It is with profound sadness that the family of Mary Woloshyn (nee Stefanec) announce her passing on September 30, 2015 at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, MB, at the age of 84. Mary grew up in the Kilkenny area of Manitoba where she met and married Bill Woloshyn the next door neighbours’ son. Mary was predeceased by her loving husband Bill Woloshyn. They have five children together: Peter (Pauline) Woloshyn (Edmonton AB), Tina (Henry) Bazilewich (Winnipeg); Carl (Shelley) Woloshyn (Teulon, MB), Angela (Kevin) Anderson (Narol, MB), Kathy Woloshyn (Ken Miskiewicz) (Winnipeg MB); Lee Woloshyn (Krystal) (Fisher Branch) (grandchild); sisters Anne Kalyta and Pearl Chuba of Fisher Branch; sister-in-law Gladys Grodecki (Saskatoon, SK); and brother-in-law Gordon Slobidnyk (Pat) (Winnipeg). After her schooling Mary left Manitoba and worked for Simpsons in Toronto in her younger years, returning to Fisher Branch to care for her ailing mother.
As her family grew older she worked for Perth’s Cleaners, SuperLite Manufacturing Co. and Nutty Club Candy in Winnipeg before moving back to Fisher Branch, Manitoba to continue farming. Mary grew up the second oldest of three girls and at a very young age recalls having a love for music. She taught herself how to play the guitar and together with her husband Bill would go on to become the founding members of the Interlake Polka Kings; one of the most popular Ukrainian Musical groups in Canada during the 1960s and 1970s.
The Ukrainian Music Association awarded Mary Woloshyn: The Golden Achievement award for Rhythm Guitar and Vocals; a Golden Achievement award (2005) and a Lifetime Achievement award (50 years) for her contribution over the decades to Ukrainian music. Mary loved music and loved to watch the people dance, enjoying performing, and having a good time. She toured Western Canada putting on stage shows and dances in innumerable towns in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and continued playing her guitar and singing during her residence at the Holy Family Nursing Home in Winnipeg until her passing. Mary was a musician, wife, mother, Baba and mentor to her eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
She was one of the most gentle, caring souls that ever walked the earth with a firm set of religious and moral principles and values she lived by. Her soft spoken nature on the exterior was in contrast to the strength and determination of her inner spirit and that we would see on so many difficult occasions throughout her life. She continually sought ways to improve herself, loved reading, playing guitar, composing and translating songs and singing. Baba was an excellent cook, making some of the best cabbage rolls, and pyrogies but famous for her bread and doughnuts. Mary never ended a meal without a dessert of some kind. Even meals in the field always included dessert. She will never be forgotten by her friends and family.
She has left behind a legacy of children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and relatives who will never forget her. Above all she leaves behind music and songs. The saying is, “The Song Never Dies, Just the Singer”. Mary left behind her songs for us all to enjoy. Mom would have wanted all of us to not feel sorry for her, to take care of each other and live our lives in the best way possible. The family would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation for the excellent care given to her at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. In particular Doctor Sharma who struggled to help Mom with her illness, going well beyond what would normally be expected, all the while treating her with the dignity, grace, respect and compassion she so richly deserved. Our thanks also extends to the staff at Holy Family Nursing Home for their excellent care and attention during her two year stay. Mary loved being there.
Every Ukrainian Stage Show and Dance that the Interlake Polka Kings performed ended the same way and it says a lot about what Mom was all about. …..And with the sound of a Gibson guitar softly strumming Mary Woloshyn sings the last song of the last show: Keep on the sunny side; always on the sunny side Keep on the sunny side of life. It will help us every day; it will brighten all the way If we keep on the sunny side of life. Vichnaya Pamyat Services at Fisher Branch Roman Catholic Church, Fisher Branch, Manitoba at 11:00 a.m., Friday, October 9, 2015, Father Harry Chuckry officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Holy Family Nursing Home, 165 Aberdeen Ave., Winnipeg, MB R2W 179. Interment at the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery following the service. FISHER FUNERAL HOME INC. In care of arrangements. 204-372-6271 or 204-372-6803
Publish Date: Oct 6, 2015
MARY WOLOSHYN Peacefully, and surrounded by her family, our loving mother and Baba, Mary Woloshyn (nee Stefanec) of Fisher Branch, MB passed away September 30, 2015 at the age of 84.
Mary Woloshyn’s Autobiography - Interlake Polka Kings
Mary Woloshyn was born on August 28, 1931 to Tiennie and Wasyl Stefanec. She was the second of three daughters.
