Sya Gregovski was the star of the show at Riverlodge Place Sept. 29 when she received the ninth Order of Thompson award at a gala hosted by the Thompson Community Foundation.
Gregovski’s friends and family took turns highlighting the long-lasting impact she’s had on the community, which includes volunteering her time at virtually any organization, board or committee that needed a helping hand.
“You truly embody everything that the Order of Thompson recipient should be,” said former Thompson Community Foundation president Sherrie Kreuger. “Sya, you have not only been a pioneer of many things in Thompson, but you are a woman who everyone is drawn to. You are strong when it comes to adversity, smart when it comes to life’s choices, you are compassionate and, most importantly, kind to everyone you meet.”
Gregovski’s daughter Kathy Valentino went over her mother’s life in broad strokes, beginning with her birth in the Netherlands in November 1938.
After surviving the horrors of the Second World War, Gregovski’s family immigrated to Ontario in 1948. Twelve years later, Gregovski joined the first big wave of residents settling into Thompson after marrying her husband Dan in 1960.
“She was 21 years old when she got off the train to mud streets and a town where not all the streets even had names yet,” said Valentino. “Thompson was a great place for a honeymoon.”
Throughout the past 58 years, Gregovski distinguished herself by wearing many hats within the community, serving as a member of the Burntwood Regional Health Authority, a trustee for the School District of Mystery Lake and a pillar of the now defunct Advent Lutheran Church, just to name a few.
“She taught Sunday school at a time when our attendance was 100 children per week. That’s hard to imagine,” said fellow church-goer Wendy Ritchat. “And I was told that she delivered the lessons in exciting and innovative ways.”
Gregovski also played a key role in developing institutions including the Norplex Pool and Northern Spirit Manor.
In between all of these various projects, Manitoba Housing executive director Harold Smith remembers how Gregovski still found time to make Thompson feel like a home for not just her family, but for basically anybody who lived near her house on Pickerel Crescent.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever entered a home where a family was more welcoming than the Gregovski home,” said Smith. “Whether you’re a visitor from down the street or across the globe, Sya, Dan and the Gregovskis have always been known for their warm welcome. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that.”
Smith also praised Gregovski for her tendency to “call it like she sees it,” which definitely came into play when she addressed the audience directly.
Throughout her 25-minute speech, the guest of honour regaled local residents with amusing stories about many members of the community, including the childhood adventures of high-profile figures like former mayor Tim Johnston.
However, Gregovski saved the most surprising reveal for herself, recalling a recent conversation she had with friend Terry Nychuk about the country’s impending marijuana legalization.
“And I said to him, ‘You know Terry, I’m thinking I’m going to try it.’ I’m going to be 80 years old in a few weeks and they tell me that it does terrible things to your brain. But my brain is old. It’s going to be downhill from now on.’”
Despite these self-deprecating comments about her age, Gregovski is still very active.
Right now, she is keeping busy by lodging Norman Northstars hockey players from Cross Lake, tutoring at the University College of the North and selling tickets for any fundraising group that asks.