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December 12, 1929 — May 5, 2023
John Stephen James Zmetana passed away on Friday, May 5, 2023 in Regina, SK.
John was born the eldest child of a Polish-Ukrainian family in Moose Jaw, SK on December 12, 1929. Part of a vibrant Ukrainian community, John didn’t speak English until he started public school. Raised during the hard years of the Depression, John worked diligently in the garden with his mother to bring in what was needed to get the family through the winter, which included five sacks of potatoes and enough cabbages to make three barrels of sauerkraut. This tutoring at the hand of his mother led to a life-long love of gardening. John’s father worked in the Swift’s meat packing plant, and together the family built two houses by hand, with John’s mother mixing foundation cement for one house while pregnant with John’s younger brother Fred. One of John’s jobs was to take apart wooden brewery crates to salvage all the wood and nails, which were then used to line all the interior walls of the house. As a high-school student, John worked in the local Chinese cafe, waiting and bussing noon-time meals, then going home for a few hours rest before returning for the supper shift, often not finishing up until 11:00 at night.
As a university student, he surveyed during the summer for the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act. John went on to get a B.Sc. from the University of Saskatchewan and a Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Alberta, where he fell in love with a graduating RN named Sylvia Graham. In 1953 they married, and John started private dental practice in Rivers, Manitoba.
Along with managing a busy private practice and a family of six children, John acted as Committee Chair and was instrumental in the building and opening of a new hospital in 1960. John served on the Hospital Board, sat on the Rivers Town Council, was active in Kiwanis, and served multiple terms as School Trustee for the Rolling River School Division.
In 1970, after 17 years of private practice, and earning a Master’s in Public Health, he accepted a position with Manitoba Public Dental Health in Dauphin, Manitoba. In 1973, he took on the position of Clinical Director of the School of Dental Nursing at the WIAST in Regina, SK. After the tragic passing of his wife Sylvia, John returned to Manitoba in 1984 and became the Regional Director of Childrens Dental Health for Western Manitoba.
John met the second love of his life, Patricia (nee Proulx), in Winnipeg and they married in 1990. They shared a love of gardening and served on the executive committees of the Brandon Horticultural Society and Communities in Bloom. They designed and maintained a spectacular garden at their home, which was featured in several magazine articles and was the backdrop for weddings on more than one occasion.
John volunteered as an usher at Brandon Wheat Kings games for many seasons, and with Brandon Police Victim Services for over 25 years.
John was the good-natured patriarch of a large extended family. He is survived by his wife Patricia and his children Katherine (Lori), Stephen (Denise), Jeffrey (Monika), Frances (John), Elizabeth (Rory), Susan (Layton), and Pat’s sons Darren (Joey) and Randy (Cynthia), 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. John was predeceased by parents Steve and Leona, his brother Fred and sister Jo-Ann. He is survived by his sister Jeraldine and sister-in-law Lois. John is greatly missed by all who knew him.
A private family service will take place at a later date.
Expressions of sympathy may be made at www.memorieschapel.com.
As published in Brandon Sun on May 13, 2023
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