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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Thousands of ‘PPE’ donated in Surrey, where one care home is ‘preparing for the worst’

SafeCare BC’s Operation Protect drive involves drop-off dates in Guildford

Psychologist’s advice on parenting in the pandemic

SFU psychology prof Dr. Tanya Broesch, with expertise in child development, discusses short and long-term impacts COVID-19 pandemic is having on children and parents alike

‘Every little step counts’: Surrey businesses donate meals for frontline hospital workers

Surrey Hospital Foundation has now received more than $70,000 in donations

‘Shocking decision’: Surrey soccer club won’t offer refunds to 350 teams for cancelled tourney

Registration fees would top $171K for Surrey Mayor’s Cup, called off due to COVID-19

VIDEO: Dog missing in Aldergrove since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Tax collectors, auditors to help field ‘historic’ numbers of benefit-seeking callers

‘If you work for CRA, people think we are just there to take money from your pockets.’

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

Abbotsford man who tries to start gas-station fight gets sprayed with gasoline

Suspect returns with knife and throws it at victim, but is quickly arrested by police

Abbotsford family of 5 who was stuck in Vietnam is now back home

Janzen family sends ‘huge and heartfelt’ thank you to everyone who helped

Most Read