Mary Kiszka (nee Katelnikoff) passed away peacefully at Parkland Integrated Health Center in Shellbrook on July 30, 2022 at the age of 89.
Mary was born on May 27, 1933 to Sam & Polly Katelnikoff and lived with her parents and four siblings on the farm east of Marcelin. She attended Ottawa School, a one-room country schoolhouse near Marcelin along with her little sister Alice who was her constant companion growing up. At the tender age of 16 she met her one and only true love and soul-mate Joseph Kiszka. They were married on September 27, 1949 and shared 55 years together until they were parted by his death.
Together they worked hard to build a life centered on farming and family. Over the years they were blessed with four children, raising them with a firm yet loving hand and instilling in them their values of integrity, honesty, faith, and work well done. Mary always loved her family with her whole heart, brooding over them like a mother hen constantly concerned for each one’s well-being, even after they were all grown up. She cherished her grandchildren, enjoying their many visits and always kept a sharp eye on them even when she sent them outside to play so she could “watch her stories” on TV. She was equally proud when her great-grandchildren came along.
Mary was an extremely hard worker as a farm wife, taking up the duties of farm hand in addition to her household chores. She worked alongside her husband in the fields using teams of horses and threshing machines and tended to the livestock, feeding, watering, cleaning barns, milking cows – whatever job needed to be done. Her household chores, laundry, cooking (including for threshing crews helping at harvest time) were all done without modern conveniences and involved hauling in firewood and buckets of water to be heated up on the old wood cookstove. Yet somehow she managed to find time for her children and to make each one feel special.
She was an avid gardener, growing beautiful flowers and a huge vegetable garden – the overabundance was always shared with friends, neighbours, and relatives – after she had canned, preserved, pickled, and frozen enough for her own family’s needs. Each summer she would look forward to berry picking; there were always jars full of jam and canned fruit. This past year she was able to do “visual gardening” enjoying the big planter outside her window full of flowers, lights, and seasonal displays.
She was an excellent cook, mostly self-taught and seldom using an actual recipe. With her husband’s help she learned to prepare the traditional foods they both loved – Borscht, cabbage rolls, home-made bread and doughnuts, and she even made her own cottage cheese which she used in her “to-die-for” perogies. She always filled the little old farmhouse with love, warmth, and the aroma of good food cooking and baking.
Mary was skilled at needlework, working at crocheting and beautiful embroidery, often by the light of a coal oil lamp, making wool quilts, and sewing on her Singer treadle sewing machine which she proudly purchased second-hand with money saved up from her Family Allowance cheques.
She had a huge collection of salt and pepper shakers and always appreciated when friends would gift her with a new set as souvenirs from their travels. She truly treasured all her unique little ornaments when she was older and always waited for her family to bring new little trinkets to proudly display.
She had a way with animals, training them well to listen and obey. Besides the normal farm livestock of cows, pigs, and chickens, there was always an assortment of dogs (especially Tiny and Buddy), cats, rabbits, ducks, geese, and bantam roosters all living together harmoniously. She was especially proud of her two orphaned lambs given to her by a neighbour – she had to bottle-feed them but she successfully raised them and had them for many years, using their wool for her quilts.
Mary was a generous and hospitable person. Coffee was always on, everyone was welcome, and seldom a day went by that someone didn’t stop in. If a visitor arrived at meal time there was always more than enough food and an extra chair at the table. Seldom did anyone leave without taking something home – garden produce, baked goodies, jam, pickles, butter, cream – she gladly and willingly shared whatever she had.
She enjoyed get-togethers with friends and neighbours, playing cards, going to dances, and good old gospel, country, and old-time music. Her radio was always on and even in her last years she still tuned in to the Saturday night Old Time Dance Party.
She loved looking through magazines and when her mobility declined her special hobby was her own version of “scrapbooking” – cutting pictures from magazines, calendars, greeting cards, etc. which she glued into scrapbooks to create collages.
Mary was a woman of faith, courage, strength and determination. An amazing character, she did her best to help and encourage others whenever she could. She was honest, forthright, and outspoken – you knew where you stood with her. She could make you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. Only those who knew her well could see the sweetness of her nature behind the sometimes gruff exterior which masked the heart of gold that had been bruised by life’s hardships and hurts. She touched the lives of all who knew her without even realizing the difference she made and the blessing she was.
She endured much suffering, pain, and illness during her lifetime, especially in her later years. She bravely passed through the waters of sorrow and loss, and kept on going, never wanting to be a bother to anyone.
After the loss of her beloved husband she continued to live at the farm for several years with the help of her children looking after her until she could no longer be at home safely and needed to go into long-term care.
She lived the Scripture words of Proverbs 31: 10 -31 – the capable wife, the loving mother, the faithful one who continued to love and pray in her own special way until the day that Jesus opened His arms and said, “Mary, welcome Home!”
Mary is survived by her son, Joe Kiszka; daughter, Lorraine Kiszka; grandchildren: Sheila Kiszka, Dale Kiszka (Tina Shaw), Angie (Tim) Aug; great-grandchildren: Devin Aug and Brendan Aug; daughter-in-law, Debbie Elles; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She is predeceased by her parents: Sam and Polly Katelnikoff; loving husband, Joseph Kiszka; sons: John Kiszka and Rick Kiszka; her brother, Mike (Susie) Katelnikoff; sisters: Lena (Gus) Koolick, Tina (Nick) Kabatoff, and Alice (Peter) Korolchuk.
Special thanks to the doctors, nurses, and staff at Parkland Integrated Health Center, especially the staff at House A, for their kindness, compassion, and excellent care during all the time she was a resident there.
Memorial donations may be made to Parkland Integrated Health Center, Royal University Hospital, or to the Heart & Stroke Foundation.
Service will be held at a later date.
Arrangements entrusted to Eternal Memories Funeral Service & Crematorium – Trevor Watts Funeral Director.