Joseph (Joe) Zbitnew

Dec. 24, 1926 – Jan.14, 2012

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Joe Zbitnew at age 85 in the Palliative Care Unit of Nanaimo Regional Hospital. Joe was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, son of Wasil (Bill) and Dora (Surkan) Zbitnew. He was the eldest of six children; Claudia [Kelowna] , Ozzie, Wallis [Regina], Lu (Ed) [Edmonton], and Larry (Carol) [Edmonton]. Joe is lovingly remembered and sadly missed by his wife Josie; son Gregory and daughter Linda Sundevic; grandchildren, Jaman Lloyd-Zbitnew [Vancouver], Chad Sundevic and Nathan (Kristen) Sundevic [Thompson, Manitoba], and his many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents and brother Ozzie.

Joe began teaching at age 16 in Chernovitz School in Saskatchewan, a one-room school where his father had earlier taught. He had 52 students in grades 1 through 9, many older than he was. He met Josie (Dreveny) when he substituted at Heatherbank, the country school she attended. They met again years later when she was teaching at May School near her hometown of Margo, Saskatchewan. They married, and their life together was a true love story that lasted 57 years. They went to live in Broadacres, a small town in Southern Saskatchewan, where Joe was Principal/ teacher of a three- room school. Josie taught grades 1 to 4. They moved to Milden, Saskatchewan where Joe became Principal of the High School. Their son Gregory was born in Milden. The young family next moved to London, Ontario where Joe taught at London South Collegiate and their daughter Linda was born.

In Timmins, a Northern Ontario mining town, Joe was Head of the History Department at Timmins High School. To be closer to parents and relatives, the family returned to Saskatchewan in 1965, where Joe became the Assistant Superintendent of Schools with the Wadena School Unit. Each move was a promotion and a new adventure for the family. In 1969 Joe moved to Cranberry Portage, Manitoba, where he became the Area School Superintendent with Frontier School Division. In 1973 the office moved to Thompson, Manitoba to be more accessible to the Northern schools he supervised. Joe loved the spectacular scenery and the wonderful people of the north. He traveled to remote schools by plane, train, snowmobile and boat. He achieved his desire to build high schools in Northern communities so the children would not have to leave their home and families to further their education. Joe’s final position was Chief Executive Officer of Northern Lights School Division based in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where he retired in 1985. When winters became difficult for Joe and Josie they moved to beautiful Qualicum Beach, BC, where they have enjoyed the past 22 years.

Wherever the family moved, Joe was always active in community associations, Lion’s Club, church, sporting events and politics. Joe was known for the humour he added to his public speaking engagements. He maintained his Ukranian heritage, and always cheered for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Joe and Josie traveled every summer with their family throughout all of Canada and the United States. Later, when the children had left home, they journeyed to Mexico, Jamaica, Hawaii, Cuba, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, then finally throughout Europe and to the Czech Republic, the birthplace of Josie’s parents.

A man with a kind and thoughtful nature, Joe was always a good listener. He had the natural ability to tell a joke that brought smiles and laughter and put people at ease in any situation. Known among his collegues and friends as a man with steadfast principles, Joe was well liked and respected by school boards, teachers, students and community organizers. He took the time to get to know the local people wherever he went and had an amazing memory for the names of the students he taught and people he met over the years.

The family sincerely thanks the medical staff; Dr. Marback, Dr. David Sims, nurses, and Hospice Volunteers in Palliative Care for their kind and compassionate care given Joe during his brief stay. Also special thanks to Dr. Deutscher for his dedicated care over the past year. Joe passed away peacefully and serenely with Josie, Gregory and Linda by his side.

Those interested in making a donation to the Palliative Care Unit in Joe’s memory are thanked for doing so.

A ‘Celebration of Life’ will be held February 18th at 2:00pm at Yates Funeral Services, 1000 Allsbrook Rd., Parksville, BC. Come and share your memories. A family ‘Celebration of Life’ & Interment will by held in Kelowna, BC in the spring.

“In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore…”


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