Music, science, culture, dance, lists and a hat all are part of what made Marj Bodnarchuk the 2022 Prince Albert City of the Year.
Bodnarchuk was recognized with her formal Citizen of the Year Banquet at the Coronet Hotel on Friday evening. She was surprised by the scope of the presentations and honours she received.
“I didn’t realize that there was actual awards and things like that. I just knew there was people and supper and speeches and friends and fun,” Bodnarchuk said.
Bodnarchuk’s volunteering stretches across a wide variety of cultural and community organizations. She said volunteering with groups like Veselka are fun ways to give back. Her volunteering stretches from cultural organizations to music and science.
“I don’t really think of how much I have been involved in because it’s just something I do,” she said. “It’s just regular life and I really do enjoy that life where I can participate and help out and work with others and get things done, accomplish things.
“It’s just so great to live in a community like this. There are so many people who are dedicated to so many things and they are so conscientious and wonderful to work with,” she added.
Bodnarchuk was happy to see so many former Citizens of the Year in attendance. She said they are a really solid group of people who continue to contribute a lot to the community.
With friends, family and people from across her life in attendance. Bodnarchuk said she enjoyed the celebration.
“What a wonderful evening,” she said. “This is the way to celebrate with wonderful friends whose hearts are full of love and caring and dedication to their community.”
The emcee for the evening was former Citizen of the Year Lyle Karasiuk, whose mother Olga Karasiuk nominated Bodnarchuk. At the head table were Kinsmen President Jean-Marc Beliveau, Daily Herald Publisher Donna Pfeil, Karasiuk and Bodnarchuk and her husband John Bodnarchuk.
The first speaker of the evening was friend Jan Olesko who has worked with Bodnarchuk on both Veselka and the Prince Albert Science Centre.
Olesko described Bodnarchuk as a rock during tough times.
“When the world is overwhelming, you tie yourself to Marj,” Olesko said.
Olesko said that Bodnarchuk is always prepared. Whenever they need something at a meeting, she always seems to be able to reach in her purse and find what is needed.
“During one of our Prince Albert Science Centre meetings there was a request. ‘Excuse me does anybody have any tape or scissors,” Olesko said.
After that Bodnarchuk raised her hand and went into her purse and found the objects. On another occasion, they needed a wrench to fix a running toilet and Bodnarchuk reached in her purse and found one because she had been at Canadian Tire that day.
Bodnarchuk was introduced by her daughter Paula Diekma. Diekma congratulated the organizers from the Herald, Science Centre and Kinsmen for being able to actually surprise her when the award was announced in April.
Kinsmen member Wes Moore, on behalf of City Council who were unable to attend due to prior commitments, presented Bodnarchuk with recognition from the City along with a City of Prince Albert Award of Merit.
Belibeau presented Bodnarchuk with the Citizen of the Year plaque. Daily Herald Publisher Donna Pfeil presented Bodnarchuk with a framed image from the Daily Herald when she was named Citizen of the Year earlier this year.
Bodnarchuk was nominated for the award by Olga Karasiuk who chose her son Lyle to make the speech for her. Karasiuk noted in her remarks that it was because of the Prince Albert Polkafest that she saw all that Bodnarchuk could do.
During her own speech, Bodnarchuk presented Olga with a Hope rock in the colours of the flag of Ukraine.
Pfeil, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross and Kinsmen Club president Jean-Marc Beliveau each gave speeches recognizing all that Bodnarchuk has done as a volunteer.
Also on hand were former Citizen of the Year honorees Kris Eggum, Bob Casgrain on behalf of his father Maurice Casgrain, Mitch Holash, Malcolm Jenkins, Dr. Lalita Malholtra, Frank Moore, Harris May and Karasiuk.
Bodnarchuk is not only known for her community volunteering. She also stands out as the ‘Hat Lady’ for always wearing her black hat and the origin comes from a practical place.
“When I was a little girl in Southern Saskatchewan my mother always wanted us to wear hats because in the summer it gets very hot and in the other seasons it was very windy and very cold,” she said. “We grew up wearing hats winter toques, and sun hats in the summer and cowboy hats and straw hats and all sorts of hats.”
When she was in high school the family did not really wear hats in the community, but they did at home.
“Then I went into nursing and at that point nurses wore caps and I spent my career at Holy Family Hospital wearing a nurses cap. I wore it to the very last day the hospital was open,” Bodnarchuk said.
The reason to wear a hat come from a place of practicality and health.
“In the wintertime I always wore hats anyway and then in the summertime I would wear a sun hat or a straw hat. Now it helps keeps me warm because your head can lose so much heat and in the summer, they keep it cool because too much heat without a hat you get heatstroke,” Bodnarchuk said.
She added that it something that just feels right to her.
“I tie mine on with a string because it gets windy and I don’t want my hat to go away and everybody should consider how wonderful it is to wear a hat,” Bodnarchuk said.
The Citizen of the Year Award has been handed out every year since 1958. Winners are chosen by a committee that includes members of the Prince Albert Kinsmen Club and Prince Albert Daily Herald.
Recent Citizen of the Year winners:
2021- Marie Mathers
2020 – Margaret Ferguson
2019 – Janet Carriere
2018 – Felix Casavant and Derek Smith
2017 – Ron and Shelley Horn
2016 – Sheryl Kimbley
2015 – Duane Hayunga