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Mary Ann Lagace aged 93 years of Swan River, MB, passed away on Tuesday November 28th, 2023, at Swan Valley Health Centre. Mary Ann was born on September 26th, 1930, to Leon and Helen Mlynarski in Poland, immigrating to Canada at three years of age. Growing up on the family farm near Fosston, SK. Mom spent the majority of her time looking after her brother and sister and doing the essential chores.
She looked forward to every day spent in school and was very diligent learner, devoted to her subjects and loved to learn. Even though mom walked for two miles every school day to attend the district schoolhouse, she had hardly missed a day in class. On one occasion during a blizzard, mom felt tired with an urge to sleep but continued her journey back home from school. Upon arrival she had collapsed outside the house door, was brought in and covered with snow to gradually bring her body temperature back up, regaining consciousness. After graduating from Kelvington High School in 1948, mom attended Manitoba Teachers College, graduating in 1952, which launched her teaching career.
Mom’s first teaching position brought her to a one room schoolhouse setting, at the Ruby School District School, where she taught for one year.
After a two-year teaching term at Lenswood School, Mary Ann and Augustine were united by marriage in 1957 at Holy Family Parish in Bowsman and lived there for a short while before relocating to Beaver Creek, Yukon where mom taught at the Beaver Creek School. As Augustine worked for the Bureau of Public Roads before Alaska became a U.S. state and his employment term was over, they decided to move back to the valley and purchased a quarter section situated five miles west of Bowsman in the Lavender district. She taught at Steele School, followed by Bowsman Union School until 1961, during which time a daughter, Cindy, was born. She also taught at Birch River Village School, and then Heyes School during the mid 1960’s.
After the birth of two sons Derwin and Desmond, neighbours helped babysit as mom worked tirelessly to prepare vegetables for freezing, can fruit, bake, raise poultry and maintain a self-sufficient household as she performed the duties of a substitute teacher.
During the early 1970’s Mary Ann accepted an elementary teaching position at Mafeking School followed by a position as elementary teacher at Bowsman School in 1976. She enrolled in two-year summer courses leading to a Bachelor of Education degree presented during a 1978 convocation at Brandon University. By the fall of 1980 Mary Ann, with her family, moved to Lloydminster, AB, where she was fulfilled to begin a teaching position at St. Joseph Elementary School. By the early 1980’s she obtained her Master of Education degree at Regina University leading to a resource teacher position at the Ethelbert Collegiate in 1984. Her focus was on students with special needs for which Mary Ann obtained a high recommendation. She had achieved her purpose in life; her long-term goal of helping others to achieve their full potential. As mom would tell me “Don’t lose sight of your goal; find your interest and pursue it”.
With health issues on the horizon Mary Ann decided to start a home based crafting and custom sewing business, Country Flavour, attending the craft sales over a wide area. This endeavor gave her the opportunity to meet many people, gain new ideas, and cultivate fond memories. Beautiful flower gardens which seemed to compliment each other are a tribute to mom’s love of gardening. She found solitude, a sense of well being, and gratification in seeing flowers in full bloom which could be enjoyed by others.
During 2004 a decision was made to move into Swan River to retire, bringing with it newly planted trees and flowers in addition to a renewed interest in growing large vegetable gardens. Mom’s love of gardening was centered around the book “Why Carrots Love Tomatoes” the bible of gardening, for she would always map out which vegetables were planted next to each other. A farmers market member for twenty- five years, she generously donated her time and guidance when gathering and preparing produce for markets and for her labours a debt of gratitude is owed.
Mary Ann will be sadly missed by her family, her acquaintances, and her many students whose lives were enriched and inspired by a lifelong love of learning and a heart felt desire to put the needs of others ahead of her own.
She is survived by: her husband Augustine Lagace; her brother Stanley (Ella) Mylnarski; daughter Cindy (Henry) Orosz; sons Derwin Lagace and Desmond (Gina) Lagace; grandson Desi Lagace and granddaughter Chloe (Joel) Emerson, and great grandson Carter Emerson.