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Long life filled with helping Winnipeg
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Long life filled with helping Winnipeg

Helen Hayles lived a long life and she devoted decades of it to help numerous people and organizations in Winnipeg.

Hayles was born on June 11, 1929 in Brandon, but spent most of her life in Winnipeg, living in the Wolseley and River Heights areas of the city. She met her husband, Bruce, at a party his sister held and they married in 1953.

A year later, Hayles worked as the permanent secretary for the University of Manitoba Student’s Union, assisting five UMSU presidents including Art Mauro and Bill Norris.

It’s when she left that job, to start her family — they had a daughter and son — that her decades of community involvement began.

First she joined the Junior League of Winnipeg, which later helped her become the executive director of the Volunteer Centre.

But, while working, Hayles continued to volunteer on boards or by just helping organizations. In fact, the list of organizations she was part of is longer than the grocery lists of many of us.

They included being on the boards of the Age and Opportunity Centre, the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and the allocations committee of the United Way of Winnipeg.

Hayles was also the chair of the Canadian Associations of Volunteer Bureaux/Centres, co-chair of the Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations, president of the Winnipeg Child and Family Services Agency and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and chair of The Winnipeg Foundation.

She was even appointed by the city and province to be part of the Interim Steering Committee which studied the viability of the original Winnipeg Jets, their future in Winnipeg, and the building of a new arena.

With all this service — and much more — it’s not surprising that Hayles was thanked by many. She was a two time recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Award and the University of Manitoba honoured her with its Distinguished Service Award.

And, to cap off her lifetime of helping, Hayles was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada in 2001.

It’s safe to say that Winnipeg would be a different place if not for people like Helen Hayles and we all should appreciate what she did during her lifetime of service. Read more about Helen. 

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

Gladys Williams was a physiotherapist in an Ottawa hospital when she helped treat a skier who was injured.

Williams, who was 70 when she died on Nov. 18, ended up marrying the guy and they moved to Winnipeg in 1978.

The couple later built a house in the RM of Springfield where she was later elected as a school trustee, involved in the creation of a 47-unit seniors residential co-op in Dugald, and worked as constituency assistant and campaign manager for MLA Ron Schuler. Read more about Gladys.



Tom Hemphill never expected to live in Winnipeg — or Canada for that matter.

Hemphill, who was 89 when he died Nov. 24, was born in Northern Ireland and after his parents died in 1953 he and his older brother were going to board a ship to Australia.

But somewhere a fire occurred so they hopped on a ship to Canada instead. They both got jobs at a grin farm near Selkirk and then a mink farm in Headingley before he joined a construction company.

Hemphill then became a heavy machinery operator with the City of Winnipeg and became known for ploughing the city’s streets with his grader. Read more about Tom. 



Most honeymoons don’t lead to corporate success, but Irena Kankova-Cohen’s did. But first she had to flee her country.

Kankova-Cohen, who died on Nov. 4 at 94, was born into an aristocratic Czech family and became friends with a group of classmates opposed to the postwar communist government. When the secret police said she had to report on the group’s activities or she would be arrested, she fled the country at only 23, crossing mountains, rivers and streams by herself, never seeing her father again. It wasn’t until 1964 she was reunited with her mother.

She ended up in Winnipeg and later met and married businessman Albert Cohen. And it was during their honeymoon, which she had to push him to book a round-the-world trip, that he met the founders of a small Japanese firm named Sony. They ended up getting the Canadian rights to sell their products. Read more about Irena. 



Dorothy Halliday lived to 105 — meaning she lived during two pandemics, a century apart.

Halliday, who died on Nov. 21, was born in Shoal Lake on March 2, 1916, and later received her teaching certificate at the Normal School in Winnipeg.

She taught at several one room schoolhouses in rural parts of the province until she got married after the Second World War. She then worked as a substitute teacher at various places where her family lived through the decades and even taught adult education in Dauphin until she retired. Read more about Dorothy.




Cornelius Chuckrey was another Manitoban who was born during the last pandemic.

Chuckrey, who was just one month shy of his 103rd birthday when he died on Nov. 21, not only survived the Spanish flu in 1918 and 1919, he lived through serving in the Second World War as well.

Chuckrey returned to Canada after the war, with a British war bride, and raised his family.

The family loved camping and, for their comfort, he designed a fold down tent trailer. Many other campers looked at the design and his family often joked if he had patented the idea it might have been known as a Chuckrey tent trailer instead of a Coleman tent trailer. Read more about Niel.



A Life’s Story

Florence Swail’s marriage was a love story, but during those years she had to give up something else.


Swail, who died in February at 91 years of age, was proud to have 50 years of sobriety during her 65 years of marriage.

Florence loved to fish and once won a Manitoba master angler award for catching a massive bass. (Supplied)

“Perhaps the proudest thing we can remember about our mother was that she was a recovering alcoholic,” her son Scott recalled recently.

“This might sound strange, but her recovery was nothing short of courageous… once mom gained sobriety, she paid it forward to dedicating herself to years of mentoring countless others to find it as well.”

Read more about Florence. 



Until next time, I hope you continue to write your own life’s story.



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