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
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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

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