Last month, The News asked its readers to send in their most dramatic stories. Ninety-six-year-old Henry Martens sent us the story below about events that took place in 1943.

Last month, The News asked its readers to send in their most dramatic stories. Ninety-six-year-old Henry Martens sent us the story below about events that took place in 1943.

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Last month, the Abbotsford News asked its readers to send in their most dramatic stories. Ninety-six-year-old Henry Martens sent us the story below about events that took place in 1943.

For reasons that will become abundantly clear, Martens does not suggest anyone try to repeat his actions from 77 years ago.

Read his story below. You can also watch a video of Martens reading the story he sent in, and see a copy of his hand-written letter. We also asked him a couple questions.

• • • • •

One day in late spring, four of us [were] on the way down through rough terrain on Mt. Signal in Jasper Park.

I noticed a hole at a fallen tree stump and jokingly said, “Hey guys there is a bear in this hole, “ and sure enough a bear came out and we stood side by side, looking at each other.

Then it slowly started leaving its den and went about 100 feet away, constantly eyeing me.

My comrades retired to a safer distance.

Being curious as always, I had to see what a bear’s den looked like on the inside.

I crawled through the opening and came face to face with three pairs of eyes, the cutest cubs you could ever imagine.

What an opportunity to take one outside the den to have a picture taken of me and my little Teddy Bear.

I got hold of one and, on exiting the den, it began to bawl.

Instead of me hiking it out of there, I crawled back into the den and quieted it down.

The bear was coming back to its den and young cubs. Then it stopped 30 feet from the den.

The scouts said, ‘All was well.’

I took a different cub outside and persuaded a reluctant John Klassen to come and take a picture with me holding the cub on my knees.

Meanwhile, the mother bear standing about 30 feet away was watching and taking it all in. After the picture, I crawled back into the den to return the cub.

Amazing, the bear just stood there and watched.

The park warden said, ‘By all natural instincts, that bear should have killed you.’

Even the bible speaks of no animal as ferocious and mad as a bear if you get between it and its cubs.

As Daniel’s Angel in the Lion’s Den closed the mouth of the lion that day, so he closed the mouth of the bear that day.

• • • • •

We followed up with some questions:

Q: That story seems to have really stuck with you? Why?

A: I know I should not have been alive today. That bear should have taken me but the angel closed the mouth of that bear that day.

People ask me all the time and I tell the story about a crazy thing I did.

Q: Has the story changed at all over the years?

A: No. Why would it change? It is as it is. I tell it like it is.

Q: If somebody did that today, there might be repercussions. Back then, it sounds like it was more permissible –

A: I don’t think there is anyone as crazy as I am that would do that.

Q: Did you realize the danger at the time?

A: No I wasn’t afraid. No. I just wasn’t afraid. If the bear had attacked me, I don’t know what I would have done. Maybe I would have stroked it like I did the little one. Quieted it down.

Q: Knowing what you know today, would you have told yourself to leave it be?

A: Oh, today I would say leave it alone. I’ve got a little bit more sense than I had in those days.

• • • • •

Martens remains at least a little crazy. Last year, he jumped out of a plane to raise money for Tabor Home.

So what was he doing in Jasper in 1943?Martens, it turns out, was working with fellow conscientious objectors on a top secret mission involving an attempt to build an aircraft carrier out of ice and sawdust (and other materials). But that’s a story for another day….

If you live in Abbotsford, or have a dramatic story about Abbotsford, that you think our readers would be interested in hearing, email tolsen@abbynews.com. We may not respond right away, but we will read every email.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

World War II

 

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens has often told the story of the time he unwisely extracted a bear cub from a Jasper park den while the animal’s mother looked on Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Henry Martens has often told the story of the time he unwisely extracted a bear cub from a Jasper park den while the animal’s mother looked on Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Just Posted

The total earnings of Town of Qualicum Beach council and mayor amounted to $186,649 in 2020, including expenses. (Town of Qualicum Beach photo)
Nine Qualicum Beach town employees earned more than $100K in 2020

Mayor and council received earnings totalling $186,649

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Terry Mazzei next to a truck after it was struck by lightning, with him inside, on Wednesday afternoon, June 9. He walked away from the incident without injury and the truck sustained only mild damage; a blown front tire and newly broken gas gauge. (Wendy Mazzei photo)
Nanoose Bay man walks away unscathed after lightning strike

VIDEO: ‘We like to think that his dad was watching over him’

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

This young fledgling white raven was spotted in the Coombs area on May 16. (Mike Yip photo)
Expert says 2 sets of parents producing rare white ravens in mid-Island area

One of the iconic birds is currently recovering at wildlife centre after being rescued

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read