Pauline Yawney: Mother. Baba. Gardener. Cook. Born March 21, 1923, in Glen Hope, Man.; died Nov. 21, 2020, in Sudbury, Ont., of natural causes; aged 97.
As a daughter to Ukrainian immigrants who built their homestead on the Prairies, Pauline Puhach knew a life of hardship and hard work from her earliest days. Her parents arrived in 1912 and began to make a life for themselves on land outside McCreary, Man. Between building a log home, raising children and trying to eke a living out of unyielding Prairie soil, there wasn’t a lot of time left for leisure. Pauline was the sixth of 11 children and never forgot those early years. She remembers having to ride a bike alone 10 miles into town to pick up supplies. Her voice took on a special tone when she recalled the apple she received as a Christmas gift from a teacher: She’d never tasted one before and said she could still smell and taste that apple some 80 years later.
Pauline set out for Winnipeg when she was just 16 to work as a housekeeper. To hear her tell the story in her no-nonsense way, there were too many mouths to feed at home and she had to do her part.
Pauline’s brother worked in lumber camps near Thunder Bay and met Michael Yawney while working there. The two began conspiring to meet girls and her brother thought of Pauline. Mike and Pauline corresponded through letters for some time before they decided to get married. They wed in a small ceremony in 1943 in Sudbury, where Mike had a job working for the Inco mines. Within a year, they were expecting their first child. They went on to have 14 more children.
Pauline’s days were a steady stream of laundry, gardening, canning, sewing and non-stop cooking. Pauline was a woman of deep faith and, somehow, she found time to make perogies and cabbage rolls for fundraisers at the local Ukrainian church. She was always willing to offer to others what little she had. Everyone who walked through the doors of her home would be treated to a bowl of rich red borscht and a slice of Golden Grain bread.
Pauline was known to speak her mind. But it was this assuredness that was also her strength. She was a formidable woman and was quick to tackle problems head on. She knew early in life the connection between mind, body and wellness and could produce a home remedy for almost any ailment. Pauline had 15 children (plus their spouses, whom she adopted as her own), 30 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren, and she had a unique relationship with each of them.
By her own confession, Pauline Yawney’s one extravagance was flowers. Her husband used to tell her, “you can’t eat flowers,” but she persisted and her house in Sudbury was always surrounded by blooms from early spring until late fall. This is how I think of her now, in her garden, dirt staining her capable, hardworking hands. She stands tall, smiling proudly, while measuring her height against one of her prized sunflowers.
Deborah Yawney is Pauline’s granddaughter.
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