Kathleen (Kay) Bokovay – A Humble but Amazing Woman
(1928 – 2021)
Mom was born into the large and growing Rubuliak farm family in November of 1928, just prior to the start of the Great Depression that led up to WWII. The family farm was near Pakan in what is now Smoky Lake County. Mom had her share of farm chores every day, was responsible for caring for her younger siblings, and attended the still standing Ruthenia School with all the other farm kids. Her mother, our Baba, was the second wife of our Grandfather Stefan; she was a Godly and devout woman who taught her children about faith in Jesus in addition to instilling in them a solid work ethic. Mom learned both of these lessons well and took them to heart.
Leaving the farm around the age of 18, Mom took work with the Red Cross doing travelling blood donor clinics all over Alberta. During this time, she enrolled in a three year theological diploma program in Edmonton at the Canadian Northwest Bible Institute. The Institute was brand new, an arm of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, and opened in 1946 with classes being held at Central Pentecostal Tabernacle. 12 men and 12 women, of which Mom was one, graduated in April of 1949. So Mom came by her in-depth bible knowledge, theological understanding, and Godly character quite honestly! The Institute eventually became what is now Vanguard College, from which her grandson Matthew graduated several years ago.
Mom then took work in BC at the Tranquille Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Kamloops where she met our Dad who was employed at the Alcan Aluminum smelter facility in Kitimat on the West coast. He would come to Kamloops on days off – quite a long drive in those days. After they were married in 1955, they settled in Edmonton and raised their three children – Colin, Kelly and Susan. Mom busied herself with making a comfortable home for us complete with delicious and nutritious meals often with a Ukrainian flair. She took some work to help with family finances both at the Royal Alexandra hospital and with the Edmonton Public School Board as a custodian. We often went on camping excursions to the Okanagan during summer holidays and brought back lots of fruit which Mom preserved for the coming winter. The family actually moved to Kelowna for one year – lots of fun with the beach and fresh fruit, but came back to Edmonton thereafter. Camping/fishing weekends at Buck Lake or Moose Lake in Northern Alberta were common. Mom loved the outdoors and was happy to sit in her lawn chair near the fire with a cup of coffee and watch the loons swim on the lake while her “men” were all out fishing.
Wherever we lived, Mom made sure we had a Sunday school to go to (whether we wanted to or not…) and it was a rule that each of us children took a “promise” from the promise box each morning before we went to school. This box was a collection of Scripture verses on individual colored cards that could be pulled out and read – a way for Mom to remind us not to forget about God in our travels. She, in these and many other ways, was passing on the faith of her mother to us.
During our teenage years and after we kids left home, Mom had cultivated a serious volunteer career. She was involved with Teen Time of Edmonton, a charity whose mission was to help kids, especially less fortunate ones, come in contact with the Gospel. She was the costume lady (making, fixing and storing costumes) for the annual “Love According to John” play depicting the life story of Jesus that was done at the Jubilee Auditorium each year at Easter. Also, she shared her cooking skills for more summers than we can remember at the Teen Time summer camp which is located near Westlock in Northern Alberta. Her camp name (everyone had to have one…), was Hollyhock – portraying her love of flowers and gardening. Hundreds and hundreds of city kids were fed delicious camp meals by Holly Hock and her team. It was her way of helping these children have fun and have a chance of coming to know Jesus. This was Mom’s mission. Mom also volunteered at the Calder Senior’s Centre where she would make gallons of her much sought after borsch for their fund-raisers, help in the kitchen for events, and of course make supper for the accountants that came in the evenings to help seniors with their tax returns in March and April. She lived a life of service to others.
Through these years, Mom also had cultivated many good friendships with ladies that, like her, were prayer warriors. They would take all the problems and issues, especially with their children and other loved ones directly to God’s Throne, often fasting in addition to gathering for prayer. If you were on Mom’ prayer list, as all of her children, grandchildren, and recently one great grandchild were, you knew that someone who knew the Father like few people do was calling out your name and your need to Him each and every morning. Some of these dear ladies have survived Mom and they continue to pray. Mom gave much of her money away to Christian charities, depriving herself of some creature comforts in order to do so, and she went on a few excursions to Eastern Europe and Ukraine to smuggle bibles behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Yes, our Mom the bible smuggler. She brought back samovars for each of us from one trip!
