August 17, 1944 - November 22, 2017
“Your wings were ready but our hearts were not”
- Unknown Author
Free Press Obituary
As Published Saturday, November 25, 2017
We are deeply saddened to announce the peaceful passing of Judy at Golden Links Lodge.
She leaves to mourn her husband of 47 years Ernie, daughter Tanis (Gerry), grandson Logan, Gerry's children Brady and Skylar, "other daughter" Cheryl (Murray) and personal shopper and best friend Judy (Tim). She is also survived by her brother Richard (Deedee), sisters Tillie, Isabel, Margaret and Betty (Paul), brothers in laws Stan, George (Linda), Glen (Connie) and Dan, sisters in laws Lil, Elaine (Bob) and numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.
In keeping with Judy's wishes cremation has taken place and a funeral service will be held at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church at 1541 St. Mary's Road, Winnipeg on Friday, December 1, 2017 at 1:00pm.
In lieu of flowers donations may made to Golden Links Lodge and Palliative Care Manitoba.
Memories, Stories and Condolences
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As Spoken at Judy's Celebration of Life by only daughter Tanis
Mom was born Julia Rosella Wirgau on August 17, 1944, but until about 10 or 15 years ago we always celebrated her birthday on August 18th. When I asked why, she told me it was the day grandma had always celebrated it. We joked it was because there were so many children in the family grandma couldn’t keep track of the day.
Mom came from a blended family of seventeen. She explained it simply; yours, mine and ours. My grandparents were both previously married and their spouses passed leaving them as young single parents. When they married they had thirteen children between the two of them and then they had four more children together. My Mom was the second eldest of what my younger cousins and I called “The Final Four”. Many of my Mom’s nieces and nephews were the same age as her and became playmates and friends.
She grew up in Kerry Settlement near Woodridge, Manitoba. They lived in a two-story farmhouse that early on didn’t have plumbing, electricity or a phone. The one room school house she attended of course required her to walk up hill both ways, was down the road. She often talked about when she was young her siblings would come home for the weekend. She said you would feel lucky to find a bed with only two sleeping in it. She said you would just crawl in and be happy to have a place to sleep.
Mom’s love of the outdoors comes from growing up on the farm. She preferred milking cows, tending the pigs, working in the garden or the fields over housework. Her niece Shirley shared a story about the mischief they use to get into; when visiting the farm they would often steal peas and gooseberries, chase the chickens around the coop and even harass the pigs by jumping on the tin roof. The result of this mischief? One day the tin roof came crashing down; with the pigs squealing and my Mom and Shirley screaming while my grandpa was yelling! She and her niece Bev enjoyed jumping on the haystacks too and as they got older they would attend dances together.
Mom’s love of music started at a young age. I was told it was at the age of twelve grandma ordered Mom her first guitar from the Eaton’s catalogue and she taught herself to play. It wasn’t long after little brother Richard wanted to learn too. Grandma ordered him a guitar and Mom taught him to play. When Mom moved to the city she would return to the farm on weekends where Uncle Richard would have the guitars tuned and ready for them to play. This love of music lasted a lifetime and at a young age I thought every family pulled out guitars at family gatherings and dinners. As I grew older I realized just what a unique and special gift this was. Many of you may not know but Mom could also play piano by ear. They did not have a piano but she would play on the one at the schoolhouse. I have to admit when I was taking piano lessons I had many frustrating years of practicing only to watch her sit down and tickle the ivories to whatever song was in her head.
In her younger years She and her sister Betty enjoyed staying in the city with big sister Emma and husband Stan and would often come home with playing cards. Auntie Betty, Mom, Uncle Harold and Uncle Richard liked to play cards, until they would get mad at Uncle Harold for cheating and grandpa would throw the cards into the wood stove.
As Auntie Betty and Mom got older they would go to Saturday night dances in Woodridge with big brother Louis. Mom also enjoyed watching the Woodridge Braves play baseball; brother Richard and Harold played for the team.
When Mom moved to the city she took a typing course and after a couple of jobs she settled in with George H. Young, where she would retire from. She was a billing clerk and was known for her strong work ethic. She was never scared to share her opinion and often mothered the young girls, gave the guys a hard time. She was even known to walk into the President’s office to ask for a raise or whatever she thought was needed. She had worked for his Dad and had watched him grow up. She loved her time there and the relationships she formed, some even became like family like Auntie Joy and Uncle Teddy.
In 1969 she met my Dad; they met on a blind date. Their friends Joan and Harold Radke set them up. I don’t know if it was my Dad’s good looks, fancy cars or his charm but their courtship was short and they were married May 30, 1970. They went to Europe for a six week honeymoon where they would purchase a car to travel. Mom talked about how the honeymoon almost ended in divorce over maps and traffic circles. In spite of these challenges, this began their love for travelling. They would go on to travel to many places including; Acapulco, Spain, Barbados, Puerto Vallarta (multiple times), Ixtapa, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Cancun, Hawaii, multiple US states and all across Canada. They even returned to Eastern and Western Europe, this time Europe was a bus tour ensuring no arguments over maps and traffic circles.
After Mom and Dad married they moved to their house at 476 Speers Road where my Mom resided until her stroke and my Dad still lives. It was a little nine hundred square foot bungalow on a huge lot that would fuel Mom’s love of gardening. I believe they thought it would be their first house and they would move but the neighborhood was such a good fit it never happened. The neighbors became family and when I arrived in 1972 the neighborhood was full of great people and lots of kids including; The Romanos, Boyers, Oulettes, Stapleses, Delitches and Isenbergs. There were New Year’s Eve Parties with an annual football game at midnight; East side vs West side; Grey Cup Parties and just because parties. The Mom’s had countless coffee dates. The baby monitor was simply calling each others’ house and leaving the phone off the hook so you could enjoy coffee and a chat but know when your baby was up from a nap.
