IRENE ANNIE MELNYK February 1, 1928 - July 18, 2012 Peacefully, after a brief sleep, Irene Annie Melnyk, slipped off to join her husband of more than 60 years, John, in heaven. She leaves to reflect her life sons John (Jacqueline Ryz) and David (Jane Beharriell), nephew Jim Melnyk and niece Judy Nickerson (Ed), hundreds of appreciative students with whom she shared her passion for holistic health and gift for teaching, and her many friends at St. Mary the Protectress Cathedral (Sobor). Irene was the only child of Ukrainian immigrants Stefan and Evhenia Sytnyk. Her mother (nee Onuferko) was a leading figure in the Ukrainian Canadian community, and often took Irene to meetings of the many organizations with which she was involved. Irene had a typical North End Ukrainian upbringing, helping her parents with their store, attending Ukrainian and Sunday school, participating in Ukrainian dance groups and choirs and taking piano lessons from John Melnyk, a prominent piano teacher also of Ukrainian descent. Irene had talent for music; she was accepted to a summer course in choral conducting with Olexander Koshetz in 1944, earned a silver medal from Royal Conservatory of Toronto exams, and ultimately received an even higher distinction -- marriage to her piano teacher, John Melnyk, June 17, 1948. Irene was then attending the University of Manitoba, and continued her studies to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in 1950. Shortly thereafter her two sons were born, and Irene devoted herself wholeheartedly to raising them. She was in her glory as a young wife and mother, baking delicious home-made cinnamon buns and cooking great vats of borsch, sewing elaborate Halloween costumes for her sons, and driving them to figure skating lessons and competitions. Yet she still found time to teach Ukrainian and Sunday school, publish two Ukrainian primers with her friend Nadia Pip, as well as teach piano in her husband's burgeoning studio and publish a scale book for beginners with him that is still in use today. As her sons grew older, Irene turned her energies and love of learning to holistic health. She opened and operated a health food store under the Shaklee organization, and studied extensively at the Moreau Institute of Natural Healing, becoming a respected reflexologist and teacher, as well as earning credentials in Physical Health, Natural Nutritional Sciences and Natural Therapeutics among others. She took an active role in the Reflexology Association of Canada (RAC), serving on its board of directors for several years. RAC awarded her a lifetime membership in 1997, and recognized her as Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2006. She also travelled to Vancouver, Hawaii, Greece and Australia to participate in conferences of the International Council of Reflexologists, of which she became a charter member. But the highlight of her travels was a trip to Ukraine in 1997 to visit her three first cousins and their extended families with whom she remained in touch thereafter. Irene had an unwavering faith in God and attended church religiously, in every sense of that word. She was a parishioner at St. Mary the Protectress Cathedral (Sobor) for more than 60 years, and conducted its choir for more than 30 years. But most of all, Irene had an immense capacity for unconditional love -- for her husband John, whose gravesite she visited almost every day after his death; for her two sons whom she encouraged in their every endeavour; for her parents whom she greatly respected; for her Ukrainian heritage of which she was tremendously proud; for her church which she served with great devotion; and late in her life, for her darling pussycats, Moorko and Cirko, whom she loved (and fed) unreservedly. The family wishes to thank the doctors, nurses and staff of Seven Oaks Hospital for their capable, compassionate care for Irene in her hour of need, as well as Father Alexander Harkavyi for his ministry and spiritual guidance during a difficult time. Prayers will be said at 7:00 p.m., Monday, July 23 and funeral liturgy at 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, July 24, both at St. Mary the Protectress Cathedral (Sobor), with interment to follow at Elmwood Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, those who so desire are invited to make a donation to the Choir Fund of St. Mary the Protectress Cathedral, 820 Burrows Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R2X 0R2.