Obituary of Myrtle Surjik
Myrtle died peacefully with family present on Sunday, December 16, 2018 after a long struggle with dementia related illness. The daughter of Stenna Mae (Hall) and Russell Bainbridge was born in Regina, on October 21, 1933. Myrtle graduated from Central Collegiate, then enrolled in a secretarial course at Balfour Tech. Called to the gymnasium on a ruse, she was surprised to discover that she’d been entered in a beauty competition by classmates, as Miss Balfour Tech. From there, Myrtle competed in and won the Miss Saskatchewan Roughrider pageant. Myrtle, dubbed the ‘Dimpled Darling of the West’, was crowned Canada’s first Miss Grey Cup at halftime at an infamous west-east showdown in Toronto in 1951, which saw the Saskatchewan Roughriders lose to the Ottawa Roughriders. Disappointed Saskatchewan fans were buoyed by the sight of the vivacious eighteen year old toting a hastily made faux Grey Cup, which she held up to the cheers of the defeated fans on the long, legendarily, raucous train ride back home to Regina. Myrtle was raised in a rooming house on Victoria Avenue run by her beloved grandmother Myrtle Watt; her mother was a teacher, her father, a mailman, was sadly ill and far away in the Weyburn Psychiatric Hospital for most of her childhood. She embraced the opportunities that the contest offered, enjoying a modelling stint in Toronto, and then as a Stewardess for Canadian Pacific Airways in Vancouver. In 1956, Myrtle met her husband to be, a geophysicist named David Surjik, who walked 30 miles through a record snowstorm to meet her for a post Valentine’s Day date in Brandon Manitoba. They were married in 1956 in Regina and had four children. Myrtle worked passionately for political causes; in particular, the fight for universal healthcare (Medicare) spearheaded by CCF leaders Woodrow Lloyd and Tommy Douglas. Both of these leaders were mentors and friends to this brilliant young lady whose striking beauty was complimented by a sincere and modest personality. ‘Beauty is as beauty does’ was a favourite motto of Myrtle’s. In 1962, the battle between private and publicly covered healthcare was at its peak. Physicians from the UK supporting the new ‘socialized medicine’ were barred from practice at local hospitals, and Myrtle became one of a handful of expectant mothers who chose to have her second baby daughter at home, in solidarity with the new plan. This was seen as highly controversial. Newspapers decried ‘risking the lives of babies for a political purpose’. In 1968, she was appointed as a provincial delegate to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and bravely spoke about what was then a taboo topic – women’s reproductive rights on the national televised programme Take 30. Myrtle was defeated when she ran for city council in 1969, but continued her activism in support of causes like UNICEF, and the anti-nuclear proliferation group the Voice of Women. She was the first woman to sit on the Board of Governors of the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan. ism was so acceptable at that time that a male student ran an article in the university’s paper headlined ‘And Nice Legs Too’ implying that her looks were the primary reason for her appointment. Ironically, Myrtle was, in fact directly responsible for the implementation of wage equity for the female janitors employed at the University. She was shocked that they were paid significantly less than their male counterparts, the justification being that the men were physically stronger. Myrtle’s pleasant but tough as nails debating skills ultimately won over the all-male board, and the women received their pay equality. As an early feminist, Myrtle was also insistent that women need not emulate masculinity in order to achieve their goals of what was then called ‘Women’s Lib’- she said “I won’t wear army boots” and believed that despising fashion and makeup did not make you intellectually superior or undermine your feminist ideals. She graduated with distinction from the Faculty of Social Work at age forty with a B.S.W., going on to work in the community as a mental health worker and later for the Public Service Commission in Human Resources. Seeing the lack of support for families affected by mental illness, Myrtle founded the Schizophrenia Society to address that need. Myrtle received the Canada Health and Welfare volunteer award in 1992 for her work in the field. She also received the University of Regina distinguished Alumnus of the year in 1996. Myrtle’s optimistic personality and kindliness across all barriers of race and class were exceeded only by her bravery, which never let her back down from a fight about ‘what is right’ and ingrained in her children the rule “to never be afraid to stand up for what you believe”. Myrtle was a strong believer in upholding Canadian values, which for her meant not allowing any religious views to ever obscure human rights or gender equality. She found it humorous that this made her be viewed as ‘more right wing’ as years went by. Myrtle’s inner beauty radiated warmth and comfort in the unstinting hospitality offered to all guests in her home, and through a stalwart loyalty to friends and family through thick and thin. Myrtle is survived by her husband and devoted caregiver David L. Surjik; sons, David R. and Stephen; daughters, Myeva (Matt) Surjik-Fox and Lynda; beloved grandchildren: Albert and Anika Surjik, Nicolas Dombowski and Darwin Fox; cousin Clayton Hall of Regina Beach; nieces and nephews: Gregory (Marguerite) Bainbridge, Russell (Sue) Bainbridge, Gary Bainbridge and Michelle Bainbridge of Saskatoon, Larisa (Marco) Bracci, of Ottawa and Kim (Robin) Wheeler Knight of Montreal, Del (Johnna) Surjik Wright of Saskatoon, Lyndon (William) Gurney Surjik of Vancouver, Nadine (Jack) Junek, Bradley (Tara) Surjik, and J’neene (Colin) Ethier of Yorkton, SK; long-time friends: Ruth Smishek, Anne Blakeney, Lou Northcott, Elaine Lund, and Bonnie Dupont. Family wishes to thank the Palliative Care Unit of the Pasqua Hospital for their exemplary care. Relatives and friends will be received for the service at Speers Funeral Chapel, 2136 College Avenue, Regina, SK on Saturday, December 29, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. Interment to follow in Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please make your contribution to the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan, Box 305 Stn. Main, Regina, SK S4P 3A1.
Nos plus sincères sympathies à la famille et aux amis de Myrtle
Surjik 1933 2018..