As kids we were used to making trips to Smoky Lake to visit Baba in town, and to drop in to see Mom’s baby brother Victor out on his farm which was right across the road from the old Rubuliak homestead. Baba would have a nice Ukrainian lunch for us, and we would go to the farm and check on Vic where we could go exploring, shoot gophers and smell the farm animal smells. After Baba died, Mom took it upon herself to look after her brother by regularly doing laundry, cleaning up his kitchen area, cooking and even driving him to the doctor when he was ill – no small feat when you live an hour and a half drive away. Mom always made sure that Vic had a nice Christmas dinner every year until he moved into the Bar-V-Nook manor in town.
After Dad died and Mom didn’t feel she could look after our house in the Glengarry neighborhood, she sold it and bought a nice condo unit at the brand new Shepherd’s Inn facility where she resided until her death. Mom had absolutely amazing gardens at our Glengarry home. A nice vegetable garden, a rock garden with many types of flowers, several rose gardens and shrubs. Things were always in bloom around Mom, who seemed to be a natural green thumb.
When she moved to her condo, she needed a green outlet, so she started the gardening club. There is a very large enclosed courtyard at Shepherd’s Inn and over the 20 plus years she was there, she oversaw its development into a truly beautiful spot with shrubs, perennials and annuals that were all color co-ordinated. In the spring, Mom would talk for weeks about what she was planning with respect to the big bedding plant purchase for the courtyard. Mom assigned each lady or gentleman in the club a part of the courtyard to look after, and they did an amazing job each year. There were some small vegetable garden plots there as well, and Mom grew her carrots, Swiss chard, dill and other stuff there so she could have fresh veggies in the summer. You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.
The gardening gang and a few other friends would gather each summer evening (weather permitting) to sit in the gazebo and visit, and visit, and visit… This was an important part of Mom’s day which she missed enormously last summer when the courtyard was closed due to pandemic concerns. No gardening and no visiting were tough on Mom. There would be no point in trying to get Mom on the phone in the summer after supper; she would be out with her pals in the courtyard gazebo. We believe that it was her physically active gardening and her socially active friendships that kept her going so well for so long.
Mom really shone as a grandmother. Off to Yellowknife to look after David, Sandra and Michelle; off to Petawawa to help Cynthia when Jonah was born. There were dozens of childcare adventures with Candace and Matthew, Micah and Jonah here in the city. Even when it might not have been convenient, she was available to help; but her grandchildren really got to know her. Some of them will remember Grandma singing hymns for them while playing her autoharp! Many a fine Ukrainian meal was shared with her grandkids (especially her famous traditional twelve dish Christmas Eve feast), and some of them have learned the secrets of preparing those special foods. Grandma loved each one, assisting them financially with their education expenses to the extent she was able. When Brooke, her first and only great grandchild was born it was a big deal for Grandma. After each visit, Grandma would say, “she’s such a smart girl.” There were even clandestine “garage lunches” with Brooke and Sandra during covid restrictions. All her grandchildren can remember getting a bible or booklet about spirituality, and getting comments from her like, “The most important thing is to serve the Lord,” or “Life isn’t just about having F-U-N.”
Mom was fiercely independent. She could do most things herself and prided herself on this. I think she is still put off with me (Kelly) even now for taking her car away when her reaction time was no longer sufficient. But though she was independent, she was also completely dependent on God. She depended on Him for her health, her finances, the well-being of her family and everything else. In her independence and not wanting to burden her children with funeral plans and expenses, she pre-planned and pre-paid everything years ago. When we were going through these plans after her passing, we noticed that Mom had chosen the inscription for her own grave marker. It simply says “She Trusted the Lord.” And this is her true legacy.
The challenge to each of us who remain is that if we could trust God in our lives even a fraction of the way she did, her God-given life’s work will have been accomplished. Faith, graciousness, humility and perseverance are words that sum up Mom’s life. She has indeed fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Now there is in store for her the Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to her (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Mom was in the habit of leaving interesting little notes to herself as reminders of important things. We are finding these notes throughout her suite. One note lists the food items she wants us to have at her memorial service (when we are able to do it properly) and at the bottom of the list is a reminder to the family that says, “I want to see you all in Heaven.” Another note was found in her calendar, into which she had been making notations of daily occurrences and events for years; it is a single piece of notepaper with lilies on it that says, in her own printing:
I believe God’s promises are true;
I believe Heaven is real;
I believe nothing can separate me from God’s love;
I believe God has work for me to do;
I believe God will see me through and carry me when I cannot walk alone.
Amen, Dear Mom and Grandma. Save a spot for each of us at the foot of the Throne…
Serenity Funeral Service
North Central Chapel