Free Press
Celebrations no longer on pandemic pause
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Celebrations no longer on pandemic pause

When Marc Rolland Desrochers died at only 22 years old, his family wrote in his obituary, “we plan to gather and celebrate his life at a later date.” What they didn’t know was how much later the date would be.

Marc died on March 14, 2020, just a day after his 22nd birthday and two days before Manitoba recorded its first positive case of COVID-19. Two weeks later, the first Manitoban died from the novel coronavirus and shortly after the province went into lockdown with gatherings, including funerals, prohibited.

Even later in the pandemic, when funerals were allowed again, they were restricted to so few people that in many cases a person’s entire immediate family couldn’t attend.

Many families opted to wait until they could hold larger celebrations for the life of their loved ones. It became almost a standard line at the end of many obituaries: We will hold the service and/or celebration at a later date.

I often wondered, as weeks became months and months became years, whether those long-delayed celebrations would ever be held or whether families, at some point, would decide too much time had passed.

I even recall one series of obituary notices for a Manitoban which said over the span of a few months that a celebration was going to go ahead, then it was cancelled, then it was scheduled again, put on hold a second time, and finally the family announced they were just going to go ahead, but with a Zoom session instead of an in-person event.

Back to Marc: his family has announced a celebration of his life will happen on April 30.

And his family is not the only one.

After Virginia Andrew, a former high school math teacher, died on April 17, 2020, at age 93, the family said that “cremation has taken place and a graveside service will be held at a later date at the Darlingford Cemetery.” The service was finally held on April 12.

It is wonderful that these two families were finally able to get together to remember Marc and Virginia, even if the ceremonies were delayed.

I sometimes read obituaries in the Free Press in which families say the deceased person specifically requested no service be held.

Of course, these people are entitled to request that, but I always wonder if they know who these events are intended to be for. It’s not really for the person who has died; it’s for the family and friends they have left behind.

It’s at those gatherings that people shed a few tears, but also share laughs and memories. It helps those people who loved the person to be comforted by people around them while connecting with people they may not have seen for a long time.

They may also meet for the first time people who only their loved one knew and hear new stories about them.

For many people during the last two years, it wasn’t a loved one who requested no service be held — COVID-19 demanded it. And it was one of the most cruel things to happen during the pandemic.

Thankfully, these two families show that, even though some gatherings have been greatly delayed, they can still be held, no matter how long it takes to get there.

Read more about Marc and Virginia

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

When Frances Lim was in medical school at Queen’s University there weren’t too many women with her in class. In fact, only two others were there.

That didn’t stop her. Frances, who was 83 when she died on April 7, then became one of an even smaller number of women who specialized in surgery.

She went on to become an obstetrician and gynecologist in Winnipeg, bringing multiple generations into the world. Read more about Frances.



At six-foot-six, Alan Philp stood tall in the legal profession — and not just because of his height.

Alan, who died on April 12 at 91, graduated from law school in 1955 and practiced as a lawyer until 1973.

That’s when he was appointed Chief Judge of the County Courts of Manitoba and then later a Justice on the province’s highest court, the Manitoba Court of Appeal. He sat on that court until he retired at age 75. Read more about Alan. 



Norma Coleman wanted to celebrate Steinbach’s centennial with her own centennial project.

Norma, who was 88 when she died on March 29, decided to put in 100 entries in that year’s competitions for baking, sewing, canning, produce growing and other skills.

She fell short — she only got to 94 — but it wasn’t the only place her skills shone. She went on to help put together the Canadian Lutheran Ladies Cookbook with recipes from across the country. Read more about Norma. 



Dorothy Thom helped generations of girls promise to do their best.

Dorothy, who died on March 28 at 90, was a Brownie leader for more than 50 years.

Her contributions to the Girl Guides of Canada were recognized; she was honoured with the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2002. Read more about Dorothy. 



Wilf Finch was taught how to do wireless communication as part of his duties with the northern reaches of the Hudson’s Bay Company. It turned out those skills would soon come in handy for his country.

Wilf, who was 104 when he died on March 17, joined the war effort, answering the call for wireless operators.

He first monitored Japanese naval radio traffic on the west coast before later monitoring submarines on the east coast, as well as serving on the HMCS Runnymede, helping escort convoys across the Atlantic Ocean. Read more about Wilf. 



Harold Cook’s day job was working for flooring companies before owning his own.

But Harold, who was 81 when he died on April 14, had a passion after hours for curling… and, as the years went by, the new sport of stick curling.

He went on to serve as president of both the Manitoba Stick Curling Association and its national counterpart. He played in his final tournament — winning gold — just two weeks before he died. Read more about Harold. 



A Life’s Story

Every time you pay your Autopac bill or send in a cheque or transfer payment for you hydro or natural gas use, you should thank Gloria Desorcy.

Gloria, who suddenly died on March 1 at age 62, was the longtime head of the Manitoba branch of the Consumers’ Association of Canada and led the fight against rate hikes by both bodies before the Public Utilities Board.

Gloria Desorcy was the executive director at Consumers’ Association of Canada. She died in March at the age of 62. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“Every Manitoban owes a debt of gratitude to her,” Jacquie Wasney, a member of the CAC board of directors in Winnipeg.

“Do you remember the rebate cheque you got from MPI or the fact that Hydro rates went up just three per cent instead of eight per cent or that gift card that has value past six months?”

Read more about Gloria’s life.



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



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