Lillian Pihulak, a.k.a. “the Walleye Queen,” passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018 at her Rainycrest home in Fort Frances, Ont. at the age of 91.
She was predeceased by her husband, Nick, of 54 years; parents, Maria and Angelo DePiero; son, Michael; grandsons, Matthew Sovereign and Brad Pihulak; brothers, Gelindo and Bronc (Aune) DePiero; sisters, Norma (Tom) Grinsell and Louise (Dave) Chambers; her in-laws; and many special friends.
Left to cherish Mom's memory are her children, Sandra (Jim) McKinnon, Larry (Donna) Pihulak, Dwayne (Charlaine) Pihulak, Robert (Debbie) Pihulak, and Debbie (Lewis) Kempf; as well as her grandchildren, Heather Kasprick, Chris (Aynsley) McKinnon, Craig (Kim) McKinnon, Jeff (Shauntelle) Pihulak, Melissa Sovereign, Michael (Chiratidzo) Sovereign, Nathan Kempf, Tyler (Alyssa) Kempf, Jessica (James) Perkins; 20 great-grandchildren; and great-great-grandson, all of whom she loved dearly.
As well, her nieces and nephews, and members of the Vandenbrand, Dallman, and Beaushene families, were a special part of her long, full life.
Mom was born in Fort Frances, growing up on a small farm on the outskirts of town. There she learned the value of hard work, as well as care and compassion for others, in helping her ailing mother and brother.
She attended grade school in McIrvine. Mom was unable to attend high school, working instead at a local bakery, but she became a self-taught student—always striving to do the best.
Her pails of blueberries were full and clean, her hems and seams straight and perfect, and her gardens were beautiful. Most importantly, she tried to be the best daughter, wife, mother, sister, grandmother, and friend she could be.
Mom and Dad were married on June 17, 1945. Their honeymoon was a trip to Kenora on the train. They built their first home on Christie Avenue and in the early 1950s owned and operated the Modern Dry Cleaners (now the home of From the Grind Up).
Moving to Crozier in the late 1950s, they operated a beef farm. Here they hosted the annual Italian picnic for many years.
Mom's waitress career began at the Hill Top House in Crozier. She also worked at the Rainy Lake Hotel, the Red Dog Inn, and La Place Rendez-Vous. Loving her job, she taught many young people the fine art of serving (the tables had to be set, and the food and drinks presented according to proper etiquette standards).
At age 74, Mom became a Walmart greeter. We're sure many conversations at the front door were the source of finding out where the fish were biting best.
Mom's many hats included being a member of St. Mary's Church and the C.W.L. She was a Red Hat Society lady, a Woman's Institute member, a 4-H leader, and belonged to the Italian Ladies Club. She was proud of her Italian heritage.
Faith was Mom's anchor in life. She was baptized, married, and laid to rest at St. Mary's Church in Fort Frances, which she attended regularly all her life. Her strong faith in God helped her through some sad and difficult times.
“Family” was Mom's most prized possession. She was happiest at family gatherings (we all remember growing up with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends at our home). Mom loved us all unconditionally, and was happy and proud when she would see us all together.
“Friends” were the people Mom loved to be with and she had so many. Her door always was open, and young and old were welcome.
“Fun” was her way of enjoying life and included playing cards, hunting, berry-picking, and trips to the casino. Her travels included a trip to Italy, the birthplace of her parents, Las Vegas, Mexico, and the east and west coasts. And then there was dancing. How she loved to dance.
As in most Ukrainian-Italian families, “Food" was an important part of our lives. Mom was a great cook and it was not uncommon to have 20-30 people around the kitchen table eating a delicious meal (and, yes, we had to use the "good dishes”).
Mom had a flair for “Fashion" and thus the name "Diamond Lil.” She loved nice clothes and pretty jewellery.
“Fishing" was a passion for our Mom. She loved the outdoors and never missed an opportunity to be on the lake. She operated her own boat and knew all the "hot spots” for both trout and walleye. She was a competitive fisherwoman and participated with many partners in tournaments in Fort Frances, Dryden, Emo, and Rainy River.
It was all in a day's work for Mom to fish all day, come home and clean the fish (in the fish cleaning room), and then have a big fish fry.
This remarkable lady has “Gone Fishing" and "Found a Heavenly Spot.”
God be with you until we meet again.
A funeral mass will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary's Church in Fort Frances, with Fr. Allen Albao officiating.
Interment will take place in Riverview Cemetery in Fort Frances.
If desired, in memoriam donations may be made to the Fort Frances Community Chest or St. Mary's Catholic Church c/o Northridge Funeral Home, P.O. Box 89, Emo, Ont., P0W 1E0.
Online condolences may be offered at www.northridgefuneralhome.com