Norma Melnyk was born Norma Doris Giles to Coltus and Evelyn Giles on March 7, 1940, in the northern Manitoba community of Bissette. She was the fifth of the six children. Norma grew up in Atikokan, a bustling mining town in Ontario. She idolized her four older siblings, Raymond, Gordon, Violet and Wanda and often quarreled with her sister Ruth, who was barely a year her junior. As a young woman, Norma was employed in retail and later as a nurse’s aide in Fort Frances and Winnipeg. She had her daughter, Teresa in 1963 at 23 years of age.
In 1966, Norma moved west to a farm near Nora, Saskatchewan, and married Paul Melnyk. She became mother to three young boys, Michael, Allan, and Terry. Norma, a town girl accustomed to all the conveniences of an urban lifestyle, committed herself to learning all aspects of rural prairie life from scratch. She adapted to life without running water or a phone and living a half mile from the nearest neighbor. She would come to sew, knit, pickle, process all kinds of foods, tend to the garden, milk the cows and help farm. Norma learned to prepare cabbage rolls, perogies and “lisnickey” for her family, though she was not of Ukrainian heritage herself.
Norma Melnyk not only cultivated vegetables but many friendships as well. To Norma and Paul, community was important. People were important. Norma’s neighbors and the time she spent having coffee with them made up a large part of the fabric of her life.
Norma and Paul moved to town 12 years ago. In Archerwill, she went to seniors regularly, played cards and participated in events. In 2010, Paul passed away and shortly after, Norma lost what was left of her limited eyesight. These events were traumatic and in the time that followed, she relied heavily on neighbors and her sons. Due to illness, Norma spent the last year of her life residing with her daughter Teresa and her family in Vancouver, BC.
Norma Melnyk has left behind three siblings, Violet, Ray and Wanda; four children, Allan, Teresa, Michael and Terry; five grandchildren, Simone, Jauna, Mathew, Xavier and Jayme; and many others whose lives she was a part of. We will miss her and continue loving her.