Free Press
Persevering against tragedy with ‘sisu’
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Persevering against tragedy with ‘sisu’

When you live to 95 years of age, you’ll have lived with both happy and tragic times. Eila Lamb had more than her fair share of the latter.

In fact, Eila’s family says the daughter of Finnish immigrants epitomized the Finnish word "sisu," which they say means “sustained strength of will, perseverance, determination, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.”

Eila, who died on March 3 at the Poseidon Care Home, was born in Vancouver and lived half her life there before moving to Alberta and Manitoba. She went to the University of British Columbia and received a degree in food chemistry and agricultural sciences before working as a food chemist.

That’s when Eila met her husband, Charles Alexander Lamb, and they moved to a logging camp on Nimpkish Lake on Vancouver Island so he could teach in a one-room schoolhouse.

The couple had four children there. Then the family decided to move to Surrey to live with Eila’s mother for a year while Eila got her teaching certificate at UBC.

Charles couldn’t break his teaching contract, so he had to stay at the logging camp for one more year while Eila went to UBC.

Tragically, before the family could reunite, Charles died suddenly and unexpectedly.

While Eila’s brother and his wife helped care for her youngest son, who was only a toddler at the time, Eila both raised her family and continued to go to school, eventually receiving a doctorate in educational psychology.

Eila had a long career in teaching, educational administration, and institutional leadership in Manitoba, B.C., and Alberta. She was a Winnipeg school superintendent, director of instructional and support services for the Greater Victoria School District, and was principal of Keewatin Community College in The Pas.

Tragedy struck again when her youngest daughter died of lymphoma when she was only 18.

Then, after Eila retired — at age 79 — and began living with her eldest daughter in Lethbridge, tragedy struck a third time when her daughter became ill and had to live in a nursing home until her death.

With her typical "sisu," Eila moved a final time to Winnipeg to be closer to her surviving son and daughter and their families.

Through her life, Eila was “a passionate person who excelled in all of her endeavours”. Read more about Eila. 

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

Mike Kostelnuk was born and raised in the North End and when it came time to go to work after United College he went into the newspaper profession.

Mike, who died on March 2 at 84, started at the Free Press in the 1960s. He worked as the paper’s movie and book critic and general columnist for 15 years. He correctly predicted that John Wayne was going to win an Oscar for True Grit.

He went on to work for newspapers and publications across the country, including the Calgary Sun, Montreal Star and Alberta Report. Read more about Mike. 



Betty Yim-Fun Wong was born in Hong Kong and came to Winnipeg when she was 20.

Betty, who was 63 when she died on March 9, finished high school in Winnipeg and then took business administration at Red River College.

After graduating, she spent 35 years working at the non-profit Harmony Mansion in Chinatown, helping many disadvantaged people. Read more about Betty. 



John King grew up in Elmwood and he supported the area throughout his life.

John, who was 69 when he died on March 4, graduated from Elmwood High School and represented the province in boxing at the 1971 Canada Games. He went on to be a Golden Gloves champion.

John joined the federal government and worked with youth in crisis, retiring after 37 years.

While he was a kid, John played sports at the Kelvin Community Club. Later, as an adult, he was instrumental in saving the community club and was a driving force in restoring it to become the Clara Hughes Recreation Park. Read more about John. 



Robert Kirkpatrick was born in Scotland and recruited by the Winnipeg School Division to teach here in Winnipeg.

Robert who died on March 9 at 87, planned to stay in Canada for only two years, but, while teaching at Wellington School, he started dating Caroline, the school secretary, and they married after he taught in the Arctic for a year; the couple then returned to the North for another two years.

In Winnipeg, Robert taught elementary students at Queenston, Clifton, and Brock Corydon Schools and was the division’s metric coordinating teacher when the country switched from Imperial measurements. Read more about Robert. 



I’ve never seen this before: Conrad Pochinko was such a valued employee that the company he worked for also placed an obituary in the newspaper.

Conrad died suddenly on March 1 at 48. Although his family published an obituary, Shandron Mechanical, submitted another a few days later. 

The company said Conrad was “a loyal employee for over 12 years” and that he was “family to us.”

"’The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive,’” the obituary reads. “In one word, Conrad gave.”

“In the coming weeks, Shandron Mechanical will turn the page. The company will go forward, as Conrad would have wished, however, it will never be the same without him.” Read more about Robert. 



Bob Paquin helped keep the city safe.

Bob, who died on March 2 at 74, worked as a Winnipeg police officer for 32 years. He was a detective and staff sergeant, but he also took on executive roles with both the Winnipeg and Manitoba police associations.

He was especially proud of his year fundraising with the law enforcement torch run to help Special Olympics. Read more about Bob. 



A Life’s Story

Lisa Seymour created safe spaces and called out injustice during her lifetime.

Lisa, who died last March at 60 years of age, was a longtime social worker, feminist, labour activist and University of Manitoba associate professor.

Lisa Seymour (left), seen here with her close friend, Jill Town, in 2006, died last March of cancer. She was 60 years old. (Supplied)

“Lisa lived her life the way she worked,” Elizabeth Boyle, now retired from the university’s career services, said about Seymour.

“Her work and her life were treated the same way — she treated people with kindness and respect. It could have been a student she was working with or it could also have been a barista at Starbucks who probably also loved her or her cab driver.”

Read more about Lisa’s life.



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



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