Grandmother, consummate hostess, life of the party, world traveller. Born March 8, 1927, in Montreal; died Oct. 26, 2013, in Burlington, Ont., of heart failure, aged 86.
Diana Krukowski loved her family fiercely.
She was born in Canada to parents who had fled the Communist regime in Russia. Her father, Daniel Hayduk, evaded soldiers and managed to find passage to begin a new life overseas. He established himself as a labourer with CPR rail lines in Montreal while her mother Helena remained behind with their adult daughter. Diana was born in 1927 after Daniel and Helena reunited in Canada, and her brother George followed in 1929. She never met Maria, her older sister, who stayed in Russia with her own family.
Diana’s father was a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church and her early years were spent immersed in Montreal’s Russian community. She met Charles while attending a Red Cross dance – he was the handsome bandleader and she was a gorgeous 16-year-old. They married two years later and had two daughters, Sandra and Joanna.
Diana lived a wonderful life with Charlie in Saint-Lambert, Que. Her house was always full of people, and parties happened at the drop of a hat. She also hosted memorable get-togethers in the Eastern Townships on Lake Memphremagog (although her initial reaction wasn’t one of joy when Charlie announced he’d bought a place on the lake, as it required some imagination and a lot of work to turn the fisherman’s shack into the cottage it became).
In 1970, Diana worked as a campaign organizer for Pierre Laporte, the Quebec cabinet minister killed during the October Crisis. Politics were always a hot topic of conversation around the dinner table.
When her four granddaughters started arriving, Diana threw herself into her new role with all her heart. She then became Mimi, so named by her first granddaughter when she started speaking.
After their daughters’ families moved farther away in Ontario, Diana and Charlie sold the cottage and bought a condo in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., happily becoming snowbirds. When Charlie retired from CN Rail, he accepted a posting in New Delhi with a consultancy to help modernize the Indian railway system, and he and Diana moved abroad for two years. She was delightfully spoiled: high tea and evenings spent dancing beneath the stars to the strains of big band music. They travelled around the world on their way back to Canada in 1987, then settled into an idyllic retirement. Charlie’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s forced their relocation to Burlington, Ont., to be closer to family. He died in 2005.
A favourite babysitter to her grandkids, Diana made headaches and tummy aches go away, chased monsters from under their beds, rocked them to sleep and read stories and sang songs. She never missed a birthday or graduation or celebration, and championed even the smallest achievements.
Diana only stopped golfing at 82, and was drinking champagne at Thanksgiving. Her illness was brief, and true to form she had friends and family around her at the end. She left us suddenly, but what a legacy.
Amanda Helen Brewer is Diana’s granddaughter and Sandra Helen Brewer is Diana’s daughter.