Free Press
Locker full of love
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Locker full of love

Sometimes even stinky running shoes can spark a romance.

At least, that’s the aromatic spark that happened to Deanna Ruffeski a few decades ago.

Ruffeski, who passed away on Feb. 14 at the age of 83, was Deanna Miller when she was going to Isaac Newton High School back in the 1950s.

Back then there weren’t enough lockers around for anyone to have their own, so the school began assigning pairs of students to each locker.

After pairing up all the girls with girls, and the boys with boys, school administration was left with one girl, one boy, and one locker. So for the first time in the school’s history, they paired a girl and boy: Deanna Miller and Bob Ruffeski.

As Deanna’s obituary says, “they both agreed to give it a try, but it wasn’t long before Deanna’s neatness and Bob’s basketball shorts and running shoes did not get along.

“On more than one occasion, Bob found his less-than-sweet-smelling garments on the floor outside of the locker, but no verbal complaints nor arguments were heard from either party. They managed to make it through the school year.”

And then, the other (stinky?) shoe dropped.

“They married in October 1958.”

In high school, Ruffeski also played volleyball and basketball, sang in the school opera, and represented the school modelling clothes for Eaton’s.

After graduating, she worked at the Royal Bank in the head office typing pool — but, looking to move on, she took an evening course in shorthand. She soon became a personal stenographer.

The couple raised three sons and they have two granddaughters.

A love that began in a single locker grew and expanded into a house and cottage and lasted for 63 years, until Deanna’s passing.

It just shows that sometimes, even something as simple as a locker key can open a lifetime of love. Read more about Deanna.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

Randy Midzain was a reporter and editor at several community newspapers in British Columbia before venturing east to join the Winnipeg Free Press in 1978.

Midzain, who died on Jan. 6 at 69, became one of the copy editors who helped prevent errors — both grammar and spelling — from appearing in the paper. He handled what’s called agate in the newspaper business — typing in the long list of sports scores for games across Canada, North America and the world. Read more about Randy. 



Irene Kirouac was the matriarch of local restaurants that have provided many wonderful meals to diners over two generations.

Kirouac, who was 89 when she died on Feb. 25, owned the Red Lantern Steak House with her late husband Fernie, as well as La Vielle Gare.

Her love of fine meals and cooking has continued to a second generation, with her son going on to own InFerno’s Bistro and their daughter running Resto Gare. Read more about Irene. 



Pauline Henson had a scientific mind.

Henson, who died on Feb. 18, was born in Kingston, Ont., and went to that city’s Queen’s University, becoming one of only three women in her class studying biochemistry.

After graduating, she worked in research laboratories across North America and was instrumental in setting up Canada’s first virology lab.

The science Henson studied was also how she met her husband. He was her lab demonstrator in comparative anatomy and they found they had “a mutual adoration of science, intelligent discourse, and playful curiosity.” Read more about Pauline. 



Hilda Laing was a registered nurse in Scotland for several years before marrying and moving to Canada.

By the time Laing, who died on Feb. 16 at 95, returned to Scotland so her husband could continue his surgical training, they had three young children. A few years later, then with a fourth child, they returned to Winnipeg where they stayed.

Laing later volunteered with the Canadian Red Cross and she served as president of the Arthritis Society of Manitoba. Read more about Hilda. 



Joyce Taylor touched the lives of many children.

Taylor, who was 99 when she died on Feb. 22, grew up in London, England, and while she survived the Blitz during the Second World War, her family home did not.

Coming to Canada with her husband and one daughter, Taylor later went back to school and graduated in Red River College’s very first class in early childhood education.

She taught kindergarten for 14 years at Balmoral Hall and also developed the school’s nursery school program. Read more about Joyce. 



Mary Lobb was born in a church and grew up in a church.

Lobb, who died on Feb. 21 at 98, was born in St. Andrews on the Red’s Rectory .

Later, after her mother died, she went to live with her grandparents at the Rectory of St John’s Cathedral. Her grandfather was John William Matheson, the Dean of the Cathedral, and she was a descendant of the Lord Selkirk Settlers.

Lobb went to Balmoral Hall — at the time of her passing, she was one of the school’s oldest living graduates — and later became a nurse.

She was one of the first to work at the Children’s Hospital and later worked in the HSC’s detox ward and at the Main Street Project. Read more about Mary. 



A Life’s Story

Mary Krawchenko was a businesswoman at a time when women-owned businesses were rare.

Krawchenko, who was 90 when she died on Oct. 22, was the K behind Mrs. K Food Products, founded in 1970.

The company, which produced deli items ranging from cabbage rolls, pizzas, perogies and cheesecakes, were popular — but it took some doing for her to open it herself.

Krawchenko, seen here with her husband, Carl (left), and son Chris at the Centrex in 1981, established Mrs. K’s Food Products in 1970. (Supplied)

“She was absolutely furious when she went to the bank to set up a business account and was told she needed her husband to come in with her to open the account,” her daughter, Sandi Alter, told writer Janine LeGal recently.

“‘But he is not part of my business,’ she told the banker. ‘The name of the company is Mrs. K’s. Not Mr. and Mrs K’s. My husband has his own business to run.’”

To read more about Krawchenko’s business and her life, go to the latest Passages column on the Free Press website.



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



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