Memorable Manitobans: Paul Gerhardt Hiebert (1892-1987)
Professor, writer, poet.
Born at Pilot Mound on 17 July 1892, son of Johann Hiebert (1858-?) and Maria Penner (1862-?), he was raised at Altona. He taught for a time at Ochre River School. He graduated from the University of Manitoba (honours philosophy), received an MA from the University of Toronto in Gothic and Teutonic philology, and a PhD from McGill University in physics and chemistry.
He taught chemistry at the University of Manitoba until retirement in 1953 but is most well known as one of Canada’s major humorists with his tongue-in-cheek style that satirized prairie life and social pretensions. He was the author of the parodic poetry of Sarah Binks, “the Sweet Songstress of Saskatchewan,” first published in 1947 as a Canadian best-selling “biography” entitled Sarah Binks, for which he won the Stephen Leacock Medal. “Sarah” wrote deliberately awful poetry, which offered a nostalgic view of the pre-Depression prairie West in which so many Canadians at that time grew up.
He wrote a Sarah Binks sequel Willows Revisited in 1967. His other books included Tower in Siloam (1966), Doubting Castle: A Spiritual Autobiography (1976), and Not As the Scribes (1984). Hiebert also wrote a number of other works of non-fiction and poetry.
On 27 February 1926, he married Anna Dorothea Cunningham (1898-1991, daughter of Henry Clarkson Cunningham) at Carman. They had no children.
He received the Centennial Medal of Honour from the Manitoba Historical Society (1970), a Manitoba Good Citizenship Award (1972), and the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977). He was inducted into the Order of Canada (1976) and the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1987). In 1974, he was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Manitoba and Brandon University.
He died at Carman on 6 September 1987 and was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery. His papers are at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
Between Mountain and Lake: A History of Ochre River Rural Municipality, 1885-1970 by Ochre River Women’s Institute History Committee, Neepawa: The Neepawa Press, 1970, page 26.
“Humorist Hiebert won Leacock medal,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 September 1987, page 10.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 8 September 1987, page 45.
“The doodles on the marge” by Christopher Dafoe, Winnipeg Free Press, 12 September 1987, page 6.
Obituary [Anna Dorothea Hiebert], Winnipeg Free Press, 23 January 1991, page 40.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 3 November 2022