In Loving Memory ~ Mary Vasiliyevna (Esakin) Horkoff was born in Mikado, Saskatchewan to William and Annie Esakin, on January 30th, 1928. She was the eldest of four followed by sister Florence, brother Joe and baby Barbara.
The family first lived in Veregin Saskatchewan before moving to a prairie homestead where Mary grew up. She received her schooling in a one room schoolhouse in Linden Valley where she completed grades one through eight. During her childhood school years, Mary developed a life-long love of reading.
Mom spoke of those years fondly, recalling that, along with her close neighbors Dorothy Rilkoff and Mabel Chernoff, they often walked, or rode horseback the two miles to school together and in winter they sometimes arrived in a ‘one-horse open sleigh’.
Mary, Dorothy and Mabel forged a deep friendship that endured for close to ninety years, a friendship that began on the Saskatchewan prairie, travelled to the mountains of British Columbia and expanded to include their spouses Fred, Eli and John in the sunshine valley of Grand Forks. Our families remain closely connected to this day.
When Mary was a young teen, the Esakin family decided to relocate to Grand Forks, British Columbia where Mary began working in the local vegetable fields and nursery gardens to help supplement the family income. The 1940’s were difficult times. Work was found mostly in the Okanagan orchards and packing houses and Mary, along with her family, spent spring and summer months working in the Penticton area in Cawston, Naramata and Kaleden.
It was there that Mary met a handsome young Grand Forks man, ‘Freddie’ Horkoff and so their courtship began. In the Fall of ’46, Fred was wise enough to buy an engagement ring and propose to lovely Mary. They were married on December 14,1947 and moved to the Horkoff village on Spencer Hill where Fred had grown up.
Soon they began a family and built their first home on the banks of July Creek where they raised their four children: Nanette, Marilyn, Jim and Elaine.
Mary and Fred always planted a large and bountiful garden. There was always an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables which were shared with neighbours and family as well as preserved for the winter. Mary was expert at canning. There were jars and jars of tomatoes for borshch, pickles of every kind, peaches and apricots, tasty jams and juice, croc pots full of sauerkraut and pickled tomatoes as well as a root cellar stocked with fresh vegetables harvested every fall.
In the very early years, Marilyn and I remember the village gardens which were planted a fair distance from our house. Mom would load my little sister and I onto a small wagon along with blankets, lunch and juice and off we’d go. While she weeded and watered by hand, we played under the shade of a large Saskatoon bush where she could keep an eye us.
Life was simple but challenging in those early days as Fred worked in forestry and was often away from home in logging camps and mom was left in charge of the children, house and farm.
We always had a pair of dairy cows needing to be milked and tended. With lots of extra milk and cream Mary made butter, loaf cheese and cottage cheese for family and for sale. Dad came from a long line of beekeepers and Mary soon learned to assist as they tended their many hives together.
Lucky us…we always had delicious golden honey and especially enjoyed honeycomb treats. Those bees travelled to Mary and Fred’s second home built down in the valley on the slopes of Spencer Hill, where they had established an amazing orchard adding a huge job of growing, harvesting and selling fruit to the workload. Their apples became known far and wide.
Flowers were a passion Mary indulged in. Her favourites were roses, dahlias and peonies. Every one of her gardens had giant rows of dahlias bordering the edges and roses of every color bloomed around the yard.
When they built their final house on the Kettle River, Mary took advantage of the new space to plant and nurture an even greater variety of blooms and flowering plants. Mary often shared her flowers with others for special occasion arrangements and celebrations.
She also enjoyed handicrafts learned as a young girl. She could crochet, knit and use a spinning wheel. She sewed and hand stitched many woolen quilts for family. Mary exquisitely embroidered Doukhobor shawls and later learned the art of hand painting remarkably lifelike flowers on shawls. She was a talented seamstress out of necessity and my sister and I remember with love the cute matching dresses she made for us to wear on special occasions.
