Honouring a Friend
Last December I lost a good and long-time friend, Mike Kuzyk. 2019 would have been 50 years since we met and became friends. Mike was a husband to his wife Sharon, a dad to three young men, Sam, Luke, and Jake. He came from a farm family and later became a farmer himself. Coming from rural Manitoba roots, he was, of course, a hockey player. He played hockey most of his life.
Many people in the Winnipeg area knew him as a builder and contractor. He ran Sparkus Construction, named after a pet name he gave to his wife. Everyone who knew him, knew him to be an honest straight shooter. If he made a promise, his word was gold.
Mike was a spiritual man. He grew up a strong Ukrainian Catholic, and he remained so to the end. He assisted at his home parish in Cooks Creek, Manitoba, and was a right hand man to the pastor, working and helping wherever he could in the parish. His funeral was at Immaculate Conception Parish in Cooks Creek, where he dedicated a lot of his spare time.
There was a period in his life between farming and construction where Mike was known as the banjo player in a bluegrass country band called the Double Eagle Band. Music was a part of his life as long as we’d known each other. We both sang in the school choir at St. Vladimir’s College in Roblin, Manitoba where we first became friends.
After high school, we both sang with a Ukrainian male choir that started out as the alumni choir from St. Vlad’s. That choir became the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus. This is the group that routinely blows the roof off Bell MTS Place singing the anthems before Winnipeg Jets hockey games.
When Mike was with the Double Eagle Band, they performed Glory Train, a bluegrass gospel song that he had written 40 years ago. When the band performed it, George Yourchek, who was also a high school buddy of ours, sang it. At Mike’s funeral, George gave a soulful rendition of the song in church at Mike’s wife’s request. Lyrically, the song was almost a reassurance from Mike himself that he was ok.
Since there was no recording of George’s rendition at the funeral, we wanted to honour our friend by producing a recording for Sharon and her family. We arranged to do the recording at the church where the funeral was held. I suggested that we make a small addition to the version that George did by adding Mike’s “voice “ – a banjo part. My brother Nestor, a five string player himself, agreed to play on the session. He made a suggestion of his own. To close the circle, he suggested that he play Mike’s banjo, which Sharon readily supplied. Most of the session was done in the church with a dobro part added later at my place.
So here is our dedication to our good friend Mike.
Here’s Glory Train.