Elsie Helen Chrunyk

Elsie Chrunyk Obituary


On Jan 30, after a brief battle with a subdural hematoma, Elsie passed away at her home peacefully in her sleep during an evening nap with her beloved cat Charlie at her feet. She is survived by her husband of 45 years, Ray and her two daughters Allison and Roxanne Ryback along with extended family here in Canada and Australia.  She was predeceased by her father Nickolas [1956], mother Helen [1976] and brother Gordon [1988]

Elsie was born July 14, 1934 in Kreuzberg [now Fraserwood] Manitoba and the family moved to Winnipeg shortly thereafter. Her cousin, Ann Pomer, a prominent violinist and teacher of that time, encouraged her to begin violin lessons, and thus began her musical career. In 1954, she began playing with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra as a violinist. When Walter Kaufmann, the first conductor of the WSO, learnt that Elsie also played viola in the family string quartet with her cousins Ann and Vic Pomer, he offered to put her on the WSO full time payroll if she made the switch to viola permanent. There she remained a fixture in the WSO viola section for the remainder of her 52 year career. She was also a member of the CBC Winnipeg Orchestra, a founding member of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra in 1972 and was a regular in the pit of Rainbow Stage every summer, right from the very first production Rainbow ever staged, Brigadoon in 1955. She was in the Rainbow Stage pit, sitting on the top stair step every summer from that point on until the mid 1990’s.

Elsie absolutely loved her musical career and all of the people she met that crossed her path. She was warm, friendly, caring and outgoing to not only her WSO colleagues, Royal Winnipeg Ballet Dancers, Manitoba Opera artists, but she conversed with celebrities like Harry Belafonte, Victor Borge, Jim Nabors and Mel Torme [who spent a few moments trying to teach her how to scat] about their families and the rigors of touring. She also embraced the security staff, the cleaning women [who adored her] and all the backstage crew from IATSE that worked at the Centennial Concert Hall and had a kind, cheery greeting for all.  Her warm, endearing and infectious nature made her easy to talk to and confide in. Many WSO newcomers commented to her husband Ray, that Elsie was the very first person to come and introduce herself at their first rehearsal and welcome them to the orchestra and the city making them feel right at home immediately. She just had that gift of being able to strike up 30 minute conversations with complete strangers in a grocery line, doctor’s office, etc and carry on a conversation as if they were long lost friends reuniting after a lengthy absence. She just brightened everyone’s day.

Upon her retirement in 2006, Elsie maintained an active lifestyle with gym workouts 4 times a week at the Rady Center, her second home and there too; she built many more new and lasting relationships. She had the physique and discipline of a ballet dancer and that work ethic kept her young, energetic and vibrant. Now she was attending every WSO classics and pops concert as an audience member and making backstage visits to renew acquaintances. Then there were the long evening walks with the dogs. Elsie was an avid animal lover and over their 45 years together, she and her husband Ray shared their home and love with 6 dogs and 10 cats over that time span with dogs and cats living together in harmony.

She had a long and happy life right to the end and was in good spirits, even on her last day which is all any of us can ask for. Going peacefully in her sleep, at home was truly a blessing.  

As per her wishes, cremation has taken place and there will be no service. A celebration of life is being planned for sometime in the spring. In lieu of flowers, consider a donation to either the Winnipeg Humane Society or the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

"Live each day as if it will be your last because one day it will be."

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