Skip to main content

Myrtle (Bainbridge) Surjik.

Courtesy of the Family

Myrtle (Bainbridge) Surjik: Beauty queen. Feminist. Social worker. Activist. Born Oct 21, 1933, in Regina; died Dec 16, 2018, in Regina; of dementia-related illness; aged 85.

In an era when winning the title of Miss Grey Cup might have led to ongoing celebrity, Myrtle Surjik chose a different path. She was passionate about gender equity and reproductive rights and would always seek to ease the pain of others and to create a kinder, gentler world.

Myrtle Bainbridge grew up in Regina during the Great Depression, and knew the pain of loss early in her life. Her father died when she was a child, leaving her mother to raise Myrtle and her brother in her grandmother’s boarding house. In spite of the difficulties, Myrtle was unstoppable.

Story continues below advertisement

After high school, Myrtle took a secretarial course in Regina. Friends secretly entered her into the school’s beauty contest and she was surprised to be crowned Miss Balfour Tech. Later, she won the title of Miss Saskatchewan Roughrider and, in 1951, was dubbed the “Dimpled Darling of the West” as she was crowned Canada’s first Miss Grey Cup.

She worked briefly as a model and a flight attendant before meeting Dave Surjik, a young geophysicist. He was smitten by the beautiful and energetic Myrtle. They married in 1956 and lived in Regina. Theirs was a love affair that lasted a lifetime.

Before she was crowned Canada's first Miss Grey Cup in 1951, Myrtle Bainbridge won the title of Miss Saskatchewan Roughrider.

Courtesy of the Family

Raising four children might have kept an ordinary woman busy, but Myrtle Surjik was no ordinary woman! When she saw an issue that needed correction or intervention, she took it on. She worked with the Regina Council of Women and the Family Planning Association in the 1960s. She fought for Medicare and supported the historic Saskatchewan doctors’ strike by giving birth to her fourth child at home. In the early 1970s, she made a forceful representation to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Then, when she was appointed to the board of governors of the University of Regina, one of her first questions was, “Why are there so few women in senior positions at this university?”

In her 40s, Myrtle decided to resume her formal education. She graduated from the University of Regina with a bachelor of social work in 1976 and worked for the provincial psychiatric services department. Later, when mental illness touched her family, she became a fierce advocate for research and better services in the treatment of schizophrenia. She was awarded the Canada Health and Welfare Volunteer Award for her work and was recognized by her university as a distinguished alumnus.

Myrtle was as unflinching in her support of Dave and their children as they were of her educational and social-action commitments. Their home was warm and welcoming, full of lively conversation and debate, strong political opinions, poetry and laughter.

Myrtle was proud of her phenomenal memory and it is a cruel irony that her final illness robbed her of it early in its course. She grew up in an era when memorization was an educational requirement … poetry, Shakespeare’s soliloquies, dates and facts. And Myrtle excelled, using that information to make her point. Launching into one of her favourite lines, she would grasp her thigh or belly and give a rousing imitation of Hamlet: ”Oh that this too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into dew.” Who among us hasn’t wished for that from time to time?

Bonnie DuPont is Myrtle’s friend.

Story continues below advertisement

To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go to tgam.ca/livesguide

Related topics

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies