By Jennifer Cronin
Free Press Staff
Diane Warshawsky, née Zmurchyk was born in the “old” Fernie Hospital, where the Park Place Lodge now stands. She is the youngest of five children of Fred Zmurchyk born in Coalhurst, Alta. and Katherine (Katie) née Sangala born in Coal Creek.
Diane was raised on 4th Avenue in Fernie, and remembers when the family moved to another house and helped her mom move dishes by loading up the sled and pulling them through the snow to the new house.
“Dad was a miner, and he wore long johns all year round because he worked underground. Before mom met dad, she worked as a blacksmith, in Vancouver I think,” Diane shared. She continued “After they [my parents] got married, mom worked at the King Eddy for four or five years. I remember sitting in the big chairs in the lobby.”
When Diane’s siblings had all started school, she and her mother would play cards almost every day. Diane is an avid crib fan and admitted that when she went to school in Grade 1 and the teacher asked her to count she promptly said, Ace, two, three, four …
She recalls her father as a “very happy, helpful mechanic who loved to hunt and fish. “Dad would take the boys out fishing and come back with big tubs of fish. Mom and I would clean them, and just when we thought we were all done they would bring in another tub! We used to freeze them in milk cartons and take them to Lethbridge to trade for clothing.”
Of her mother, Diane has memories of a “happy go lucky” lady who enjoyed gardening. Together, they would harvest the garden and make preserves.
“It was a process. She was really good at making homemade pies.”
Other memories include helping her mom hang out the wash on the line as it came out of the wringer washer, visiting the cemetery every Sunday and picking berries as a family.
“We were not allowed to come home until our pack boards were full. We were out in the backcountry. If you had blue hands you were picking them, a blue mouth meant you were eating them,” Diane laughed.
Diane enjoyed both English and math in school, and this is where she met her high school sweetheart, Joe Warshawsky. When in Grade 11 and 12 she worked at the Inn Towner Motel, Fernie Florists and Columbia Battery, Radiator and Marine, the latter with Joe.
In 1978 Diane and Joe were married in the Catholic Church, before settling in Hosmer. At this time Diane started working at the CIBC bank in Fernie, leaving her other jobs behind in favour of weekends off.
In speaking with Diane, she cannot hide the pride she has in her children.
“We raised all the kids to work hard and taught them how to share. I beam about the kids and the grandkids,” she admits.
Diane and Joe have been blessed with four children. Eric, was born in Blairmore, Alta. on the way back from a shopping trip in Lethbridge. Three years later, Jason arrived. When Adrian and Amanda “the twins” arrived three years later, Diane left the bank. “I felt it was more important to spend time with the kids.”
Diane and Joe purchased their house on 7th Avenue in about 1986.
In speaking of Fernie, Diane feels that it has a lot more amenities and looks way nicer, but because of the large shadow population the sense of community is diminishing. “Everyone used to know their neighbours and help each other out, but now there are so many empty houses,” she says of the properties that are owned by non-residents.
These days, you will find Diane working as lunch monitor for her “kindies” as she fondly calls the kindergarten children. She also loves to spend time with her children and five grandchildren as well as hunt with Joe, but has laid down the law where fishing is concerned.
“If you fish, I am NOT cleaning them!”
With her keen sense of family, Diane is a frank and honest “face of the valley.”