Outstanding Manitobans lost in 2022

Talent, hard work and service were their hallmarks


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Jim Carr was a renaissance man.

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Jim Carr was a renaissance man.

Carr, who was elected as a Liberal MP in Winnipeg three times, had served as minister of natural resources, international trade, and the special representative to the Prairies.

He died at age 71 on Dec. 12, just days after his private member’s bill passed. The Building a Green Prairie Economy Act is designed to help prairie provinces switch to clean energy from oil and gas.

When he was a teenager, Carr was a member of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, having become a talented oboe player.

Carr was still a member of the symphony when he began working as the executive assistant for a federal cabinet minister and he later became executive director of the Manitoba Arts Council.

Carr was elected as Liberal MLA for Fort Rouge in 1988, and then Crescentwood, he served as deputy Liberal leader, but left politics to become a member of the Winnipeg Free Press editorial board.

Later, he was the founding chief executive officer of the Business Council of Manitoba before jumping back into politics at the federal level in 2015. He was named to the Order of Manitoba in 2011.

“Jim leaves behind a legacy that’s more than most of us would dare ask of a life,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during Carr’s memorial service in Winnipeg.

“In the sweep of grief, it can sometimes be hard to find solace, but you all know just how many people are grateful to have served alongside Jim, and that Canadians are, all of us, better for his devotion to this country.”

Carr was one of several high-profile Manitobans who died in 2022.

Read more about Jim Carr.

New Democrat Bill Blaikie cast a large shadow in both politics and in the ministry.

Blaikie, who was 71 when he died on Sept. 24, had served as an NDP MP and MLA for more than three decades. He was elected in the former federal Winnipeg-Birds Hill riding in 1979; later, he ran unsuccessfully for leadership of the federal NDP.

After he switched to provincial politics, he became conservation minister under Premier Greg Selinger, before retiring.

He had been an ordained minister of the United Church and was invested into the Order of Canada in 2021.

“Bill had strong beliefs and was a strong advocate, but he was also someone you could really work with,” said former Liberal foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy.

“He really was a model of what a good political figure should be.”

Read more about Bill Blaikie.

Doreen Brownstone graced many stages during her lifetime.

Brownstone, who died on Dec. 16 at 100, was estimated to have performed in more than 100 stage productions and had more than 30 television and film credits.

She grew up in England, performed in a play when she was with the Royal Air Force, moved to Winnipeg with her husband, and was cast in what is now Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s first production in 1958. She became the country’s oldest professional actor when she turned 92 in 2014.

Mariam Bernstein, a Winnipeg actor-director, said Brownstone “led by example with her passion for acting, her flawless comic timing and how she brought both the pain and joy in her life to her characters.”

Read more about Doreen Brownstone.

Greg Brodsky’s stage was a courtroom.

The criminal defence lawyer, who was 81 when he died on Feb. 9, kept count of the number of clients he represented who had been charged with murder or manslaughter: there were more than 1,000 of them.

Many of them were at the centre of headline-grabbing cases, including wrongfully convicted Thomas Sophonow and James Driskell, whose muder conviction was quashed by the federal justice minister.

Brodsky became famous for representing cases that changed the He also represented Dr. Henry Morgentaler during his push to legalize abortion in Canada.

“Greg was the defence lawyer’s defence lawyer… he lived it, breathed it, loved it, enjoyed it,” said defence counsel James Lockyer, founding director of Innocence Canada.

Read more about Greg Brodsky.

Vince Fontaine was a pillar in the music scene.

Fontaine, who was 60 when he died on Jan. 11, founded Eagle and Hawk with former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Troy Westwood. The band won a Juno Award for the record On and On.

He started the musical collective, Indian City, which included influential artists throughout the years such as Don Amero and William Prince.

“The city lost a musical icon and someone who should be honoured and acknowledged, not just for his musical accomplishments, but for Indigenous music in North America,” said Jay Bodner, who played in bands with Fontaine for 25 years.

Read more about Vince Fontaine.

Ivan Eyre’s art will live on in both public and private collections here and around the world.

Eyre, who died on Nov. 5 at age 87, was a professor at the University of Manitoba’s School of Art from 1959 to 1993, and created hundreds of works while teaching and after retirement. His works were featured in more than 300 solo and group exhibitions.

Eyre’s paintings can be seen in Assiniboine Park’s Pavilion Gallery; his large sculptures are outside the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Portage and Main, and in the Ivan Eyre Sculpture Garden at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont. He was named to both the Order of Manitoba and Canada.

“I think he’s the greatest painter that this country has ever produced, or at least one of the greatest,” said Loch Gallery owner and founder David Loch.

Read more about Ivan Eyre.

Étienne Gaboury helped change the look of the city.

Gaboury, considered the province’s greatest architect, was 92 when he died on Oct. 14.

Gaboury’s works here include the Royal Canadian Mint, the revitalization of the St. Boniface Cathedral after a devastating fire in 1968, the Church of the Holy Martyrs, and Esplanade Riel. He was also the architect of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City.

“I would put him, in the 20th century, in the top five most famous Canadian architects,” said Jeffrey Thorsteinson, a researcher at the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation.

Read more about Étienne Gaboury.

Vera Chernecki was a nurse who led at the bedside and the bargaining table.

Chernecki, who died on July 15 at 81, graduated as a nurse in 1962. By 1981 she was president of what later became the Manitoba Nurses’ Union.

She held the position for 17 years, leading thousands of nurses out the doors to the picket line for a historic 30-day strike in 1991.

Darlene Jackson, the union’s current president, said Chernecki was “always very eloquent and always the voice of reason.

“She waded into every conflict, both big and small, with unwavering grit and determination.”

Read more about Vera Chernecki.

Clarence Nepinak was an elder who, along with his wife, worked hard to preserve and promote Indigenous culture.

Nepinak, who was 73 when he died on Nov. 2, was a pioneer of Thunderbird House, helped guide the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and set up language and cultural programming at Seven Oaks School Division. He also performed numerous times at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Festival du Voyageur and Kidsfest.

In honour of their work, both Nepinak and his wife received the Order of Manitoba in 2019.

“He was a man of many trades: an educator, an elder and a walking world historian at The Forks,” his wife, Barbara, said.

Read more about Clarence Nepinak.

Gloria Desorcy was a crusader for consumers.

Desorcy, who died on March 1 at 62, was the longtime head of the Manitoba branch of the Consumers’ Association of Canada.

While there, she battled against rate hikes by Manitoba Hydro, fought for rebates from Manitoba Public Insurance, and challenged the high interest rates charged by payday lending outlets.

“Every Manitoban owes a debt of gratitude to her,” said Jacquie Wasney, a member of the association’s board of directors.

Read more about Gloria Desorcy.


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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