Bonnie Korzeniowski, B.S.W., MSc.A

(1941-2019)

Bonnie Korzeniowski was a trailblazer, leader, and role model in many ways. Korzeniowski’s exemplary life cut across a variety of fields, from her education and leadership in social work, including her volunteerism with Alzheimer’s Society, to her career in the Manitoba legislature as the MLA for St. James, and the province’s first special envoy for military affairs.

Born in Winnipeg to a military family, Korzeniowski attended Daniel Macintyre High School, marrying her high-school sweetheart who, like her father, also had a military career. They moved through a variety of postings, mostly in Ontario.

Korzeniowski graduated with a social service work diploma from Ottawa’s Algonquin College, in 1974.

After returning to Winnipeg, she worked at the Manitoba Youth Centre before earning a bachelor of social work at the University of Manitoba. She worked at Brandon General Hospital Social Work Department, where she received her MIRSW. She returned to Winnipeg where she was a social worker at St. Boniface Hospital and then Deer Lodge Centre.

Korzeniowski earned her master of science in administration (1995) from the University of Michigan and became chair of Health Care Professionals for the Deer Lodge Centre.

In 1999, Korzeniowski became the NDP MLA for St. James, serving until 2011serving as deputy speaker before being named special military envoy in 2008.

A strong supporter of the Military Family Resource Centre at 17 Wing, she was the first female board member of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, official “godmother” to the “Liga Dos Combantentes” (Portuguese War Veterans), a proud member of the Royal Military Institute of Manitoba, the Royal Commonwealth Association and the Intrepid Society. Her proudest achievement was to save and restore the Women’s Tribute Memorial Lodge, a heritage building at Deer Lodge Centre.

Korzeniowski’s greatest accomplishment was as a leader, role model and supporter of other women. Throughout her service to others, her family played a central role in her life and vision. Korzeniowski made sure that she was present for her family and was empathetic to the family needs of others she worked with and served. She saw the family in all of her work: whether in support of the families of her community or her maternal presence for new and junior MLAs.

Korzeniowski’s sense of family made the creation of her role as military envoy, and her establishment of the precedents and practices of that office, so important. Coming from a military family, she knew that families serve, not just the enlisted individuals. She bridged civilian and military life and community in a unique manner and one that began a long-overlooked aspect of provincial service and recognition. No matter how long a military family was posted in Manitoba, Korzeniowski, and the role she established, made everyone feel like a lifelong Manitoban.

Korzeniowski was a unique, spirited and determined woman, and definitely a trailblazer in the spirit of Nellie McClung.

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