Verona Szpajcher (Bozek)
On March 4, 2018, Verona Szpajcher of St. Paul Extendicare passed away at the age of 96 years. She is survived by her son Jim (Ann), of St. Paul; two granddaughters: Kathie (Jordan) of Whitehorse, Yukon and Elizabeth (Marc) of Orléans, Ontario; one great-grandaughter Isabelle.
Verona Lucille Bozek was born in Coleman, Alberta in 1921, the third child of a coal miner, Martin Bozek, and his wife Veronica, both of whom had immigrated from what is now Slovakia, just before the First World War. In the early and mid-1930’s, Verona moved with her parents to the Evarts district of Alberta, west of Red Deer, to farm. In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s Verona moved with her parents back to Coleman, because of the Depression.
In 1943, she graduated as a Registered Nurse from the Holy Cross School of Nursing, in Calgary. She talked, in amazement, of the first time she saw antibiotics used to save the life of a teenaged girl with pneumonia. In the years that followed, she practiced Nursing in a number of locations, starting at a tiny hospital in Eckville, Alberta, which was a small two story house, with a basement. There were two bedrooms on the main floor, and there were two beds for surgical cases and two beds for medical cases. The small upstairs area held a nursery and beds for maternity cases. The dining room table became the operating table, and the instruments were sterilized in a pressure cooker on the kitchen stove, which interfered with the cook preparing meals. She remembered vividly that, given the post-war baby boom, there were many babies born, and she especially commented on the constant running up and down stairs to answer the phone and get supplies.
After leaving Eckville, she spent the next decade or so nursing at different hospitals in a variety of towns and cities, among them: Coleman, Alberta; Duncan, B.C.; Spokane and Seattle, Washington, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, San Francisco, California. She enjoyed working in Montana with the American Red Cross, with a crew that moved around the state for donations of blood.
In 1957, she returned to the Red Deer area. Over the next decade, she worked as a nurse and a head nurse in Red Deer, Sundre and in Eckville, at a larger hospital, which had replaced the tiny one in the house. In 1964, she married Jan Szpajcher, who farmed a quarter section in the Gilby District of Alberta. In 1969, she started working as a head nurse in Rimbey, at the small Auxiliary hospital. When a larger Auxiliary hospital was built near the main hospital, she transferred there, and nursed there until her retirement in 1986.
In 1986, she bought a house in Sylvan Lake, a town which she came to love and had many friends. She was very proud of her two granddaughters. Her husband Jan passed away in 2012, and in 2013, she moved from her beloved home into a retirement residence in Red Deer. Missing Sylvan Lake, she moved to the Sylvan Lake Lodge. In 2016, she moved to Vegreville Manor, and in 2017, she moved to St. Paul Extendicare.
For Verona, nursing was a calling, and she maintained that there were only two types of nurses: those who had healing hands, and those who didn’t. She had an active and deep interest in the world around her, following current affairs and sporting events on television and in the newspaper. She was a regular with the morning senior’s coffee group at the A&W, for years. She loved movies – especially the old ones – and was an avid reader of a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. Among her favorite authors were Pauline Gedge (who wrote a number of novels about ancient Egypt), Agatha Christie, Jane Austen (she read “Pride and Prejudice” eight times, she said) and Rhys Bowen.
She held a valid driver’s licence until she turned 93, and greatly enjoyed bowling in the local Senior’s league until the age of 88. She attended church when she could, and had a deep and strong faith. She cheerfully confessed to cheating at cards, throwing gutter balls to make sure her score wasn’t too high, and enjoyed a glass of wine while relaxing, or taking a shot of garlic vodka when she had a cold. As she endured her final illness, she became a great-grandmother. Photographs of the little one made her smile, and her face glowed with joy and affection.
The family extends a heartfelt thankyou to the staff and residents of St. Paul Extendicare. While she spent only a few months at Extendicare, everyone worked to make her feel at home. The family deeply appreciates the care and attention to comfort that Verona received at St. Therese St. Paul Healthcare Center. A very special thank you is extended to Lillian Fuyarchuk, Anna Jakubec, Alice Tymofichuk, Ross Betton, Bibiane Foisy, and Doug Olson.
A celebration of Verona’s life will be held in Sylvan Lake at a later date.
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