While the bride and groom of a 75th wedding anniversary are traditionally expecting diamonds, it is family that brings sparkle to the lives of Bill and Anne Shewchuk. And on this approaching November 1st, 2020, because of the pandemic spreading across the world and even crawling into the prairie city of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, there won’t be a big family gathering that the Shewchuk’s are so well known for.
Anne was born on October 5, 1924 in the Galician region of what is now western Ukraine. She and her mother joined their father in Canada when Anne turned 6 years old. They settled near Stenen, Saskatchewan and began the exhausting days of creating a farmyard, garden and fields. Bill’s family came from the Bukovina region of Ukraine and homesteaded near MacNutt, Saskatchewan. Bill was born here on December 22, 1921.
As God plans, in June of 1945, Bill had an aunt and uncle who lived near Anne. They invited her to go for a Sunday drive to attend a church service in MacNutt. The two youth met at church, met a few more times, and by mid-October, Bill asked Anne to marry him. Anne laughs as she recalls them walking back into the house. Her dad took one look at her happy expression and said, “Ya, when’s the wedding?” Well, both their fathers believed in quick engagements and winter was fast approaching. World War II was coming to a close, making a dress, veil and ring tough, but not impossible, items to find. A church was booked. Two weeks later, they were married and their guests were treated to a blustery, but festive November 1, Ukrainian wedding. As the guests entered the Shewchuk home, Anne nods. ‘You’ve been to Ukrainian weddings. There was clapping and dancing and singing. The villagers were greeted to folk songs, polkas and kolomyjkas from the accordion, fiddle, and tsymbaly. We ate, sang, danced and celebrated. My one regret is that I have no picture of my wedding day.’
Celebrations came and went and so did hard work and hardships. They used their backs and know-how to create their home, tend animals, work fields and plant gardens. The most heart-wrenching day of their life came when their first baby passed away from pneumonia in his first cold winter.
Looking back, they grew their family into five beautiful children, who then gave them 13 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. For parties, plates are now set at the Queen Elizabeth Court dining room for over 50. Bill and Anne, 98 and 96, laugh. ‘What keeps us going? There is always another event to look forward to! Ukrainian weddings, Christmases, Easters, holidays, first days of kindergarten and then graduations. We even have two great grandchildren being born in the next few months!’
There is no space to tell of the difficulties this couple has overcome. Nor is there time to paint a picture of a couple who has loved their family unconditionally and instilled honesty, hard work, and integrity into this large group. They have no time to complain of what wasn’t, only thankfulness for what they’ve received.
When asked what wisdom they can offer to us, Anne takes in a breath and out comes a flow of poetry. ‘Well…. We had sunshine and rain, tears and laughter. There was sickness and feeling good. Life is a mixture. You have to take these things as they come. But the secret is God’s blessing. Ask God for help for everything. And the Virgin Mary, she has done a lot for me. Don’t ever neglect her. She is the mother of God.’ Bill, Anne’s husband of 75 years, nods, and says ‘Yes, Mom (Anne) knows. Tell the world we thank everyone. Thank God also for all the health we’ve got.”