TUULA (TUULIKKI) LIIVAMAE
A child of Karelia, Finland, Salli Tuula Tuulikki, along with her sister Helga and her parents, and with only what they could carry, was forced to flee the invading Russian army and find refuge in a safer region in central Finland. Tuula’s parents, Jenny and Hjalmar, were hard-working and resourceful, and set up a small general store in Lahti. As their grandchild visiting Finland, I too was put to work helping customers who came in to purchase milk, eggs and sundry items.
That drive to thrive stayed with my mother through all her 94 years. Her parents sent her to the best schools for young women in Finland at the time, and her sister dedicated herself to the piano and music studies. After the war, when there were so many broken young men requiring rehabilitation services, Tuula decided to study to become a physiotherapist and then to go to England for her practicum. In the hospital in Stockton on Tees, Tuula met up with a group of Estonian refugees, among whom was my father Pärtel, who cut a particularly fine figure. He played guitar and had a warm baritone singing voice. Excited to try her luck in a new country, Tuula seized the opportunity to marry my father, and come to Manitoba to start a new life.
After I was born, Tuula started working for the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society (CARS). She drove a company car and made service calls to many communities in southern Manitoba, and later during my summer holidays I would sometimes travel with her to places like Starbuck or Portage la Prairie. Tuula subsequently worked in medical clinics in Winnipeg, and was appreciated for her experience, her warmth with her patients, and her gifted massaging hands.
My parents loved Winnipeg, Manitoba, and had many, many dear friends here from among the post-war European ex-pats who had also come here to build a new (and safer) life. Initially employed by Bristol Aerospace, Pärtel later started a successful real estate business and Tuula continued to work until her late 70s when she could no longer manage the physical demands of physiotherapy.
My parents owned a small apartment building on Corydon and bought a solid cabin at Lester Beach. They both particularly loved the forest at Belair, and proximity to Lake Winnipeg was like having the Baltic Sea at your doorstep. My parents were both tough, smart, avid readers and were very fond of music. Perhaps I provided echoes of my mother’s childhood home with all my years of piano practice. I played Bach and Chopin, never expertly, but Tuula loved it.
Pärtel died suddenly of a heart attack in his mid-50s and for almost four decades after that Tuula was that ‘eccentric European landlady’ on Corydon Ave. or at Lester Beach. Tuula became increasingly more crippled with severe osteo arthritis and in spite of all her lake swimming and exercise, she finally surrendered to a wheel chair and took up residence in Middlechurch Home at the age of 90.
Tuula was always determined to work, she was frugal, suffered great losses in her life, and was fiercely independent. While she could, she travelled frequently to visit her family in Finland or in Ontario. Tuula always loved her prairie home and the roots she had established here even though she pined for Finland always. She doted on her grandchildren and great grandchild. Once she settled into Middlechurch Home, however, she grew to appreciate the place and the people there. She could finally sit back while other people helped her with everything, and she was known as the polite resident who always said thank you.
Tuula is survived by her daughter Maret Liivamae Swayze (David); and three grandchildren, Jonathan (Jenny Mitchell) Swayze, Daniel Swayze who lives in Toronto, and Emma (Brent Wennekes) with daughter Maelee who live at Lester Beach.
David and I returned to Winnipeg after living and working in Ottawa for 40+ years because Tuula needed our help. Her granddaughter Emma had moved to live close to Tuula, but the demands of caring for her grandmother had become too much for someone with her own young family.
Tuulikki Tuula passed peacefully in her sleep on November 16 at Middlechurch Home. Tuulikki is a name that comes from the Finnish Kalevala, the epic tales of struggle and survival that some say came from the forest shamans of eastern Finland. To baptize a girl with that name is to link that daughter spiritually to the essence of Finnish culture and suggest that she should face life’s hardships with tenacity and endurance. Tuula clearly lived up to that legacy. Tuulalla olli sisu.
With special thanks to the staff at Middlechurch Home, who cared for Tuula with grace.
Tuula’s remains were managed by Ethical Death Care Services.
A Memorial gathering among family and friends will follow. If you like, you can send donations to the Winnipeg Humane Society or to the Lake Winnipeg Foundation.
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