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His decades of service touched many

Orlikow inspired students to excel, achieve dreams

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He came out of Elmwood to build a career that touched the lives of countless Manitobans seeking knowledge, a better education -- and faster running times.Lionel Orlikow, who spent almost half a century as a teacher, coach and senior public servant in this province, died Thursday at Riverview Health Centre.

He was 76.

"It is a sad loss for Winnipeg," said his son John, one of Orlikow's seven children.

"He showed that everybody has potential and everybody has a right to an education."

Lionel Orlikow was born Aug. 31, 1932 and graduated with a degree in history at the University of Manitoba. Three years later, he had a master's degree in education from Harvard University and began his career as a teacher of social studies, English and physical education at Lord Selkirk Junior High School in Elmwood, the neighbourhood he had known as a boy.

Two years later, Orlikow moved to Kelvin High School to teach and coach cross-country running.

It was a relationship that would last four decades.

After attending university in Chicago to obtain his doctorate, Orlikow taught at university in Toronto before returning to Winnipeg to join the provincial education department, rising to the rank of deputy minister.

He later helped develop Manitoba's first adult education centres.

Between 1988 and 1998, Orlikow was a school trustee in what was then called Winnipeg School Division 1.

He also continued to coach running at Kelvin, prolonging his affair with a sport in which he excelled as a boy.

In fact, in the democratic Orlikow household, the children had no say in one area: whether to run cross-country.

"My father was very keen on letting us make our own choices," said John Orlikow. "(Cross-country running) wasn't one of them."

Orlikow kids often tagged along to cross-country meets and later took part in the sport themselves, his son added.

In his personal life, Lionel Orlikow also stood out.

His son chuckled when he recalled how his father was the last person to deliver milk in Winnipeg by horse and buggy.

Then, in the late '40s, Lionel, "a North End Jew" in the words of his son, met and later married his mother, Anne, who had grown up Catholic in River Heights.

"Mom and Dad were trailblazers even then," John Orlikow said.

"In those days, those two sides never met."

Politics was never far from Lionel Orlikow's life. Not only did he work with politicians, his brother David was a New Democratic Party member of Parliament for 26 years until 1988.

Lionel himself even dabbled with a political career, his son remembered, though not very successfully.

Once, as a candidate in a provincial election, Lionel brought an organ grinder and monkey to Grant Park Shopping Centre to raise awareness about his candidacy.

"The monkey threw up," John Orlikow said, laughing. "It was just chaos."

The principled Orlikow often had trouble with the give-and-take of political life, John added.

Lionel Orlikow retired in 2002. His health declined, however, and he died at Riverview centre. His family will hold a private funeral.

A public ceremony is planned for 1 p.m., Dec. 21 at Kelvin High School, the family said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2008 A11

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