Michael Szadiak was born Saturday, June 25, 1938 in Gronlid, Saskatchewan to Mary and Vincent Szadiak.
Mike had his early schooling in Gronlid and later graduated from The Pas Collegiate. It was Mike’s strong faith that carried him through life facing many challenges and overcoming them.
Mike’s own words are printed in this folder, from an interview with Frank Fieber of Northroots Magazine, April/May 2009.
A polio victim as a child, Mike has never felt sorry for himself. Instead, he’s thrown himself into improving the lives of others with disabilities. His expressive face and bright eyes belie the tortured body below. A polio-quad since 1951, Mike never felt sorry for himself. He got over that soon after getting home from the hospital. His older brother fed him at dinner time and one day he told Mike “here’s your dinner – eat or starve”, so he learned.
Mike organized The Pas chapter of the Manitoba League for the Physically Disable (MLPD). Then he worked to get the first handi-van north of Winnipeg and the first subsidized housing for the physically encumbered outside of Winnipeg.
His dad was a section man on the railroad, settling in The Pas in 1950. Szadiak was a healthy 13 years old when he began to lose energy. After a month in St. Anthony’s Hospital in The Pas, he was sent to the old Children’s Hospital on Aberdeen in Winnipeg.
He could breath all right, but he had very little range of motion. Mike had total paralysis of the body: some muscles came back, so he could shave and brush his teeth… and write. In 1988 he began to have bouts of CO2 poisoning. He was able to get enough air into his lungs but unable to expel the carbon dioxide. Since then, his ventilator took care of the CO2, plunging quietly on the back of this electric wheelchair.
Mike did grade 8 by correspondence and then lost four years with complications and operations. After completing high school at The Pas Collegiate and a brief stint in bookkeeping from his parents’ home, he began to realize just how tied to home the disabled were. He knew the problems and he set out to make life in The Pas easier for the physically encumbered.
He had to learn how to get political. In 1975 he organized the MLPH in The Pas, started with the sidewalk curbs and went on to transportation. It began with letter writing, then public speaking – and even a half-hour monthly radio show for a while.
The handi-van was set up with a budget for drivers from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. It’s the longest-running service outside Winnipeg.
He knew his parents were going to die and he would need a place to live which is the defining problem faced by every disabled person living with a parent. The process took seven years and a change in government, but Mike and the group he mobilized finally got Pineview Manor in 1987. Eighteen single and 12 double accommodations, fully accessible and Manitoba Housing subsidized, for handicapped and seniors. Again it was the first project of its kind outside Winnipeg. MLPD The Pas chapter has been closed for some years now. (They’ve gone into other organizations.) In The Pas, the banks, the arena, the pool are all accessible.
“When I got my power wheelchair I was free, absolutely fantastic,” he says. “I get around shopping, meeting people on the street. The Pas is a generous community and very helping.” If I blew a belt and was going in a circle they’d stop and help me.”
Mike passed away peacefully Saturday, February 8, 2020 at the Riverview Health Center, Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the age of 81 years.
Mike is survived by brother Rev. Frank Szadiak, Winnipeg; sister Mary Hamm (James Hemauer) The Pas; sister-in-law Gloria Szadiak, Vernon, BC; brother-in-law Rick Colgan, The Pas; nephews David (Stacey) and their sons Connor and Cooper; Dean (Rochelle) and their family Brennon, Paige and Tyler; Brent (Meaghan) and their sons Gavin and Landen; Vincent; Tim and his family Emilio, Amani, Ife, Ora, Ona; aunt Doreen Boyarchuk; and several cousins too numerous to mention.
Mike was predeceased by his parents Vincent Szadiak and Mary Szadiak (nee Boyarchuk); infant twin siblings John and Elizabeth Szadiak; brother Victor Szadiak (April 16, 2018); sister Ann Colgan (January 17, 2018).
In lieu of flowers, donations to The Pas Handi-Van, Box 3028, The Pas, Manitoba, R9A 1R7, would be appreciated by Mike’s family.
Prayers and visitation were held Thursday, February 13th, 6:30 pm, at St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, 250 Jefferson Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The funeral liturgy for Mike Szadiak was held Friday, February 14th, 10:00 am, at St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, 250 Jefferson Avenue, Winnipeg, with Rev. Frank Szadiak presiding.
A celebration of Mike's life was held Tuesday, Febraury 18, 2020, 1:00 pm at the Chapel of Hemauer Funeral Home, The Pas, with Rev. Frank Szadiak presiding. Music Ministry was provided by Rochelle Rydberg. Eulogy was delivered by nephew David "Woody" Colgan.
Interment followed at Lakeside Cemetery, The Pas, Manitoba
A reception followed at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall, The Pas.
To send flowers to Michael's family, please visit our floral section.
The Pas Handi-Van
Box 3028, The Pas MB R9A 1R7