“I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks, I believe most people are good” – quoted from Corleen’s favourite song, Most People are Good, from Luke Bryan. These are words that Corleen truly lived by every single day. She made the most of every moment and always stayed positive, which was evident to all she met.
Corleen Rita was born on February 5, 1948 in Hanover, to Clarence and Phyllis (Rody) Emke. She was baby sister to Raymond Allan. Ray and Corleen had a typical brother/sister relationship and had a lot of adventures together growing up on the family farm. One she shared was when her dad found a nest of baby raccoons outside. Corleen took a liking to these animals and used the bottle from her doll to feed the raccoons until they were old enough to be released back into the wild. Corleen and Ray enjoyed playing Cowboys and Indians together. Corleen would apparently always be the one getting tied up, and her only weapon was whatever old stick she could find, while Ray had the fancy toy gun! When Corleen was little, she was so proud and excited when she won her first bike through a contest on CKNX! The Emke family lived on the 12th Concession of Bentinck and the two siblings attended Howie School (S.S #7) and then Chesley District High School. In Grade 11, Corleen left school and started working at a Veneer factory in Hanover to earn some extra money. Corleen first considered being a hairdresser, but then decided to pursue an education where she could help others and did her training at St. Joseph’s Hospital London to complete her RNA- Registered Nurses Assistant (now called RPN- Registered Practical Nurse). She began her nursing career at the Hanover Hospital in 1966 and remained there for the next 39 years, becoming one of the most kind and caring nurses around! Nursing was the perfect career path for Corleen as she had a passion for helping others and caring for those who needed it the most.
Corleen was a good friend of Joyce Kaufman (Bob’s youngest sister), and while at a baseball game through 4-H with Joyce, she met a young man by the name of Robert Kaufman. They instantly hit it off and dated from 1964 until they were married on July 30, 1966 at the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Elmwood. They resided on Bob’s family’s 200 acre mixed farm on the 12th of Bentinck. Soon after they were married they installed an indoor toilet and furnace! This sure made life easier! It was on this farm that they welcomed their three children; Janet born in 1968, Greg born in 1970, and Leanne born in 1973. On October 13, 1989, Corleen and Bob sold the farm and on January 15, 1990, they moved into their current home on Old Bridge Road. Between work, farming, family, friends, dances, and ball games, they truly enjoyed the life they built and nearly 56 wonderful years together.
After her children were born, Corleen took time off from work at the hospital to spend more time at home to raise her young growing family. After a few years, she returned to part time and then back to full time once the kids were all in school. She was able to balance her career, family, friends as well as taking on many roles on the farm such as picking stones, stooking grain, and working in the mow during hay season, which typically led to throwing snakes on the person working on the wagon. She retired in 2005, but continued her love for helping others through footcare and nail care, and also volunteering. Over the years she helped with Junior Farmers, 4H in the Louise area, the Louise Women’s Institute, Elmwood Chamber of Commerce, Elmwood Seniors, The Red Hats, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Bentinck, and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Elmwood.
Corleen loved to play baseball. At the age of sixteen, she started playing fastball and pitching for “The Elmwood Cuties” and went on later to play for a local slow pitch team. She also loved curling- both womens and mixed with her husband. Corleen ensured that all three of her children were active in sports and was happy to drive them to games and practices to see them develop a love for the game. Her athletic abilities as well as her competitive nature were certainly passed down to her children and grandchildren as well. If she wasn’t playing sports herself, she was in the stands as the biggest cheerleader for her children and grandchildren! She was so proud of each of them!
In 1993, Corleen was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45. She began her cancer journey at that time with surgeries, and many different treatments over the years. Like the strong willed woman she was, she fought through it and didn’t let her diagnosis hold her back from doing the things she loved and spending time with her family. Her cancer went into remission for almost 20 years but then 11 years ago, the cancer came back and treatments started once again, this time at the Grand River Cancer Centre in Kitchener. Once again, she proved she was a fighter and one of the most courageous and optimistic women out there. Corleen’s oncologist told her that they had never seen a patient go through so many treatments (12 in 11 years), which was a testament to the strength and willingness she had to survive and be there for her family even during the tough times.