Mary recalls her love of music at the tender age of eight. She remembers singing everywhere she went. On one occasion she reminisces about the time the cows were grazing in the yard and she was sitting on the fence and she began to sing to the cows. Mary recollects that the cows appeared to appreciate her singing as they lifted their heads and their ears went back and forth as they listened attentively to her sing to them. Mary’s children laugh at this event and tease her that even the cows knew that she was an incredibly talented singer at such a young age.
At the age of 10, Mary’s father purchased Anne, the oldest daughter, a guitar along with a little booklet showing how to play three cords. At the same time Mary’s father purchased her a harmonica. Mary learned very quickly how to play the harmonica and she stated that Anne never expressed an interest in learning to play the guitar.
One day Mary decided to play Anne’s guitar and she ended up teaching herself how to play. This would be the beginning of Mary’s love for the guitar.
Her neighbour, Bill Woloshyn, was very excited when he found out that Mary had learned how to play the guitar. As years passed, Bill would come over to Mary’s house on horseback with his accordion on his back and they would practice playing music for hours; with Mary on the guitar and Bill on the accordion. That was the start of a great musical relationship for her and Bill and maybe the start of a little more than just a musical relationship.
Mary and Bill were married on November 3, 1951. Bill pursued his musical career with the Jim Gregorash Orchestra and Mary stayed at home raising their five children and translating and editing many of her own Ukrainian and English ballads. Little did the rest of the world know that Mary would become a member of one of the great legendary Ukrainian Bands in Canada.
After Bill’s venture with Jim Gregorash, he formed the Metro Playboys band and later changed the name of the band to the Interlake Polka Kings, and in 1962, the Interlake Polka Kings were formed as both Mary and Bill reigned from Manitoba’s Interlake district.
It was then that Mary and Bill would begin a journey of entertaining many audiences, both young and old, with their vibrant toe-tapping music. Their family and fans indicate that the Interlake Polka Kings sound was unmistakeable. You knew when that tune came on the radio, CD, cassette or eight-track you were listening to the Interlake Polka Kings.
Mary and Bill entertained their audiences for over 50 years and they loved to perform, especially for the residents at the Nursing Homes.
Today, Mary Woloshyn is a resident at the Holy Family Nursing Home in Winnipeg, where ironically, at almost 84 years of age, she is still playing guitar, singing and entertaining the residents at the Nursing Home.
She would like to thank the Ukrainian Music Association (UMA) for recognizing her with the Life Time Achievement Award.
While Mary wishes she could have been here in person to accept this prestigious award, she is very grateful and honored to be recognized for her accomplishments in recording and producing Ukrainian music.
She advised that it has been a pleasure entertaining all of you throughout their years of playing Ukrainian music.
In closing, Mary would like to reflect on a few words from Mr. Herb Brittan who was the Manager of Ukrainian Records and Vice President of Canadian American Records Ltd. Herb stated:
“The first time I heard the Interlake Polka Kings was when they played a tape recording for me of some music they had written and recorded. What impressed me most was the intonation and precision. In my opinion there is nothing worse than the sound of musicians playing out of tune. I believe that intonation draws the line between amateurs and professionals whether it be vocal or instrumental. It is two years since I first met the Interlake Polka Kings. They have made many recordings in these two years and they are always particular in regards to the records they release. In some cases they have recorded a song as many as six times before being satisfied that they have made a finished product worthy of the Interlake Polka Kings label. In my daily work, I audition many recordings. There are so many new releases in recorded music that it would take one person 24 hours per day 365 days per year to audition every new recording made. There is a variety to suit every possible taste in music. A radio station program director chooses music to suit the “Image” he wishes to project on his particular radio station and a record manufacturer chooses material that will sell. So, what does a record manufacturer look for when he wants saleable material? Personally, I look for “showmanship”. Then how do I analyze showmanship in a musical group? It is their ability to sell themselves to an audience. This is what I have heard on the first tape recording of the Interlake Polka Kings, “Showmanship”….the ability to sell themselves. And that is exactly what they are doing. They are selling thousands of record albums”.
Mary’s family also would like to acknowledge and congratulate her on this achievement. They are so very proud of their Mother and Father, and Baba and Gydo for giving them the gift of Ukrainian music. The Interlake Polka Kings’ music and legacy that they have left in so many Ukrainian Canadian households, and in our lives are immeasurable, and we are so very thankful that you were an integral part of this beautiful Ukrainian culture.