Mary is survived by her three children, Rosemary, Jane and David, and six grandchildren. Mary was predeceased by the love of her life, her husband Joseph Petrovich.
Mary was born in the village of Bobrov, Slovakia in the Maly Tatry Mountains, on Sunday, July 22, 1928. Three days later her father, Michael Troyak was notified that his application for emigration to Canada was finalized. Seeking a better life for his family, he left behind his wife Barbara Irene Troyak (née Balaban) and his infant daughter Mary, expecting as so many others did that he would soon earn enough money to bring them to Canada. But because of the Depression and WW II, they would not be re-united until 1946, when Barbara and Mary travelled by ocean liner to meet Michael in Port Arthur, now known as Thunder Bay. Mary was just eighteen.
As a child in Bobrov, Mary helped her mother pick mushrooms and strawberries in the woods around the village. She recalled going with her mother when Barbara worked as a gardener for a wealthy family, playing in the family's dollhouse, and being treated 'like a princess', by her mother's employers.
Just before WW II, Barbara brought her daughter to the Slovak capitol of Bratislava, where Barbara worked as a cook for the Police Department and Mary went to school, and studied music, ballet and fencing. She taught ballet to young children and worked part time in the Police kitchens with her mother and many other Slovak women. In later years Mary would startle her children with her fencing moves with an otherwise innocuous umbrella.
When the Wehrmacht was moving out of Bratislava before the oncoming Allied armies, Mary was very nearly taken to Germany by an officer who apparently 'liked her bright eyes'. The officer was to come back on a certain day to take her, but the other workers disguised her as an old woman, and he walked right past her.
When the War ended, Michael, still working in Canada, was finally able to contact his family and sent them money for the fares to join him in Canada. Mary was engaged to a young doctor named Josef in Bratislava, but she was unwilling to let her comparatively unsophisticated mother go alone to a new country and a husband who was effectively a stranger. So Mary left her fiancé behind, made all the arrangements for travel and emigration, and took ship for Canada.
Mary attended high school in Port Arthur, learned English and then worked as a legal secretary. Illustrating the ‘cultural mosaic’ of Canada: Mary, a Slovak-Canadian, was introduced to Joe Petrovich, a Croatian-Canadian, by his best friend, an Italian-Canadian, while they were all at a neighbourhood dance at the Finn Hall (which still exists and still serves great food).
Mary and Joe crossed quite significant cultural lines for that time, by falling in love, and marrying. Fortunately, everyone was Catholic, and the families got along sufficiently well. One of Joe’s four sisters was the maid of honour, and the others were among the bridesmaids.
Joe worked hard, became a Master Electrician, and was hired by Trans Canada Pipelines. He did well there, which led to promotions and transfers. Mary set up lovely homes for her growing family in Thunder Bay, Red Rock, Regina (Saskatchewan), Hearst, New Liskard, Haileybury, North Bay and Grafton. Moving to TCPL Station 86, 60 miles north of Hearst was a memorable adventure. Mary insisted that the company provide a school and teacher onsite for the children, and this was done. She drove the family Chevrolet Bel Aire in a little convoy bringing her mother Barbara and the kids (David was 5 months old), from Thunder Bay to Hearst in a December blizzard with frequent whiteouts. Husband Joe was in a company utility truck ahead of her, and her father Michael followed in his car.
When her beloved husband Joseph died tragically of cancer in 1969, Mary made yet another move from the company house in Grafton to a new home in Cobourg. She brought her parents to live in Cobourg and supported her family by purchasing and running a small apartment building, selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door, and working at General Foods. She volunteered with the Red Cross, became a ‘Hockey Mom’, a member of the Catholic Women’s League and a choir soprano. Mary supported and encouraged her three children through high school, college and university, which led to her moving to Kitchener while her parents moved nearby to Cambridge. She continued to work and volunteer wherever she went. One of Mary’s favourite jobs was working as a translator for the Court in Kitchener-Waterloo.
Mary had a superb voice and was a staunch member of church choirs at the Pro-Cathedral in North Bay, St. Michael’s in Cobourg, St. Aloysius in Kitchener, St. Gabriel’s in Burlington and briefly at the Igloo church in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. In Cobourg she joined the chorus for amateur productions of Gilbert & Sullivan musicals. She made sure her children had the opportunity to study music, tirelessly ferried them to piano lessons and band practices. Mary knew their friends, and welcomed them for meals, parties and just hanging out. Love of family, perhaps her most important legacy, was taught through togetherness, loyalty, sharing and giving.
Mary enjoyed fashion, elegance, gardening and interior design. She loved to listen to music, dance, take long hikes with her German Shepherd dogs, and travel. In 1978 Mary took her children to Czechoslovakia for three weeks, showing them both Bratislava and Bobrov, as well as several other places of beauty and interest around the country, and introducing them to friends and relatives. Some of her other trips were to the Canadian Arctic, British Columbia, Cuba, Columbia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and to Rome, Italy on a Mediterranean cruise with her church choir. Mary always enjoyed all her adventures—at home and away—to the fullest extent, and refused to be held back. When Mary was 55, her children took her skiing on Whistler Mountain. She fractured her lower leg soon after starting on the last run of the day. Rather than summon the Ski Patrol, she tightened up her ski boot and walked the rest of the way down.
Mary Magdalene Troyak Petrovich was a participant in life, never just a spectator. She was always the life of the party, and a fierce advocate for what she believed in. She taught a lot of people many important lessons, and brought love and light to their lives. She will be greatly missed by her family, friends and all who knew her.
The family would like to say a heartfelt thanks to the staff of Trinity Village Long Term Care Centre in Kitchener, Ontario. A resident of Trinity’s Walnut Grove for six years, Mary was cared for very well, with affection, kindness, patience and persistence.
Memorial donations may be made to Mary’s favourite charity – Covenant House, which helps homeless, at-risk youth –those who are not lucky enough to have someone like Mary Petrovich in their lives.