Latin dancing. Some summers we built floats and danced on them when we entered them in the parades at local summer festivals, winning first place several times! We initiated and set up art exhibitions at various places like the Manitoba Legislature, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, St. Norbert Farmers’ Market, the St. Boniface Library, the Pembina Hills Art Gallery, at local summer festivals, and we participated in the annual Pembina Hills Studio Tour for many years.  Our gallery was open by appointment all through the years. This publicity and numerous articles about my work in the local and Winnipeg papers established my reputation as a professional artist and commissions began to come in.  The first major commission came in 1999 when I sculpted a four times over life great grey owl, Manitoba’s official bird. I met the clients of this my first major work, at Morden’s Corn and Apple Festival where I was sculpting Junita’s bust as an attraction.
Before we met, Junita and I each had always loved the poem by Sam Walter Foss "The House by the Side of the Road." A recurring line in this poem, "...let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man," became our motto, which fit well with the theme of my art exhibition called "Journey of the Human Spirit.”  For five years, a week or two before Christmas, our gift to friends, family, and neighbors was to hire a band and invite everyone to an evening of music, food, and visiting. Our greatest success saw 75 people celebrate the winter solstice on a night when it was minus 39°C outside. People coveted an invitation, and we were often told that this event was the highlight of the season for them. 

My life as Jake the Sculptor continues. Since Junita’s passing in August 2018, I have begun to regain my passion to create innovative sculptures in various media. As many of my new pieces show - especially in the medium of Steel - my sculpting dreams continue to unfold. Part of the inspiration has come from new customers asking for abstract work.  Other inspiration has come from the dazzling originality of local sculptor, Andreas Huebert - a very good friend of mine. His daring new styles of sculpture art have inspired me to push into greater innovation in abstract sculpture both in design, as well as new media that I have not used until now. (See his website at Currently, I am occupied, developing and completing many new projects that will be added to the website as time goes on. You’ll find many new pictures of my creations, as well as a blog and videos on my new website.

My gratitude to Junita for her help as a team member remains; and I'll continue living the motto we lived - which was inspired by the Sam Walter Foss poem.

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of an infinite plan;-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

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