As Covid reared its ugly head a large group funeral became difficult, perhaps unsafe. Instead of an obituary this is a eulogy by Carol, his wife and partner of 35 years.
Edward Andrew Husack, passed away at St. Boniface Hospital, Tuesday July 28. He is finally at peace, after being moved to four hospitals in seven days.
* WORDS CAN’T EXPRESS WHAT THE HEART FEELS*
When Ed was born on March 9, 1940 to Mary and Henry Husak (yes, that was the spelling then) of Fisher Branch, Manitoba the world was a kinder and simpler place. He grew up on the family farm, with sisters Olga, Eugenia and Marilyn. and he came to tell his own children –son, Randy (deceased) grandson Evan, son Ethan, daughter Lori (Chad), grandson Desmond, stories about how the siblings walked 5 miles through huge snowdrifts in winter to get to school, a place he enjoyed. – The distance had increased with the telling- All four siblings ended up becoming educators.
Back then teachers went to Normal School for their education, presently the castle at Mennonite University. He supported his way through by working in the school kitchen and at Eatons in the candy department. He had options but chose to stay in the Interlake. Some of his fellow students were still friends today.
After only two years of teaching he took his first principal ship and remained a principal for 38 years. Edward and his then wife, Sylvia, and their two children, Randy and Lori, headed to a principal ship at Mary Duncan Junior High in The Pas, and then to Riverside Elementary in Thompson.
Colleagues Ron, Vaughn, and Barb are still good friends. However, concerned about the availability of adequate medical care, and to support the newly widowed, Mary, they moved to Winnipeg, Assiniboine South School Division was where he landed. First, opening Beaverlodge Elementary, then Oak Park High School, then Ecole Charleswood, then as Director of Community Partnerships.
Education and ongoing learning were important to him. Through summer school and evening classes he gained a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Master's of Education in Administration, and Assiniboine South gave him a sabbatical to work on his doctorate in Curriculum Development at the University of Nebraska. It gave him another chance to interact with many of the gurus of the time. He volunteered with OCOD through CITA for two summers teaching administrators curriculum development in Nassau, Bahamas. He was a member of the Lion’s Club in The Pas, President of the Principal’s Association of Manitoba, as well as numerous professional committees.
Books were his favorite pastime and even though they more recently had to be read in large print he still had library books out from before COVID could close the libraries. He loved to read books to Ethan when he was little, talk poets, especially Milton or Shakespeare, with old friends, especially Gerry. Ed did a guest teaching unit to grade 12 English students on Shakespeare, and Milton- ‘Making a heaven out of hell, and a hell out of heaven’. He loved the lively introspective discussion that young people brought with them, and he hoped something else to think about when they finished the class. TV was Murder She Wrote, CNN, CBC and Global News, CSI, especially New Orleans because it brought back memories.
When our son, Ethan, was born it was an unexpected blessing for Ed. He had a chance to parent with many more years of experience and to make time for the things that mattered. Even though Ed was in charge, complete non swimmer, referring to himself as a rock, he still took 18-month-old Ethan to swimming lessons and learned how to play Wheels on the Bus in the pool. Dressing as Dumbledore, and setting up a Quidditch field, and changing the family room into the Great Hall, including owl, stuffed, for a birthday party kept a smile on his face for weeks. A collector by nature, he still kept the mold for the chocolate frogs. Again, it was bringing literature to life. Ed learned to listen more, but Ethan learned the meaning of the term non-negotiable. From the youngest he felt that children should be listened to but children needed to know that a parent was ultimately responsible for being in charge. The hardest thing Ed finally learned was how to sleep when Ethan headed out on two-week wilderness canoe trips as a teenager.
Ed came to believe that travel could be a true learning experience. From the time Ethan was 6 months old, Ed looked forward to it. He learned to believe that travel was as important a learning experience as the classroom. Whether it was cruises, Greece and her Islands, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, Disney World and Disneyland, San Fransisco, Los Vegas, New Orleans where we visited many times before we were married there, Mexico, or Caribbean island resorts, especially many different resorts in his beloved Cuba. It was all a new experience to Ed. He enjoyed the history and meeting new people. His trips when grandson Evan, or son Ethan, travelled with us were special for Ed. The opportunity to travel with daughter Lori, her husband Chad and their son, our grandson, Desmond were memorable. Travel with Irene and Daved gave him pleasure, and a drinking buddy.
Covid cancelled our trip to Cuba for this coming fall. Planning for it was something that kept Ed going. It would have been visit number 17. Between trips he would figure out what we needed to take with us: for Ibuprofen and Tylenol for those staff who needed it, our Cuban family Christmas gifts and school supplies, sports equipment, and what we could fit into the suitcase for the schools there. Chocolate was a given, for tips, for everyone from the waiting staff, to gardeners and cleaners where he would walk by and put a Lindt triple on their carts, and books and games for their children, He had a bit of a chuckle when he found out that whenever we arrived, word would get around quickly that the Canadian Chocolate family was back.
Ed’s family can attest to the fact that Cuba was a constant part of Ed’s discussion no matter what the topic might be. The Cubans taught Ed to hug, everyone who you care about. Coming from a hugging family myself, I appreciated it so much when Ed learned the art. Gifts of rum and coffee given to him were special. A few times a week he would have an ounce of that gifted rum once we were home. At home, every morning without fail, he would want me to check to see if there was anything on Messenger from Cuba, even before our carefully rationed Cuban coffee.
