by Phil Ambroziak
Flags flew at half-staff outside city hall last week as colleagues and friends mourned the loss of an individual described as a true pillar of the Meadow Lake community.
City councillor Elaine Yaychuk died in hospital during the early hours of May 27. She was 63.
“During the last few months, Elaine faced significant challenges that kept her from doing a lot of the things she wanted to do,” explained mayor Gary Vidal. “Life became a struggle for her and eventually she lost that struggle. I think we’re less of a community now because of that.”
Born in Kelvington, SK, Ms. Yaychuk came to Meadow Lake in the late 1980s. With a background in education, she completed the last 10 years of her teaching career locally at what was then known as the Store Front School (now Transition Place Education Centre). After retiring, she also worked for former Meadow Lake MLA Maynard Sonntag and was renowned throughout the community for her many volunteer efforts.
“She was an incredible asset in terms of her commitment to education, fundraisers and various community groups,” Vidal continued. “That’s just the kind of person she was – if she thought something was important, she made it happen.”
Elected to city council for the first time in 2009, Ms. Yaychuk served as both a councillor and, until recently, as deputy-mayor. While health issues restricted her from attending meetings regularly throughout the last several months, she would still participate via telephone, whether it be from home or her hospital bed.
Vidal went on to describe Ms. Yaychuk as a sort of mentor for him upon his initial foray into politics.
“She was an incredible ally in terms of helping me adapt to my new role,” he said. “We would spend hours talking. Not only did she become a close colleague, but also a good friend. She will be missed.”
Meadow Lake isn’t the only community feeling a sense of loss following Ms. Yaychuk’s passing. Throughout the years, she worked tirelessly alongside members of Flying Dust First Nation on various projects, fundraisers and other initiatives.
“Any time we needed a helping hand, quick as could be she would be the first person to say yes,” explained Flying Dust band councillor Richard Derocher.
Some of the events Ms. Yaychuk assisted with over the years included the annual FDFN Father’s Day Smash, as well as the First Nations Summer Games.
“She was very instrumental with that – she was probably one of the main people to help us out with the Games,” Derocher noted. “She also did a lot of behind the scenes stuff no one really knew about like making donations to our school and our breakfast program. Elaine Yaychuk was a very beautiful person and we will sadly miss her. I’d like to thank her family and the community of Meadow Lake for sharing her with us. This is a sad day for both communities.”
News of Ms. Yaychuk’s passing was especially hard on the people of Flying Dust, as two band members – Betty Matchee and Howard Lachance – also died last week.
A celebration of Ms. Yaychuk’s life was held yesterday (June 1) in Meadow Lake.
Meanwhile, city manager Diana Burton said the date for a by-election to fill Ms. Yaychuk’s seat at the council table will be determined at the next council meeting scheduled for June 8. The next regular municipal election isn’t scheduled until the fall of 2016.