Campus Life  

OC Foundation chair’s book launch supports students in need

Connie Denesiuk

Honouring the past and supporting the future: Connie Denesiuk’s new book has ambitious goals.

The Chair of the Okanagan College Foundation Board is launching a book next month about a story close to her heart, with the hope it will benefit the community around her.

‘Til Papa Returns; Surviving as a child refugee in WWII is the true story of Alfred Columbus, the youngest of eight children and father to Denesiuk.

Alfred was learning how to farm the land their family had worked for more than 200 years, following advice and guidance from his father. The Second World War changed everything for the family, which had to adapt as the food they produced was requisitioned by the government.

Evacuated with his mother to an unfamiliar city, the 10-year-old quickly adapted to his new role of family provider, capitalizing on any possible source of food to keep Mama and the refugees with whom they were housed from starving. He later came to Canada to pursue his dreams.

“This is a story of courage, resiliency, determination, and – above all – hope,” Denesiuk explains. “My sister and I grew up hearing Dad’s stories – the trials and triumphs of his young life. As Dad approached his 80s, I felt compelled to write down a collection of his remarkable stories and cobble them together. For several years, I took whatever opportunities I could to sit with Dad, ask him questions and capture his memories onto paper. Even as ALS made speech increasingly difficult for Dad, he continued to add bits of detail, chuckling as he relived his more humorous moments.”

She was inspired to use her father’s story to support a cause close to her heart: learning and education. Denesiuk has been involved in the education sector for most of her life, having served as a school trustee, OC Governor and board member of Okanagan College Foundation. She’s also completed her Master of Arts in Leadership, which she says proves learning is ageless.

She has committed $10 from the purchase of each book sold to raise funds for student bursaries at Okanagan College.

“Accessibility to post-secondary learning is crucially important for people as they reach for their dreams,” Denesiuk said.

“This is touching on so many levels; not least that Alfred’s remarkable story will now impact newcomers to Canada who are working to improve their own lives through education,” said Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

The book launch is scheduled for April 4 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Community Hall (PC113) of OC’s Penticton campus, 583 Duncan Ave. West. Registration is required but tickets are free and available online

To purchase a copy of ‘Til Papa Returns, please contact Connie Columbus Denesiuk by email: [email protected].

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