Ed didn’t care for the beach, partially because of his mobility issues, so while I went on my beach walks and collected anything unusual to bring back for Desmond, Ed would watch from the shade at the beach bar and visit with the staff. It was the people, not the beach that kept us going back. Some of Ed’s ashes will be spread on this beautiful island, and also at the cemetery where his ancestors are in Fisher Branch.
Ed was not a religious man; his family was his religion. When Ed was offered a superintendency in the Vancouver School System, in the end he declined it because we would be too far away from family. A little bit of him is in each of his children. Lori, Evan, and Ethan have all chosen the ‘helping others’ route within their chosen professions.
It is difficult to meld two families together. We tried to make his family mine, and my family his. Ed enjoyed visits to Calgary with in-laws Joe and Greta, Kerry and his family, and Lori and her family in Kitchener. Two Lori’s in the family, daughter Lori and my sister, Lori. We frequently visited with his sister Olga and her family on Vancouver Island and Penticton, Marilyn and her family, especially when they were in Fisher Branch. Eugenia and her family are in Winnipeg and when Ed was still driving, he looked forward to weekly coffee together.
The local deer, became his children, too. Fawns have been born in our yard for years. When twins were born in front of Ed while he had his coffee on the deck Ed figured that he had been accepted into their family.
With his son Randy’s passing, we might have been grandparents to his son, Evan, but Ed began to think of Evan as a parent would. Because Evan and our son, Ethan, were so close in age they were often together and were probably more like brothers than uncle and nephew. This absolutely delighted Ed that they were so close.
Grandparents can never see enough of their grandchildren. Ed looked forward to when Desmond would come for the day and help pick the apples, or he enjoyed watching Desmond do his construction projects. When Evan came to live with us for a while, we both tried to learn sign language and we did learn some of the basics, but in the end, it was notebooks or texting to keep in touch. Ed was not a fan of his computer and a cell phone was for emergencies only.
Family dinners were occasions, especially Christmas Eve, both Christmases. To keep his discussions straight they became English and Ukrainian Christmas. He looked forward to filling the house with family and friends and planned for months ahead of Ukrainian Christmas. Together meant more to Ed than anything. With covid we were still planning how we could still have a family birthday for Ed’s 80th, unfortunately, it never happened.
As much as it was an extremely unnerving and exhausting week, it was a worse week for Ed, the number of caring and compassionate medical professionals we encountered in all four hospitals were incredible. Couldn’t mention them all, never met many of them because of the visiting restrictions, but some did very memorable things.
At Grace Emergency, Mark shared his lunch time with Ed and they had a great visit. Smiles and laughs made so much difference. Dr. Reynolds who realized the seriousness of the situation and got Ed to Neurology at Health Sciences.
Dr. Johnson at Concordia who spent more time with Ed and I in such a patient and caring way. He had us both be prepared for an eight week stay which in the end would not be.
To the nursing staff at St. Boniface in the Intermediate Care ward, or the stalls as Ed referred to them- still the farming roots. After ice chips helped conversation, Annie had a lively and humorous interaction with Ed about Cuban rum and the Cuban people and why we go back so often. She told him we were good people. It kept Ed’s hopes positive as we planned our trip to Cuba to visit our “Cuban family”. Ailyn, Arnaldo, Yadixy, and Jannara and their families.
To Dr. Bovell at St. Boniface. He did everything humanly and medically possible to try to solve the situation, explain what was happening, to try to keep Ed as comfortable as possible, and his caring and compassion were genuine. When it became a matter of so little time remaining, he arranged for a quiet private room with a window for what turned out to be Ed’s final hours. Below you will see why that window would be important to Ed. Only Ed and I knew the significance to him.
To Dr. Mark Elkin, our family doctor who listened, helped, and always had a smile for us.
To both our families, neighbours, and friends who have been there for us all. It is so hard when travel is not safe enough yet. To Chad who stepped in when we really needed him. The neighbourhood children who dropped off special notes, telling me Ed was a friendly neighbour, came for hugs, and will always be in our hearts for the “Hi, Ed”, or dropping by to see how the lawnmower ran. To Ethan’s friends who have been there for us both. To Lori and Evan’s friends and colleagues for being there for them, too.
To former colleagues, Ed respected your differences, strengths, and creativity and felt you and the students had to come before the board office. He welcomed female principals and vice principals before it just became the norm. Innovation was prized and encouraged.
To the staff at Chapel Lawn, especially Cody, who helped Ethan and I through the planning in such a professional, respectful and understanding manner.
A private immediate family funeral has been planned. Hopefully it won't be too long before we can visit with family and friends in a celebration of Ed’s life.
I believe Ed’s name was pretty high up on that angel’s list of those who loved his fellow person. That great waking light took Ed from us all on July 28, 2020. He is at peace.
If you wish to acknowledge or honor Ed’s life, he would appreciate a donation to Siloam, Main Street Project, United Way, plant a tree, or do a kindness for someone you don’t even know. Add yourself to Ben Adhem’s list.
BE AT PEACE, LOVE.