Pioneer Award for Friesens founder

Lori Penner

On March 21, D.W. Friesen (1879-1951) entrepreneur, community builder, and founder of Friesens Corp. in Altona will be honoured posthumously with the Pioneer Award by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. LORI PENNER/Red River Valley Echo

On March 21, D.W. Friesen (1879-1951) entrepreneur, community builder, and founder of Friesens Corp. in Altona will be honoured posthumously with the Pioneer Award by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. LORI PENNER/Red River Valley Echo

ALTONA - 

Sixty-two years after his death, the founder of Friesens Corp. in Altona will receive recognition from the business community.

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters have announced that D.W. Friesen will be honoured posthumously with the Pioneer Award during the CME Gala Awards Dinner March 21.

D.W. Friesen’s name will be included with two Hall of Fame winners, Triple E Canada founding partner Philip Ens, and Wilmar Windows founder Bill Fast.

The Pioneer Award celebrates individuals who began a manufacturing business in Manitoba and nurtured it into a successful company.

D.W. Friesen’s son Ted says he learned about the award by surprise.

“Imagine my amazement when I casually opened the newspaper and saw my father’s face staring back at me, with the announcement that, after all this time, he’s up for an award. It’s really quite something.”

Ted says his father was never one for honours. “I don’t know if he ever received an award for anything in his lifetime.”

There is pride in his voice as he describes his father’s success, in spite of only three months of formal English education.

“He was a self-educated man, with a very strong sense of ethics and values.”

It was these values, he says, which helped grow the company into the thriving, internationally-known corporation it is today.

The company which currently employs about 550 people had its early roots in 1907 in a simple confectionary store operated by just a handful of people. Under D.W. Friesen’s leadership, a small printing company began in the building’s basement and the first letterpress was purchased in 1933. Today, along with calendars, yearbooks, cookbooks and a host of other products, Friesens Corp. continues to make a substantial mark on the publishing world.

In 2002, Friesens was enlisted to print copies of runaway bestseller Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and two years later, author J.K. Rowling was inspired to have all her books printed on recycled paper after Friesens printed copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on 100 per cent post-consumer waste paper.

More recently, Friesens designed and printed yearbooks featured in the Fox TV series Glee.

Ted says it’s ironic that his father, who had a great passion for books, was so busy printing them that he hardly had time to read them.

“He would have been amazed by the progress that a company with such humble beginnings has made.”

Ted will be attending the awards ceremony, proud to represent the printing pioneer.

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