A Life's Story
January 05, 2019
Passages 2018: prominent Manitobans
A former provincial justice minister. The first captain of the Winnipeg Jets. A trailblazing woman. A friend to immigrants. The creator of a snack food that has satisfied generations.
They are just a few of the prominent Manitobans who died in 2018.
Winnipeg-born Ab McDonald was a four-time Stanley Cup champion in the National Hockey League.
McDonald, who died in September at 82, returned to his hometown to become the first captain of the World Hockey Association’s Winnipeg Jets in 1972. McDonald scored the team’s first goal, and went on to score 28 more (along with 41 assists) in 147 regular-season games played until retiring in 1974.
McDonald was also the first captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins when the team began play in 1967, the year the NHL expanded from six clubs to 12.
McDonald played 14 seasons in the NHL and hoisted three Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens between 1957 and 1960, and one more with the Chicago Blackhawks (1960-61). He was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
“The harder you work, the easier it gets,” McDonald told the Free Press in 2016, when he turned 80. “And, if it’s fun doing it, it’s not hard work. It’s a crazy circle.”
Roland Penner, who died at 93 in June, was a law professor at the University of Manitoba and the founding chairman and president of the province’s Legal Aid system when he was elected as a NDP MLA in 1981.
In Howard Pawley’s government, Penner served as attorney general, as well as holding other portfolios. He worked on implementing French-language services in Manitoba at a time when there was pushback even from the Supreme Court of Canada.
“The impacts that he had affect the day-to-day lives today of Manitobans and Canadians in ways that are lasting,” said Lorna Turnbull, former dean of law at the U of M.
Penner served in the Second World War with the Canadian artillery in Europe, enrolling at the U of M after he returned. He was called to the bar in 1961, and was still practising law when he began teaching legal classes at his alma mater.
After leaving politics in 1988, he served as dean of the U of M’s faculty of law from 1989 to 1994.
Marty Dolin could understand what it was like for a refugee to settle in a new country, because he moved to Canada as an adult.
Dolin, who died last February at 78, was the former executive director of Welcome Place and, while there, he helped thousands of refugees settle in the province.
He was a native New Yorker from the South Bronx who might have never come to Winnipeg — let alone Canada — if he hadn’t heard about a Czech airliner crashing in Newfoundland and an urgent need for blood donors. When Dolin and his wife, Mary Beth (who went on to become a NDP MLA for Kildonan from 1981 to 1985) travelled to Halifax to donate, they were awed when they saw people lined up for five blocks in the rain to give blood.
“I can’t imagine any other country doing this,” Dolin told the Free Press when he retired in 2011. “That kind of empathy and that kind of supports is why Canada has done well. Canadian people want to help and they want to help refugees.”
Dolin was elected as MLA to replace his wife after she died of cancer, and served two years in the legislature.
Jessie Lang would have been pounding the streets with suffragettes stumping to get the vote if she’d been born a few decades earlier.
As it was, Lang, who died in March at 102, was still a trailblazer for gender equality.
Lang — whose accomplishments were the first to be featured in the Free Press Passages section feature, A Life’s Story, the replacement for the annual list of notable passings through the year — was one of 10 women to be honoured with a Nellie Award at a gala in 2016, celebrating 100 years of women’s right to vote in Manitoba.
After graduating from Wesley College (the forerunner to the University of Winnipeg), she became the first woman hired by an insurance company where the policy had been to hire men only.
Decades later, Lang became a member of the University of Manitoba’s board of governors, and then joined the Health Sciences Centre board of directors, becoming its first female chair. While in that position, Lang helped establish an employee daycare so mothers could remain in the workforce.
Lang also founded the Winnipeg chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society in the early 1970s after her daughter was diagnosed with the condition, and helped other chapters open across the country.
“She said, ‘I always did what felt right for me,’” said her daughter, Signy Hansen. “She was an amazing woman.”
For many years, Sam Fabro was a giant in sports in Winnipeg.
Fabro, who died Jan. 2 at the age of 97, came to Canada from Italy a year after he was born, became prominent in both business (wholesale floor-covering distribution) and in local sport.
Fabro played hockey with the Winnipeg Rangers and helped them win the Memorial Cup championship in 1941. That’s when, thanks to sports columnist Vince Leah, he got the nickname “Slippery Sam,” which was later shortened to Sam. His real first name was Ronald.
He also played football for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before joining the army in the Second World War.
Later, Fabro served as chairman of baseball for the 1967 Pan American Games, director of Winnipeg Enterprises Corp., from 1967 to 1983, founding chairman of the Manitoba Hockey Players Foundation and co-founder of Manitoba Marathon.
For those accomplishments — among others — he was honoured with both the Orders of Canada and Manitoba, and he was inducted into the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame.
To be elected as the member of Parliament for Churchill, Bev Desjarlais had to defeat the face of Manitoba’s opposition to the Meech Lake Accord.
After her electoral triumph over Elijah Harper in the 1997 federal election, Desjarlais, who died in March at 62, went on to serve two more terms.
Desjarlais was born in Saskatchewan and worked more than two decades at the hospital in Thompson while also acting as a union steward with the United Food and Commercial Workers union. She was first elected to the local school board, serving as its chairwoman.
Her opposition to same-sex marriage caused her to split from the NDP in 2005, to sit as an independent, later losing the NDP nomination to current MP Niki Ashton.
Douglas Everett was the originator of “jump to the pump.”
Everett, who founded Domo Gas and went on to become a Manitoba senator, died in March at 90.
He founded Domo Gas in 1958, on his family’s Dominion Motors car dealership property, and it grew from there. There are now 80 stations between Winnipeg and the West Coast.
Everett was appointed a Liberal senator in 1966, but left the party to sit as an independent when he sided with the Tories, who brought in the GST in 1990.
Hilda Wood lived a long life — so long that she was the 49th-oldest Canadian on record.
Wood, who died in January at 110, lived her entire life in Winnipeg, volunteering at her church and the Grace Hospital Auxiliary, and raising a daughter. Her husband died in 1971.
Wood became known as a supercentenarian after her 110th birthday and lived in a seniors block until she moved into a personal-care home just days before her death.
Elmer Courchene was a residential school survivor who, decades later, helped craft the settlement agreement for residential school victims.
Courchene, who died in December at 82, was from Sagkeeng First Nation.
He became a longtime elder with the Assembly of First Nations and helped shape numerous Indigenous policies with the federal government.
Saul Cherniack did a lot during his 101 years. He was a lawyer for more than half a century, was part of the Intelligence Service during the Second World War translating encrypted Japanese messages, was a NDP politician and was active in the Jewish community both provincially and nationally.
Cherniack was elected as a school trustee, then a city alderman and councillor, before becoming a NDP MLA for St. Johns from 1962 to 1981, serving as deputy premier and minister of the Finance and Urban Affairs departments in premier Ed Schreyer’s government. He played a large part in the amalgamation of Winnipeg and its surrounding municipalities into Unicity in 1972.
He later became chairman of Manitoba Hydro and was a founding member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees Canada’s spy agency. He was honoured with both the Order of Manitoba and the Order of Canada.
With the passing of Paul Faraci, many Canadians shed a tear — and then ate a pizza-filled pocket of dough to remember him.
Faraci, who died in February at 89, was selling burgers and fries at a restaurant on Sargent Avenue when he came up with the idea of what became the Pizza Pop in the 1960s.
When Pizza Pops took off, Faraci closed the restaurant and focused on product distribution. However, when Faraci wanted to add more flavours and his two business partners disagreed, he sold out to them. Those partners later sold the rights to Pizza Pops to Pillsbury.