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Johannes Kerbes

Kerbes family and music are almost synonymous in the Stettler area; they often celebrate Estonian traditions with their gift of music. Johannes (John) Kerbes was the fourth son born to Lissu and Mikhel Kerbes on 7 November 1880 in Tver, Russia. Once Johannes was old enough, he assisted the family in maintaining the farm. To clear the land for crops, he would remove stumps, collect rocks and fallen trees. In 1903 when he was 23 years old, Johannes decided to immigrate to Canada to avoid being conscripted into the Russian army.

He travelled by ship from Liverpool, England and weeks later arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Upon Kerbes' arrival in Canada, the suitcase carrying all of his possessions was stolen, leaving him with only the clothes on his back. Johannes managed to make his way to Red Deer, Alberta and eventually he settled near Stettler. In 1904, he filed for a homestead at the modest price of $10. This entitled him to 160 acres of land. Johannes would often walk to Red Deer to purchase supplies.

In 1909, Johannes married Sophia Wartnow, daughter of Michael Wartnow and Elizabeth Kask. They raised four children. The following year Johannes donated one acre of land to the construction of Linda Hall, a shared Estonian community centre. Within the next 12 months, the remainder of Johannes' family arrived, including his mother, Lissu. Initially everyone resided at Johannes' homestead. Johannes remarried in 1920 after Sophia succumbed to cancer. He and his new wife Minnie (Sophia's sister) had five children. These five children and the four he had with Sophia meant that Johannes raised a family of nine children.

The family home was frequently filled with music, songs and Estonian traditions. Many of the Kerbes children became talented musicians. Johannes continually encouraged them and enjoyed the sounds of guitar, violin and piano resonating throughout his home.

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