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EIRA ALICE (BABS) FRIESEN
Born: Apr 01, 1917
Date of Passing: Dec 11, 2008Offer Condolences or Memory
EIRA ALICE (BABS) FRIESEN Born April 1, 1917 in Wales; passed away December 11, 2008 at the Victoria General Hospital, Winnipeg. Eira was predeceased by her parents, John Leslie and Helena Violet Charles and her beloved brother John. She leaves to mourn her passing husband Rhinehart; children, John (Malgosia), Bruce (Joanne), Gordon (Anne-Marie), and Leslie Anne (Ken); grandchildren, Christa, Suzanne, Kiran, Penny, John, Marianne, Charlie, and Tara; great-granddaughter Kymberley; step granddaughters, Monica (Tom) and Jennifer (Larry); step great-grandchildren, Hunter, Nathan, and Lily; and personal friends and associates by the score. Eira attended St. Mary's Academy from Grade 1 through Grade 11 graduation. She obtained a Bachelor of Science with the distinction of Lady Stick from the University of Manitoba in 1939. She worked as a laboratory technologist in Victoria, B.C. for two years. Through this time a deep long distant relationship developed with a young medical student she had met at university, so she returned to Winnipeg to marry Rhinehart Friesen on February 11, 1944. The early years were difficult as the young couple were separated while Rhinehart served in the Army Medical Corps in Goosebay, Labrador and then again when Rhinehart contracted tuberculosis and had to spend a year in the sanitarium at Ninette. They were finally able to set up their first home in Winnipeg in an apartment on McDermot where first son John was born. In 1948 they were thrilled to purchase their first home in Wildwood Park, which was then flooded to the second floor windows in 1950. Eira, John, and new baby Bruce evacuated to Gretna. Once life normalized, Eira flourished as a mother and homemaker with third son Gordon born in 1953 and daughter Leslie Anne completing the family in 1955. Eira was the originator of the Y-Neighbors program, which brought stay-at-home moms and pre-schoolers together for exercise, mutual support, and companionship. The program was so successful, it soon spread city wide and remains so today. Recognizing another need, Eira was instrumental in establishing the Women's Resource Centre at the YWCA in 1973. This was the first such centre offering women information, support, and guidance in western Canada and the model for dozens of social safety net programs and organizations ever since. For over 28 years Eira, or Babs as she was known in the women's community, was the compassionate and caring full time volunteer at the Centre. Eira's influence extended well beyond the YWCA. She was active with her Church, MATCH International, the Winnipeg and Manitoba Councils of Women, Immigrant Women, the UN Platform for Action Committee, and the University Women's Club. She attended the first International Women's Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985, and the follow up conference ten years later in Beijing. She was only prevented from attending Beijing Plus Five in New York in 2000 by failing health. Eira received numerous awards and honors for her many contributions, including the Queen's Jubilee Award, the Premier's Volunteer Service Award, the Medal of Merit from the Girl Guides of Canada, the Paul LeJeune Volunteer Service Award from the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, the 50th Anniversary United Nations Global Citizen Award, and the YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction. In 2003, Eira was inducted into the Order of Canada, and the same year was the recipient of the Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case. Amazingly, in addition to all her community work, Eira still found time to create extraordinarily beautiful gardens, travel throughout most of the continents of the world, and be the chief cook, bottle washer, and organizer of innumerable family gatherings. As her brood of grandchildren grew she reveled in her role of grandmother. Above all, she was a truly loving, dedicated, and supportive wife and mother. Over the past few years, her activities have been restricted due to failing health, but she has kept in touch and current with all the issues of the day through the internet and her international network of friends and fellow activists. The family would like to thank the staff at Tuxedo Villa and Dr. Moran De Muller for their tireless and caring dedication in the face of chronic staffing shortages. They provided her with a safe and loving environment. Special thanks go to her daily companions Lubna, Allison, and Kelly who truly became part of the family. Finally, thanks to Dr. Suss, Dr. Boscow, and Nurse Chris at Victoria Hospital Emergency Department for their compassion and support in Eira's last hours. No flowers by request. To quote from Eira's Order of Canada citation, She has helped countless women to take a stand, improve their lives, and thrive in a community of peers. Donations may be made in her memory to any group supporting this goal. Cremation has taken place. A service in Eira's memory will take place on Monday, December 15, at 11:00 a.m. in Westminster United Church, Maryland at Westminster, Rev. Joan Jarvis and Rev. Robert Campbell officiating. GLEN EDEN FUNERAL HOME 338-7111
As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Dec 13, 2008
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