Our house was always full of laughter, friends, family and good food. Mom was known for her amazing roast beef, roast pork full with parsnips and carrots and she made the best gravy. She learned art of gravy making from my Grandma Penner. With my Dad being a long distance truck driver it was not uncommon for dinner parties to happen mid week. I am still amazed at how she pulled off these dinners in a kitchen that was so tiny Mom she could barely move around to cook. It wasn’t until around 1990 my Mom got her dream kitchen when the house addition happened. This meant the dinner parties and gatherings could be bigger and better then ever.
When I was 4 Mom enrolled me in T-ball (after a short stint in gymnastics). This introduced me to one of her loves and I would go on to play fastball in my teens. Through the years of ball lifelong friends were made not only for me but for my parents. During this time was when my Mom and I began watching the Toronto Blue Jays. When Dad was on the road we would spend many hours watching games together and cheering on our team. If Dad was home you could sometimes find the TV on the deck with the game on and the Lozinskis over. To the end Mom had a love hate relationship with her team.
All my friends were welcome to our home. In our younger years Mom got upset because they cleaned out the homemade cookies she had just made the day before. Later on I thought of her as a cool Mom, she would let me have parties. In my early twenties there were even times I would phone home after a slow pitch tournament asking if I could have the team back for a BBQ and her response was always “sure just remember the old lady likes a beer too.”
Mom and Dad’s yard was their passion. As soon as it was warm enough you could find her working in the yard until the sun went down. She would come into the house with black hands and knees. She and Dad would sit back and admire their hard work but there was always room for improvement and plans for next year. We joked that some of the shrubs must have wheels because they moved so many times. The grass was velvet and the flower beds so full you couldn’t see the ground. The pots overflowed with geraniums. It was not uncommon for admirers to stop on walks and compliment them. I always asked her advice when it came to plants and she seemed to know everything.
When her only grandchild Logan arrived she was over the moon. She would do anything for him and loved spending time with him. When I asked Logan about his fondest memory with Grandma it was the surprise trip to Disney they took us on. (He found out an hour before we were leaving.) He also said he just loved spending time with her and having her rub his back or arm to put him to sleep. She gave great cuddles he said. Grandma even claims to have potty trained him and taught him to crawl. In the last few weeks I asked Mom what we should buy Logan this Christmas and her response was “everything”. I stole a Star Wars analogy from my cousin Kristine and reminded Logan that when grandma went to heaven our Force Field up there just got a lot stronger.
Family was such a huge part of Mom. I often never felt like an only child, and I wasn’t for a few years because when my cousin Cheryl lived with us she became like a big sister. Mom loved giving us advice that was solicited or unsolicited. Her siblings were important to her and before her stroke it was not uncommon to find Mom at the kitchen table with the phone in her hand catching up with her sisters and brothers on a weekly basis. Even after her stroke she continued on as our matriarch. If you needed to know something about the family you called my Mom. She wasn’t a gossip she was just in the know. She initiated the first annual Wirgau Family BBQ in 1992, which has carried on since. The Wirgau clan is truly the littlest big family. At a recent party for out town family I looked around the room full of nieces, nephews and siblings and knew each family member in that room represented something special to my Mom. That goes for all her family, both sides.
Mom had a way about connecting with people. As gruff as Mom’s exterior was she had a huge heart. Things were black and white for her and maybe that was why so many gravitated to her. From acquaintances to lifelong friends she left a lasting impression. Unique, feisty, a woman with conviction, and a woman who did not mince words. Those are words I am proud to have heard used to describe my Mom.
My Mom was fortunate to have many amazing friendships and one of the most special was her late nephew’s wife Judy (remember that part about nephews being her age). Judy has been Mom’s friend forever. Mom stood up at their wedding and the rest is history. When Judy moved away from Winnipeg I know there were countless phone calls and when she would come back to visit you knew there needed to be some serious girlfriend talk when I was banished from the kitchen. Even after Mom’s stroke Judy would send weekly uplifting letters to Mom while she was in the hospital. After Judy moved back to Winnipeg the only change was coffee and girlfriend dates were at Golden Links Lodge. Her friendship also took on the important roll of personal shopper to ensure my Mom’s pre stroke level of style was maintained. She was by my Mom to the end.
I was blessed to spend every day of Mom’s last three weeks with her. She truly was a rock star at Golden Links Lodge. I couldn’t walk down the halls with out a hug or someone asking me to pass on thoughts to her. Other residents, their families, nurses, health care aides, cleaning staff, kitchen staff, administrative staff; All the staff and everyone who came to Golden Links loved her. It was an amazing feeling to know these were the people who cared for her and loved her too.
Mom was one tough character, the stroke tried her but she never gave up hope. The cancer may have cut her journey with us short but in my mind she still beat it. She left us on her own terms gracefully, peacefully and most importantly pain free.
The stories and words I could share are endless. I haven’t even talked about her love of curling, coffee club or the endless acts she has done for others. I have tried to give you a glimpse of the pieces of my Mom you may not have known. This is such a small sliver of the larger than life person she truly was. I know everyone has their own Judy story. Some stories I may have heard and couldn’t retell at church and others that I am looking forward to you all sharing with me.
Please remember even though the years after her stroke were tough, she truly loved life and loved all of those who were a part of her life. In my memories I will always be able to hear her big laugh and feel her love around me.
My family and I are so grateful for the support of everyone in our lives. The support has truly held us up during this journey. My Mom has taught me so much, sometimes without me even realizing the lesson at the time. I am blessed to feel those lessons will continue to come to me through her memory.