As a family, the Kaufmans loved going on adventures. It all started with the purchase of a tent trailer they bought in 1972. They travelled to many places in Canada in it, such as Winnipeg, Nova Scotia and PEI. They also loved their trips with family and friends to Nashville, a train trip to Moose Factory, Wheeling West Virginia, Yukon, the West Coast and their many trips to Florida almost every year to visit family and to be out of the snow. Who can blame them!! They especially enjoyed their many vacations, drives, meals and day trips with their best friends Bob and Jean, who often picked them up for a treat at Dairy Queen. Her favourites were the Peanut Buster Parfait or a Turtles Blizzard. Corleen and Bob also loved their pets! They had many dogs and cats throughout the years. I’m sure Misty their cat will be missing her! When their kids were younger, they surprised them one day after school with a cocker spaniel, Brandy. It was a very happy day in the Kaufman house that day! Some of you may also remember their dog George, the St Bernard. Their pets all started as outdoor pets but they ended up always making their way inside!
Corleen loved knitting, sewing, and crocheting. She loved cooking and baking. Every time her family would walk into her home, they knew they would leave with full bellies. She was always making delicious meals and loved having friends and family over for food and visits. Her door was always open. Her specialties included roast beef and chicken dinners, and her potato chocolate chip cookies! Often the first thing people would do when they entered her kitchen was open the cookie jar to grab a yummy treat. Corleen loved taking pictures of her family, and displaying them all over her home, in photo albums and of course her wall of pictures in the basement and on the fridge. The family is so thankful now looking back on all the special memories she was able to capture. Corleen and Bob loved playing cards with their family and friends, especially “Solo”, “Bid Euchre” and “President” (be sure to ask one of her family members what she actually calls president”). Corleen and Bob loved their time together sitting down at the river in their lawn chairs with their feet in the water or rocking in the swing overlooking their peaceful property. She always had the most prestigious flower gardens, and truly loved caring for her flowers as she did all things in life. Her beautiful roses were her pride and joy.
A special kind of joy for Corleen was discovered when her 5 grandchildren were born, starting with Jaycee in 1998, Nataley, Corbin and Gillyan all in 2001, and finally Kaity in 2004. Her family meant everything to her. Nana loved to spoil them with love, kisses and her time. The grandkids will also remember their special shopping trips with their nana. She also loved to make homemade gifts for the grandkids like quilts, and sweaters and over the last few months she knit each of the 5 grandchildren a beautiful blanket that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. A special memory that is held so close to each of her grandchildren’s hearts is when they were younger, they would float down the channel at the river behind Corleen and Bob’s property, and she would catch them at the end. This involved a lot of squeals, belly laughs and endless trips up and down the river channel. In May, Corleen and Bob had a picture of the river put on canvas and gave this to each of their grandchildren to take a little piece of them wherever they go in life.
Not only was Corleen an inspiration for her family, she touched the lives of so many others that she met throughout her life. Corleen took others who underwent cancer treatments under her wing and made sure to help them through every step of their battle. She always led with compassion and was so passionate about making others happy. Corleen was the happiest when she could bring a smile to anyone’s face. She had the most beautiful heart and put other’s wellbeing before her own. Corleen was truly a role model to many and will be remembered for having the kindest heart.
Unfortunately, her illness progressed and in January she found out there was no further treatment available for her cancer. However, she carried on, taking life one day at a time as she always did. She managed to get herself into her flower beds to have them cleaned up for spring and made sure they looked as perfect as ever to be enjoyed by family and friends. The day before she passed, the rose bushes bloomed, and she was able to enjoy them one last time. Anyone that knew Corleen felt blessed to have her in their life and she will be missed by many. Corleen passed away surrounded by her loving family at her home on Monday, June 20, 2022, at the age of 74. Beloved wife of Bob. Loving mother of Janet (Rob) Stephen of Chesley, Greg (Carrie) of Elmira, and Leanne (Steve) Kennedy of Hanover. Cherished Nana of Nataley, Jaycee, Corbin, Gillyan, and Kaity. Corleen will be missed by her sister-in-laws Sharon Emke, Pearl Monk, Dorothy (Harv) Stewart, and Joyce (Guy) Kauffman. and her many nieces, nephews and friends. Predeceased by her brother Ray and her parents Clarence and Phyllis (Rody) Emke.
Live one day at a time and enjoy every moment!
A private funeral service was held at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Elmwood. Inurnment in St. Peter’s Lutheran Cemetery, Bentinck. A celebration of Corleen’s life will be held at her oasis, her home (153 Old Bridge Rd, N, R.R.#1 Hanover) on Saturday, July 16, 2022 beginning at 2 p.m. with memories being shared at 3 p.m. and food to follow.
In lieu of flowers, donations to St. John’s Lutheran Church, Breast Cancer Society of Canada, or the Residential Hospice of Grey Bruce would be appreciated by the family.