Over the years, her talented hands also created many elaborate figure skating outfits for daughter Elaine for her many annual skating performances and competitions.
Mary was a talented singer with a fine tuned ear and a memory for remembering melodies. She easily taught her children to sing in harmony and encouraged us all to perform duets and participate in choir singing. Mary was a lifelong member of the USCC, taught Sunday School when her children were young and supported and encouraged all her grandchildren to learn and understand the Doukhobor faith.
She participated with several singing groups over the years, beginning with youth groups in Saskatchewan and later as an adult in BC, joined the USCC Ladies Choir. Together, Fred and Mary thoroughly enjoyed the close comradery of the Friendship Choir and in their senior years, loved singing with the Grand Forks Psalmists. Family car trips always presented a perfect opportunity to sing, memorize words and perfect harmonies.
Mary’s strong voice and sharp memory for complicated Doukhobor melodies were a great asset. She was often asked to start songs, recite memorized psalms and help others learn traditional singing.
Mary was an active member of the USCC Ladies Groups and cooked for many community events. She served several terms on the USCC Kitchen committee and was a founding member of the USCC Ladies Bread Baking Group. For many years, she served as secretary of the Co- op Women’s Guild and when they published a cookbook as a fundraiser, Mary took charge of sales and distribution.
For several decades, the proceeds from this cookbook funded a Coop Women’s Guild Scholarship for students graduating from GFSS.
Mom and Dad were always there for each of us through the many stages of our lives. They doted on and championed our children, encouraging their interests and always expressing their unconditional love and pride in grandchildren and great grandchildren as well.
They were wonderful and were there when we needed them most. All the grandkids loved visiting Baba and Deda’s house. Mom and Dad often arrived at our homes loaded with fruit, vegetables and honey of course. We looked forward to them visiting and if they could stay awhile, Mom would often make something delicious… borshch, vareniki, bread dough pyrahi…all were family favourites.
Memories of our mom and Baba will always be tied with lovely smells from the kitchen. She could make a feast of anything. We fondly recall the fruit vareniki she made after sending us into the hills to pick a jar of wild strawberries! Her raspberry pyroshki were amazing as were her soups, lapsha and blintsi. Halooshki soup was top of the list for her grandkids!
Mary and Fred loved to travel and with friends Mabel and John, explored Mexico and Cuba. They loved their trips to Hawaii, the prairies and the east coast of Canada where they explored the Maritimes and Newfoundland. Their most memorable trip was to Russia where they toured with a group from BC and thoroughly enjoyed a visit to Yasnaya Polyana.
Mary was predeceased by her parents, William and Annie Esakin, her brother Joe and just last year, her husband of 73 years, Fred.
She is survived by her children, Nanette (Robert) Fredericks, Marilyn (Michael) Strukoff, Jim (Sharon) Horkoff, Elaine (Ken) Kalesnikoff, her grandchildren Dayna Fredericks, Darren Fredericks, Nicolai (Jenn) Strukoff, Tolek (Megan) Strukoff, Misha (Ali) Horkoff, Carlin (Alli) Horkoff, Krystle (Griffin) Seed, Christopher (Tasha) Kalesnikoff and great grandchildren Kalayna and Grayson Seed, Carter, Kade and Emmry Kalesnikoff, Lincoln Strukoff, Livia Horkoff. We wish her soul eternal peace and joy in God’s heavenly kingdom. Her memory will live in our hearts forever.
The family expresses sincerest thanks to all who attended the service, Bill Pepin for his expert assistance, the Verigin family for their comforting words, Beth from the USCC staff, the gravediggers for preparing her final resting place at the Sion Cemetery and everyone who wished Mary well on her journey home.
We sincerely thank Dr. Lewis and the staff at Silver Kettle Village, Ivy House for their compassion and excellent care of Mary and the Grand Forks Funeral Home for their kind, professional service.
For those who wish to honor Mary’s life, donations to Iskra will be gratefully accepted by the USCC.
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