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‘Application’ for heaven resonates around the world
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‘Application’ for heaven resonates around the world

Sometimes obituaries can take on a life of their own. The obituary for Beatrice Fediuk is one of those.

Last Saturday, I did what I normally do on a Saturday morning — I read through the Passages section of the Free Press, scanning every obituary for people who have lived fascinating lives.

By doing this, I come up with what I call informally my "tweet of the day" — a way of letting people know about who we have lost and how they helped, in their own way, to shape the community we call home. 

And then I came to Fediuk’s obituary.

Fediuk, who died on Feb. 12, had a different obituary. It started with the very first words.

“Dear Lord, Please accept my application for Eternal Life. My resume is as follows:”

From there her obituary, er, resumé, was broken down to include Fediuk’s objectives, references, training, experience and hobbies.

The 95-year-old had been a beloved teacher, mostly in kindergarten classrooms through the decades, and a person who volunteered a lot of her time both while working and after retirement.

In the final lines, it summed up with the words “Lord, I hope that you will find that I have met my Objectives and deserve a place in Your heavenly home. You know where to find me to further discuss my qualifications.”

I thought it was a great obituary and a wonderful tribute to a much-loved mother, grandmother, and teacher. So I did what I normally do and used a highlighter to circle the important parts, took a picture, and posted it all on Twitter.

And then it exploded.

On average, my obituary tweets are seen by between 5,000 and 10,000 people. My most-read tweet up until this week was by about 49,000 people.

But then Rex Chapman saw it.

Chapman, a former player on four teams with the NBA, has a large presence on Twitter with more than 1.2 million followers. Twenty minutes after I posted it, he somehow spotted it and retweeted my message with the following comment: “Beatrice Fediuk passed away recently at the age of 95. She turned in a resume for Heaven. Pretty awesome.” 

Half an hour later, the tweet with Fediuk’s resume had gone viral. At last count the tweet about Fediuk’s obituary had been seen by more than 372,000 people. The obituary was then written up by Newsweek, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom.

During these COVID times, it is safe to say people wanted to see something that wasn’t about doom and gloom.

Michelle Samagalski, daughter of Beatrice Fediuk, is photographed with a photo of her mother. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

As for Fediuk’s family, they were showered with positive comments and phone calls from not just relatives, but former students whose lives had been touched by her.

No, as Fediuk’s daughter told me later in the week, her mother didn’t write the obituary herself — her daughter wrote it.

If an obituary is meant to not only tell the details of when a person died, where a celebratory service will be held and when, but also to try encapsulating who the person was, it was job accomplished for Fediuk’s resume.

And, I’m sure, somewhere, Fediuk is not only smiling at all the unexpected attention with her passing, but has also been successful in her application.

Rest in peace, Beatrice. Read more about Beatrice. 

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

Lee Anne Block was a teacher who went back to school to become an education professor at the University of Winnipeg.

Block, who died on Feb. 19 at 70, was teaching middle school and English as a Second Language in the Seven Oaks School Division when she co-produced a community theatre production about women’s struggles with mental health.

She then went on to get her master’s and PhD in Education and was hired by the University of Winnipeg.

In the community, she helped create the Kapabamayak Healing Forest in St John’s Park, a memorial for residential school victims, and the Langside Learning Garden with the Spence Neighbourhood Association.

Tragically, Block was teaching classes just a few weeks before her death when she started having persistent stomach discomfort which then became pain. That’s when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Read more about Lee Anne.

 


 

If you are a pilot, you always want the same number of takeoffs as landings. But Clarke Gehman’s numbers didn’t add up.

Gehman, who died on Feb. 11 at 84, would brag that, thanks to a defective fighter plane he was test piloting, he had one more takeoff than landing. He had to eject from the plane and survived relatively unscathed. The plane, though, didn’t fare as well and was destroyed.

Gehman served later as a peacekeeper in Europe and Vietnam, a Transport Canada civil aviation inspector, and an avid radio-controlled model airplane flyer. Read more about Clarke. 

 


 

Merle Brown was an active member of her church and a former United Church Women president.

Brown, who died on Feb. 13, volunteered at Westworth United Church and became president of the United Church Women.

She also curled and rose to be president of not just the Charleswood Curling Club, but also the Manitoba Ladies Curling Association.

She had bridge as another hobby, and she was oh so close to reaching the rank of Life Master — she needed only two more golden points. Read more about Merle.

 


 

Penny Davis was a wonderful emergency room nurse who went on to teach others.

Davis, who was 70 when she died on Feb. 1, was working as an emergency room nurse when she got her Masters in Education in 1995.

She quickly began teaching nursing at the University of Manitoba and became one of its most admired professors. Read more about Penny. 

 


 

Carlyle Sherwin was a descendant of people withMétis heritage who knew and served with Riel — and his grandma told him stories about it.

Sherwin, who died on Feb. 3 at 87, was a descendent of both the Inksters and the Swains and his grandmother Inkster lived in an outbuilding on their farm. Before she died at 106, she told Carlyle stories about her life, including ones about the Métis resistance.

Sherwin also had a love story: he was born within three days of his wife at the exact same hospital, and he died just five months after her. Read more about Carlyle. 

 


 

A Life’s Story

It’s not just the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the field who lead to wins and Grey Cup victories — it’s also people behind the scenes.

Len Amey was one of those.

Len Amey was proud of his careers with the military and the Blue Bombers. (Supplied)

Amey, who died in October at 89, and was the subject of a recent Passages feature, spent two decades as the team’s equipment manager, during which time they won three Grey Cups in 1984, 1988, and 1990.

Former offensive linesman Chris Walby told writer Jim Timlick that Amey “was really one-of-a-kind.

“Len wanted to give you that gruff exterior and military kind of guy attitude, but deep down, he was a gentle soul… when I look at the Bombers I think of Len Amey. He was such a big part of that institution.”

Read more about Len. 

 



 

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

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