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Helen Bender, mother of ROFFA member Martin Bender passed away at age 95

Halina "Helen" Elisabeth Bender (née Polewski) The Bender family sadly shares the passing, peacefully in her 96th year, of Halina (Helen) Elisabeth Polewska Bender on October 1st, 2023 at the Starwood facility in Nepean, Ontario. Hala was born in Rivne, Ukraine (eastern Poland before WWII) on April 15th, 1928, the oldest child of Janina (Jane) Bagińska and Franciszek (Frank) Polewski. She is survived in almost seventy years of marriage by her husband Paul (maritime master, lieutenant-commander, RCNR, retired), daughter Katherine (Marc), and sons Andrew (Ruth), Victor, Martin, Gregory, and Alex (Shannon). Lastly are her brother Victor Polewski and extended family in the Windsor area. Hala was predeceased by her parents, Janina and Franciszek, and by siblings Joseph, Wanda, Ludmiła (Lusia), and Tadeusz (Ted). After WWI, Frank Polewski, a veteran of fighting along the Western Front, had received farmland from the Polish government in eastern Poland and served in the army reserve. For the first twelve years of her life in Poland, Hala was curious farmer's daughter and read everything given to her including The Last of the Mohicans (in Polish), But events of WWII sent the Polewski family on an odyssey from Poland to Siberia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, and Tengeru, Tanzania, all while Frank served in the Second Polish Corps. At the merciful conclusion of the war, the family was reunited in a Polish resettlement camp at Oulton Park, Cheshire, in England. But the damp and chilly English weather and an opportunity for emigration to Canada, aided by uncle Stanley Poleski in Detroit, drew them across the Atlantic ocean aboard immigrant ships like the Aquitania. Despite the risk, a farm in Harrow, Ontario, good crops, particularly tomatoes, and hard work, led to a larger farm near Amherstburg. Mom wanted to improve her English and train to become a teacher. After diligent study, she was hired at St. Rose High School in Amherstburg where her brother Victor was a student. "Miss Polewski" became well-known as the coach of both the senior and junior girls' basketball teams during the 1952-54 seasons. The teams were especially appreciative of Miss Polewski for traveling from Harrow to supervise practices and games. By the end of the 1953 school year, Miss Polewski was Mrs. Helen Bender. Meanwhile, in late 1946, Hala had met a British merchant navy officer in Mombasa at a New Year's Eve party. Years of correspondance by letter led to the marriage of Mom and Dad at St. Hyacinth Polish church in Windsor, Ontario. A big move to Victoria, B.C. started the family with the two oldest sons. Later, our family settled in Ottawa and during ensuing years Mom and Dad raised four more children. After Alex, our youngest, began elementary school, Mom returned to teaching on a supply basis. After Dad's retirement from the federal government, our already well-traveled parents lived in South America for three multi-month sojourns. Mom couldn't be idle, of course, and learned Spanish so that she could teach English as a second language to local students. Mom was known for her splendid soprano singing, and also having learned the rudiments of piano while living in Tengeru, joined the choir at St. Augustine on Baseline Road. Later, after the construction of St. Maurice, Mom could be heard during hymn-singing. Mom remained active in the Polish community in Ottawa including as a teacher in the Saturday Polish-language school and with friends in Ottawa's Polish community. A highlight was a trip to Poland and Ukraine in 2005 during which she visited her father's ancestral village and the land farmed by her parents east of Rivne. Mom was a recipient of the Sybir Deportee Cross, awarded by the ambassador of the Republic of Poland. And so we say good-bye to Mom with gratitude and love beginning with Mass at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 5th, 2023 at St. Maurice Catholic church, 4 Perry Street at Meadowlands Drive in Nepean. Father Lawrence Hyginus will preside. Interment follows at Beechwood Cemetery. Family and friends will meet at the Beechwood office at 2:00 p.m. for direction to the grave in military section 103. Share memories and condolences here For more information on this and other BREAKING NEWS, EVENTS AND MUCH MORE please visit Join us on our new Facebook Group page: Retired Ottawa Firefighters Association (ROFFA) | Facebook


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