Daughter, sister, Auntie Lin, friend, provincial court judge. Born July 25, 1952, in Altona, Man.; died May 17, 2013, in Winnipeg of lymphoma, aged 60.
Linda Giesbrecht loved to play guitar and lead campfire singsongs at the family cottage at Pelican Lake in Manitoba. She loved to photograph her 16 nieces and nephews. She loved an office gathering to discuss the law or to socialize with colleagues. More than anything, Linda loved people, and people of all types loved her.
Born in Altona, Man., to Evelyn and Peter Giesbrecht, Linda had seven siblings. She spent her early years on the family farm near Plum Coulee in southern Manitoba, attending the local one-room schoolhouse. Her family were of modest financial means but were rich with love for each other. Raised to be sensible and hard working, Linda still loved an adventure and a joke. As a child, she rescued and bottle-fed orphaned skunk “Peppy Pierre.” As it grew, she delighted in startling visitors by holding the creature in front of her face and lifting its tail. It never sprayed her, though it did have a role in a local talent show play.
Leaving home to attend the University of Manitoba, Linda completed an arts and law degree, graduating in 1976. She articled with the Crown attorney in Dauphin, Man. Then, in 1981, she took a 15-month hiatus to travel the world with her sister.
Returning to prosecutions, this time in Portage la Prairie, Man., Linda’s reputation for hard work grew. Each case, whether a shoplifting or a murder, merited her full attention. In 1988, she was one of five appointees, three of them women, to the then all-male bench of Manitoba’s Provincial Court.
Linda immediately stood out for her work ethic and common-sense approach. Her well-researched decisions not only withstood the scrutiny of appellate review, but many became the precedent referenced by courts at all levels. Wooed for an appointment to the Court of Appeal, Linda stood her ground. “I know what I’m good at and I don’t want to sit in an office doing research. I like dealing with people.”
Linda was the first female president of the Provincial Judges Association of Manitoba. Her support for her colleagues was invaluable – few could say they had not consulted Linda on a legal issue. Those who appeared in her court were never left wondering, “What just happened to me?” She never failed to take the time to explain the reasons for her decisions, even when faced with a docket of crushing length. Her wicked sense of humor, love of gag gifts, joke mugs (“Your village called – their idiot is missing”) and birthday cards for colleagues made life on the bench that much better. The gap left by her well-deserved retirement in 2010 may never be filled.
In early spring, Linda was plagued by mild health issues. Despite this she enjoyed a visit with her sister in Mexico. Within months of her return she was hospitalized and diagnosed with a virulent strain of lymphoma. She spent her last days with family and friends by her side, secure in her faith in Jesus Christ. As her friend Susan Devine said at her memorial, we are consoled by the image of Linda in heaven, patiently using her advocacy skills on behalf of those of us who need her prayers the most.
Judge Mary Kate Harvie is Linda’s friend and colleague.