Six generations and counting

William Protzak speaks only in Ukrainian as his eyes focus on the newborn just a short distance away. One word sticks out: baby.

Living in Wallace House at the Yorkton & District Nursing Home, Protzak celebrated his 105th birthday a day early on July 27. He is one of Saskatchewan's oldest residents.

He met one of his 18 great-great-grandchildren, newborn Sloane Anna Berg, for the first time that day. His love for his family was clear as mother Jennifer Hudson brought her baby over to meet Protzak.

He recognizes his family members and speaks to them often. He still understands English but speaks mostly in Ukrainian now that he is older.

Protzak immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in 1927. He lived in Saskatoon after working a variety of farm jobs around Saskatchewan. Following that he moved to Parkerview, where he farmed until 1965. He met his wife Mary Kolibaba during this time, after their parents decided to "set them up," explained his daughters Anne Bobyk and Iris Berezny. The two were wed in 1931.

He spent the following 20 years on a farm in Insinger. His farming lifestyle finally settled down when he moved to Yorkton in 1985. Protzak continued gardening, his favourite hobby, after his wife, Mary, passed in 1992.

His daughter, Anne Bobyk, lived with him until he moved into the nursing home. She watched him garden by himself until he was 100 years old.

Although he no longer gardens, he is more than willing to give advice to Debbie McLelland, a staff member at the nursing home.

"He's always telling me what I need to do in that garden. 'The potatoes aren't right, that's not right,' but he tells you," she said with a smile.

His daughters are not sure what has kept him in such sound mind for so long, but attribute not smoking or drinking and eating his garden's produce to his health.

Son-in-law Tarras Berezny attributes Protzak's health to his faith in God and hard work.

"He's always got something funny to say, never unwilling to participate in activities, do exercises, go outside or go to church," said McLelland.

Protzak's family has six living generations, which is quite a feat. Four of his five children are still living after his daughter, Olga Thies, passed last year. Beyond that he has 19 grandchildren, 18 great-great-grandchildren and three great-great-great-grandchildren.

Another woman at the nursing home is 105 years old and a small handful of people older than Protzak live in Saskatchewan.

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