By Dale Watts
It is an unfortunate fact of life that occasionally a RRC staff member will pass away while still an employee at the college. Considering, as of November 2017, RRC has 1,370 full-time and 541 part-time employees whose average age is about 50 years, perhaps it should be less surprising to us when one of our colleagues passes. Over 1900 employees represent the size of a small town.
The shocking and sad loss of a current employee has happened in Civil Engineering Technology four times over the decades. The four individuals were Edward Smendziuk, Robert Kwok, Gary Giesbrecht and Vivek Sharma. Accordingly, the Department decided it would create a memorial wall to commemorate the service of these individuals to their students, peers, department and the college.
After consultation, and with the assistance of Todd Birtwhistle and his cabinetmaking apprentices as well as RRC’s Facilities Building and Construction Department, Civil Engineering Technology has created a beautiful wood memorial wall which is situated just outside the entrance to the Civil offices. With the assistance of Kelley Larkens, Brookside Memorial, four granite plaques have been engraved and erected memorializing the four individuals.
On Thursday, November 16, 2017, the Civil Department unveiled the plaques and held a memorial event in the Selkirk Lounge for approximately 50 staff and guests, which included representatives of the deceased members’ families.
Following some administrative reminders from Civil Department Chair, Sheri Bielert, former Dean of Construction and Engineering Technologies, Dale Watts, offered a few opening remarks which was followed by food and beverages.
Former Department Chair, Ralph Caldwell, who had worked with all but one of the deceased employees, took over as Master of Ceremonies for the memorial part of the event. In each case, he related some personal anecdotes reflecting his memories of these instructors,then asked a close colleague or friend to eulogize the individual.
Dan Demedash,retired Instructor, spoke about Edward Smendziuk. with whom he had worked for over 20 years. Brian Little spoke about Robert Kwok, whom he had known since Robert’s time as an Instructor at Keewatin Community College, now University College of the North (UCN). Lilliane Tremblay, a fellow instructor in Mathematics, spoke about Vivek Sharma. Sheri Bielert, a faculty colleague at the time, spoke about Gary Giesbrecht
These admired and respected individuals, lost too soon, were great contributors to their families, communities, students, department and Red River College. However, they live on in the memories of those whose lives they affected, particularly their students and colleagues at RRC.