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Gerald Brien McVay
After a brief illness, fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Church, our beloved husband and father Gerald fell asleep in the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ on the morning of 8 October 2023, at Grace Hospital in Winnipeg.
Professor Gerald Brien McVay was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, on 12 March 1930. He was the sixth and last child born to Arthur Henry McVay and Elizabeth née Thompson, who married at the end of the First World War when Arthur was serving in the Royal Navy. Gerald was Christened at Saint Michael’s RC Church in Westmorland Road. The family resided in the Benwell district of Tyneside, first at 217 Maria Street and later at 113 Barnsbury Road.
During the Second World War, his parents refused to send Gerald and his sister Kathleen to the country with other schoolchildren. They remained instead in the besieged city, which was frequently bombed due to shipbuilding along the Tyne River. Their older siblings were serving at home and abroad in His Majesty’s Armed Services and munitions manufacturing.
Due to his high academic performance, Gerald opted to attend Rutherford Grammar School and afterwards worked as an accounting clerk for an insurance company in Newcastle. At the age of seventeen, he performed his National Service in the Royal Airforce at No. 2 School of Administrative Trades, at RAF Hereford. Although his exam grade was very high, his application for pilot training was rejected, which led him to seek employment abroad. He was hired by the Hudson’s Bay Company at the end of 1951 and arrived in Canada on 10 January 1952. His first HBC station was at Moose Factory on James Bay and then the trading post at Frobisher Bay, NWT (Iqaluit, Nunavut), where he learned a few words in Inuktitut.
In the mid-1950s Gerald settled in Winnipeg and worked in administration at International Harvester. Being very musical and with a lyrical tenor voice, he joined a number of choral ensembles including Young United Church Choir, the Winnipeg Philharmonic, and the chorus of the Manitoba Opera Association. His mentor, Dr John Lehman, encouraged him to further his studies and helped raise funds for him to enter United College (later University of Winnipeg). After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in May 1966, he worked as a psychologist for the Society of Crippled Children. He completed a Master of Arts from the University of Manitoba in October 1969, with a stint at the University of Toronto. He also received an Honourable Mention from the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Subsequently, he was hired as Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Winnipeg, where he taught for fifteen years. Taking early retirement, he continued to teach a full course load in statistics and research methods.
Gerald met his wife Irene in 1964 and they were married the following year. In 1970, saw the birth to their only child, David (Father Athanasius). Irene supported and encouraged her husband through his studies and academic career. In 1975, the family moved to Waverly Heights, which became their home for 45 years. They spent holidays together and made several memorable trips within Canada and abroad. And Gerald supported his family morally and materially until his death.
After becoming a Canadian citizen, Gerald nevertheless remained and Englishman in attitudes and character. He was proud of his Northumberland heritage and often listened to old songs and recited poems in his native Geordie and Tyneside dialects. He kept a pace of Geordies who had made great achievements throughout the world. He was also great devotee of British Comedy and made it a part of his Canadian family’s life.
Out of love for his wife’s heritage, he became very involved in the Ukrainian community of Winnipeg, especially as a parishioner and volunteer at Saint Nicholas, Holy Family, St. John the Apostle, and Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Churches. He had also been a member of Holy Family Knights of Columbus Council 8499. Gerald sang in Saint Nicholas and Holy Family church choirs, in the Ukrainian Millennium Choir and Dumka Choir. He was given the nickname “Slavko” by the Ukrainian old soldiers. Gerald was a long-time volunteer at Holy Family Home. He studied the Ukrainian language and was able to sing responses to the Divine Liturgy and other services in Ukrainian. Even after dementia took much of his memory and speech, he was still able to sing Ukrainian hymns.
Despite his superior intelligence, various difficulties prevented Gerald from completing his doctorate. Nevertheless, he supported and encouraged his son in his academic career and assisted him by proofreading his doctoral dissertation. In gratitude for their enduring support, Dr Athanasius McVay dedicated his first monograph to his parents.
Gerald was gifted with a boundless sense of humour and was the life of every social gathering. He enjoyed nature and song and listening to classical music, especially the great Italian tenors and opera. He was also fond of the classical jazz music of his youth. Gerald looked forward to his weekly breakfasts with friends Chris Kennedy and John Thiessen. In later years, he suffered from heart problems and finally dementia. He was welcomed to Holy Family Home in May 2021, where he was cared for with great love and compassion. He celebrated his 93rd and final birthday with his wife and son at the Home in February. He transferred to Grace Hospital on 11 September 2023 and died the following 8 October.
Gerald was predeceased by his parents Arthur and Elizabeth, his sister Lydia (Leslie), his brothers Harry (Ina), Bill (Rose), his brothers-in-law Ron and Jack, his nephews Kevin and Michael, his niece Katherine, and his beloved mother-in-law Stephanie Korny. He is survived by his widow Irene, his son Father Athanasius, his sisters Vera and Kathleen, nephews Gerald, Paul, Geoffrey, Steven, Peter, Tony, nieces Linda, Lesley, Gillian, Kim, and numerous cousins, great nieces and nephews.
Irene and Father Athanasius are very grateful to each person who accompanied Gerald in friendship, love, and prayer throughout his life. Special gratitude is due to the Basilian Fathers of Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, Reverends Michael Winn, Andrew Wach, Mark Gnutel, and Darren Kawiuk, the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, the staff and caregivers of Holy Family Home (especially Colleen Morrison of Recreation, who generously provided gentle kindness, laughter, and song), the staff of Grace Hospital Unit 3 South, Father Daniel Wach, who administered Holy Anointing at the hour of death, and Peter Tataryn for taking care of Dad’s effects.
The funeral liturgy for the repose of Gerald’s soul will be celebrated by Rev. Dr. Athanasius McVay on Monday, October 16, 2023, at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church – 737 Bannerman Avenue at 10:00 AM.
In lieu of flowers, kindly offer the Holy and Divine Liturgy for Gerald’s eternal repose. Please remember Gerald’s soul and his grieving family in your prayers.
Grant him, O Lord, eternal rest. Царство йому небесне – Вічная пам’ять!