Dakota House honours centenarians
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/01/2022 (491 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
I’ll begin with a final tribute to our unforgettable centenarian Irene Milne, who passed away peacefully on Dec. 20 at age 102. She served as pianist for the Dakota House Dazzlers choir for 12 happy years and will be remembered by many Manitobans for her phenomenal skills on the piano. May she rest in peace…
Our new centenarian, Frank Singer, was honoured at a birthday tea at Dakota House on Dec. 2. The head table included Frank and Margaret, another Dakota resident; and from the Czecho-Slovak Benevolent Association, Mr. and Mrs. Vilemm Kun and another woman who read out a congratulatory letter from Petr Burianek, consul general of Czechia in Toronto, who eloquently expressed admiration for Frank’s “dedicated work within the expatriate community,” and thanked him for not forgetting his homeland.
Later, Mr. Kun gave me a written account explaining why the consul sent congratulations to “such an ordinary honest hard-working person who was not a doctor, artist or politician — (it’s because) Frank has lived his life as a good hard-working person without any trouble with people or the law.”
Frank expanded on Mr. Kun’s account of the traumas he experienced in Europe which became an overpowering influence on his life.
Soon after his birth on Dec. 2, 1921, and his father’s early death, Frank’s German mother, who had to work to support herself, handed him over to his paternal grandmother.
“I loved her as my mom — she was my caring mom,” he said.
However, when he was eight, Frank’s remarried mother took the boy back to help look after his three half-siblings.
In 1938, Frank was drafted by the Czechoslovakian army when the country was mobilizing against Hitler. After the subsequent German occupation, he was deployed as a drafted German soldier to the Russian front, captured, and spent three years as a prisoner of war.
Upon returning to Czechoslovakia in 1946 and learning the upholstery trade, he could not find employment because he’d been a German soldier, so he fled to Austria. Within six years there he met and married an Austrian girl named Charlotte and got a job as a hydro lineman. But life was not easy so they emigrated to Canada.
In Winnipeg they improvised as school caretakers and as butler and cook for a car company manager, until Frank became chef on a CN dining car, mainly on the Winnipeg-Banff line, until retirement.
Interested in new experiences, Frank skated with his wife until 80 and learned to play the piano in his 90s, a carry-over from singing and playing on his Hawaiian guitar at the Czecho-Slovak Association. Compatriots from the association remember him fondly from picnics where, chef-like, he’d portion a roasted pig.
Nowadays, at Dakota House, Frank participates in Wii bowling, where he once scored 298 points out of 300. In cribbage, his partner for two years, Sylvia, remembers him as a “kind person scrupulously fair and honest, with a mind as sharp as a tack.” At present he plays cribbage with Margaret, who doubles as his piano partner.
“I’m not afraid of dying,” Frank said. “My wife was cremated and her ashes sent to Austria as she’d requested. But I like Canada. Our son lives here, and I will be buried here.”
Congratulations on your 100th, Frank. Stay safe.
Anne Yanchyshyn is a community correspondent for St. Vital. Email her at email@example.com
St. Vital community correspondent
Anne Yanchyshyn is a community correspondent for St. Vital.