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How a Japanese woman became a Winnipegger for life
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How a Japanese woman became a Winnipegger for life

It’s always interesting to see the various paths people take to become Winnipeggers.

So many people have entire lives going on in countries around the world and expect to be there until they pass away when, all of a sudden, something either in or out of their control occurs and they find themselves in Winnipeg.

Some survived the Holodomor or Holocaust and came here after the Second World War. Some came from other countries seeking a better life for their families. Still others moved from another part of our country for a job here.

Or, like Yoshiko Hasegawa, love brought them to the Prairies.

Yoshiko was born Japan in 1931, and survived the firebombing of her home and neighbourhood when she was just eight years old. After high school, she enrolled in pharmacy school, but had to drop out to help at her mother’s new hotel business.

Yoshiko’s family says she was determined to live independently with a good profession. She got her teaching certificate and began teaching at a local elementary school. She likely thought she would be teaching for years and living the rest of her life in Japan.

But then Claude de Forest walked through the door of her mother’s hotel.

Claude, an architect who was taking an architectural pilgrimage through Asia, stayed at the inn for two weeks; during that time Yoshiko acted as his personal tour guide. They fell in love.

Claude returned to Canada, and continued their romance through the mail for two years before he returned to Japan to marry her in 1960.

The couple returned to Winnipeg, where her husband was teaching at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture. They had two daughters and a son. Yoshiko maintained her connections to Japan, taking annual trips there to see friends and family and helping many Japanese visitors and immigrants settle in Winnipeg.

After their children left home, Yoshiko went back to school, taking English Literature classes at Dakota Collegiate. Following several language-training workshops, the high school hired her to be its Japanese teacher and she was instrumental in the development of its Japanese exchange program.

After Claude was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Yoshiko looked after him at home. But after she had a stroke at age 77, Claude was moved into a personal care home. Despite the stroke, Yoshiko surprised her doctors by learning to walk and talk again.

At age 88, she moved into the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre personal care home, and a few months later the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Like many care-home residents, Yoshiko couldn’t visit family for a long time, but she continued to take part in exercises and would watch her favourite Japanese TV shows. The family was even able to find a companion for Yoshiko who spoke Japanese so she could speak in her mother tongue until the end.

Because she was an immigrant who loved animals, the family asked for donations to go to the Immigrant Centre of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Even if you think you know how your own life will turn out, it can take many twists and turns. For some, those turns might involve an unexpected move to a city on the Canadian Prairies.

Predeceased by her husband in 2013, Yoshiko is survived by her three children. Read more about Yoshiko.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

Metro Filewich was born in Roblin, Man. and was a good baseball player.

In fact, Metro was so good he was scouted by the Washington Senators and went to spring training with them in Florida in 1955. He was playing alongside stars Mickey Vernon and and Pete Runnels and future star Harmon Killebrew.

But Metro, who died on April 16 at 88, quickly got homesick and came back to work on the family farm until he got married. His family moved to Dryden, where he worked at the local paper mill for 32 years. Read more about Metro. 



Glenda Buhr was a stay-at-home mom at age 17 and started a career at age 41.

In between, she curled and skipped her team to the provincial championship in 1970.

Glenda, who was 87 when she died on April 19, is in the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame — and she was a Canadian champion lawn bowler too.

And what career did she go into? She delivered retirement seminars to provincial employees up north. Read more about Glenda. 



Jim Keilback was a voice of sports here and elsewhere.

Jim, who was 95 when he died on April 17, went into broadcasting after going to the University of Manitoba.

He went on to call both amateur and professional sports at radio stations from Winnipeg to Phoenix for almost 40 years, and he spent time as a reporter for the Winnipeg Tribune. Read more about Jim. 



Dental hygienists are ubiquitous now, but not when Connie Meunier was training.

Connie, who died on April 11 at 87, was one of only six students in the second-ever class in Canada at the University of Toronto.

She graduated in 1954 and immediately began working in public health in Saskatchewan. Later, after marrying, her family moved to Winnipeg, where she worked for the Royal Bank and then in the pastoral care department at St. Amant Centre until she retired. Read more about Connie. 


Dr. Semih Berker was born in Turkey and became a dentist in Istanbul and underserved towns.

He left Turkey three years after he married to work in North America, first in New York City, then Rhode Island, and then Winnipeg, arriving in 1968.

Semih, who died on April 10 at 93, opened a clinic on Pembina Highway and practised there for 35 years; he was made a life member of the Manitoba Dental Association in 2008. Read more about Semih. 



The Eaton’s retail chain has been gone for a few years, but Gary Filyk helped it look the way it did.

Gary, who died on March 13 at 87, was the company’s executive architect in Toronto and Winnipeg, before doing the same job at Hudson’s Bay and its Northern Stores, and retiring as director of architecture for the Loeb supermarket chain.

Gary also volunteered with the Canadian Executive Services Organization and went to help people in Russia, Panama and other developing countries. Read more about Gary. 



A Life’s Story

David Square was a Renaissance man.

David, who was 71 when he died in August, worked in many fields, including as a novelist, journalist, artist, builder, carpenter and small-engine mechanic.

He built the presentation case for the gold medallion the province gave the Queen during a Royal visit in 1984, as well as the sculptural container presented to Russian human rights activists and Nobel Peace Prize winners Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner.

David puts in the last log on a log home he and his wife built in the woods near Tyndall. (Supplied)

David also published books, including the 2007 historical fiction novel When Falcons Fly: the Story of the World’s First Olympic Gold Hockey Team which is currently under option for a film to be produced. To read more about David’s life go here. 

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



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