Our fun-loving, hardworking Mom left us on April 1, 2021, a perfect date to mirror her love for humour and her good-natured wit.
Verna was the eighth of 10 children born to Alex and Vasylyna Woroniuk in Parkerview, Sk. Her parents took in five cousins to live with them. Mom always told us how caring and hardworking Baba was in looking after the family, managing their farm, and helping neighbours while Gid ran their general store several miles away in Parkerview.
Mom’s stories about her life growing up during the 1930’s and 1940’s were a personal testament of rural life on the prairies. Mom enjoyed school and was a gifted student. Her teacher wanted to advance her a grade, but her older brother, by some unknown authority, prevented that from happening because then Mom would be in the same grade as one of her older siblings.
You would think that with all the struggles of big families, school work, and the challenges of pioneer times that there would be little time for fun. Not for Mom! We three daughters certainly did not inherit the depth of her mischief! Mom would have to stop telling us some of her escapades because she would be laughing so hard, and we would be laughing because she was laughing! Among her epic stories, there were two that stood out to her. First was the time she closed herself in-between the outer door and the storm door of her house. Once inside, she could not open the door to let herself back out. She was stuck! Luckily, her Dad came home from work. He opened the door and was startled by Mom when she fell out of the doorway. The second was a prank which stemmed from the mistreatment of a neighbourhood girl. Mom and her friend, Jenny, were disgusted by the manner in which the girl’s widowed mother did not provide good food or clothing for her from the child allowance to her for care of the daughter. So one night, Jenny put on a man’s long, dark hooded coat and a pair of men’s boots. Mom shone a flashlight to help Jenny walk backwards in the snow from the cemetery (where the girl’s father was buried) to the woman’s house. Jenny put flashlights facing outwards for her eyes so that they would have an eerie glow. Jenny stood in front of the window and said, in Ukrainian, “Lecia, Lecia, give me your money.” Then they both ran to Mom’s house to hide when the woman opened the front door and stormed out to see who was at the window. The clever girls even covered their tracks so the woman would not know where they went.
Mom’s one constant, favourite thing that she loved to do was dance. In Mom’s day, the big social gatherings were weddings and Saturday night dances. She told us of her very special memory of proudly dancing with her Dad and what a good dancer he was! She met our Dad, Peter Sirey (also a great dancer), at a dance in Nipawin which began their three-month courtship that led to 54 years of marriage before his passing in 2006.
Peter and Verna raised three daughters: Rowena, Camilla, and Lori. They farmed in the Moose Range area. In spite of the hectic and steady farming schedule, Mom made time to drive us to our music lessons, swimming lessons, and Ukrainian summer school classes at Franko Hall.
Mom was an avid gardener and she happily shared her bountiful harvest with many. Mom’s culinary skills were top-notch. She mastered all the beautiful traditional Ukrainian foods, she was adventurous to try new taste experiences, and she always liked to make new recipes. Mom was delighted by friends that made a point of visiting Mom and Dad most Fridays to indulge in her mouth-watering homemade bread and dill pickles. Dad loved Mom’s homemade bread so much that every evening before bed, he would say, “Time for some bread and butter.”
Mom’s community service activities included serving as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary of Franko Hall, and she was a member of the Carrot River Rebekah Lodge. The mission of the Rebekahs was to live peaceably, do good unto all whenever the opportunity, and especially to obey the Golden Rule. Mom did just that.
Mom was an excellent female role model for us. She was an elegant, beautiful lady but was also rugged and pitched in like a farm hand to do what was necessary to work with Dad. Mom was Dad’s right-hand partner in all aspects of their life and he was so proud of all that she did to support him. For example, during harvest, Mom was skillfully able to drive the ton truck alongside the combine and pick up the grain on-the-go. She also set up markers which enabled her to back up the truck, using only her mirrors, quickly unload the grain, and get back to the combine for the next load.
Mom enjoyed the precious things in her life: Dad, her children, our farm home, and, as life moved forward, that grew naturally to encompass her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They brought much joy and comfort to her, and her ageless spirit endeared her to them. A cute example of this was when Mom won an Arctic Cat ski-doo and made a deal with Cam’s children. They had to share it amongst themselves, they could have it during the winter, and Mom would have it in the summer.
An example of Mom’s quick wit: she had been served a glass of sour milk and, instead of complaining about it, she returned the milk and jokingly commented, “They must have milked the wrong cow.” Two days before her passing, Mom had asked for some cold water. Lori jumped up and said, “Sure, I will get the homebrew for you, Mom!” Cam chimed in, “There’s whiskey in Mom’s closet!” and we all had a good laugh. As Cam was leaving for home around 1 pm, she said bye to Mom. Mom piped up: “Come back at 6 pm.” Cam asked why. Mom jokingly replied, “I am going to get drunk!
It was a very difficult time for Mom after she fell and fractured her hip three weeks ago, but one of us was by her side ‘round the clock trying to ease her discomfort and do whatever we could. Seeing our tears and concern for her, Mom tried to comfort us by saying, “Everyone has to go sometime.” Why was it so hard to say good-bye to her? Because we will miss her words of wisdom and encouragement, her integrity and her strength, her sage advice, the daily chats we looked forward to, gentle reminders to her to watch her favourite tv shows (Polkarama, All in the Family, Everybody Loves Raymond, Family Feud), and, of course, her smile and the magic of her humour.
Mom leaves to love and remember her: daughters, Rowena (Darrell) and their daughters Tara and Kaila (Jeremy) with children Helayna and Lochlan; Camilla (Orval) and their children Carl, Clinton (Shauna), Carrie with children Paisley, Kaleb and Jasper; Lori (Winston) and their children Austin, Alanna and Victoria; siblings Kay, Helen, Victoria, and Orest, and their families. Mom was predeceased by her parents, her husband, Peter, and her siblings Anne, Bill, John, Dora, and Rose. Mom made many friends wherever she went. Some said she brought “her own light” with her.
The love Mom shared with our Dad was true and strong. She often said how she thought of him and missed him every day even though she felt he was always with her.
They did everything together in life and now they are together again.