Wife, mother, doctor. Born Nov. 13, 1914, in Prague, died April 24, 2012, in Halifax of age-related illnesses, aged 97.
It is almost impossible to write about Stella Weil without also writing about her husband. Both were qualified doctors, but Stella chose a supporting role as wife, mother, and friend during their lives in Czechoslovakia and later in Canada.
Stella was an only child. She grew up in Prague speaking both German and Czech. She was a very bright student and studied medicine at Charles University in Prague, graduating in 1937 as a medical doctor. However, she never practised.
She met Robert Weil, and after they married she joined him in the small town of Graupen, now Krupka, on the Czech-German border, where he practised medicine.
When the Sudetenland (the German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia) was taken over in September, 1938, they had to leave, being Jewish. They returned to Prague, and after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, they managed to obtain visas for Britain through the efforts of Briton Doreen Warriner. From there, they travelled across the ocean to settle in rural Canada.
After a brief attempt to farm on a wretched, abandoned homestead (where Stella learned to milk a cow and ride a horse), Bob was granted a temporary licence to practise medicine, and they were relocated to Frenchman Butte, Sask., a hamlet on the North Saskatchewan River.
Stella expanded her domestic role to do whatever was necessary while her spouse removed an appendix or whatever on someone’s kitchen table. Much of their compensation was in the form of goods: a bushel of potatoes, a cord of wood, a side of beef.
Although they were happy at this outpost, they were forced to move on to North Battleford, where Bob did a hospital internship to qualify for his permanent licence. Stella, meanwhile, gave birth to Sonja, a beautiful redhead.
Bob had taken courses from Sigmund Freud in Vienna, and was interested in psychiatry. After serving at the Weyburn Mental Hospital, he did postgraduate research at the Menninger Institute in Topeka, Kan., then qualified as a psychiatrist.
Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax quickly hired him, and Stella and Bob spent the rest of their lives on the east coast.
Their lives were tragically affected by Sonja’s death in a road accident at the age of 47. She was their only child, a pediatric social worker. All of their relatives, apart from Bob’s two brothers and three nephews, had perished in the Holocaust.
Stella was left alone when Bob predeceased her by 10 years. Though she had no relatives in this country, she was always surrounded by friends and cared for by a team of Newfoundland ladies until her departure from this life.
In May, her ashes were laid to rest in the grave with Bob and Sonja at Halifax’s Fairview Cemetery.
Hanns Skoutajan is a family friend.