June 26, 1936 – October 4, 2018
Paul was born on June 26, 1936 in a village by Wards Lake in the community of Christovoye, now known as the “Outlook” district of Grand Forks, BC. His parents were Alexey and Anyuta Seminoff. Anyuta’s maiden name was Popoff. He had two older sisters, Helen and Polly and has a younger brother Alex who is with us today and still lives in Grand Forks.
Paul started his english language school years in a school located in the vicinity of the Grand Forks arena, and later he continued his lessons at the Outlook school in the Chirstovoye community, and finally at the Grand Forks High School in town. He only completed 7 grades of school in English, but he also took Russian lessons for several years through the USCC organization in the Christovoye community. His teacher Stephan Nikolaevich Petkov left a huge impression on Paul and sparked his interest in a whole new world. Petkov was a teacher with a unique personality of his own, with many stories about Russia, a passion for poetry and Russian literature and all of that left a major impact on Paul for the rest of his life triggering a curiosity about the big wide world and sparking a desire to always be learning something new.
Growing up by Wards Lake, surrounded by hills and mountains exposed Paul at an early age to the wonders of nature and quickly evolved into a love of all animals and all living creatures. As a young boy, growing up in the village Paul had many responsibilities. He learned to care for the horses, the cows, and the chickens, work in the vegetable garden and in the fields during harvest. These daily chores taught Paul about responsibility and discipline and instilled in him a strong work ethic and skills he would carry with him into his adult years.
As a young boy in his leisure time he played baseball and grew to really love the game. As a teenager he played in several different baseball leagues. Paul also loved skating and playing hockey on the frozen ice on Wards Lake. He loved skiing in the mountains and hills around the village too. He was already a very active participant in the Doukhobor spiritual life, going to youth meetings in the Christovoye community in the evenings. Much of that time was spent singing together with his friends; Doukhobor hymns, Russian ballads and folk songs.
Paul soon realized he was blessed with a beautiful singing voice and so he became a member of the popular “Boys Choir”. For a period of time he was also chairman of the youth group of Christovoye. As a teenager, Paul already started to take on a few jobs. He worked one year at John Strelioff’s woodworking shop, then a few years in the fruit orchards of the Okanagan Valley and later in the sawmills of Grand Forks, Carmi, Midway, Boundary Falls and Sandners in Christina Lake.
In February 1962, Paul married his life partner, Lorraine Koftinoff and they began their life together living with his parents for the first few years in the village. After the former CCUB lands were resold, Lorraine and Paul began constructing their own home not far from the village where he grew up. This would be Paul’s home for the rest of his years. Paul and Lorraine were blessed with two daughters, Corinne and Nylla.
Paul’s love of gardening was something he could not live without. He especially loved growing tomatoes and together with Lorraine they always planted a giant vegetable garden that sustained them for the whole year. Paul also planted many fruit trees, nuts and berries and other trees that covered most of their 2 acre property. Paul built a barn where he kept chickens and for a few years, a couple of horses too.
But Paul’s true passionate hobby was his lathe work and wood turning. Through the years he perfected his style and created hundreds of beautifully carved pieces using mostly locally sourced wood. Many of his turnings were given as gifts to friends and family and to people who came to visit our Doukhobor community over the years. Paul had the privilege also to present his wood turnings to well-known figures on the world stage such as former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, Former Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin, Arun Gandhi, Former Russian Ambassador to the UN and Former Russian Ambassador to Canada Vitaly Churkin, well known politician and public speaker Stephen Lewis, and the great great grandson of the writer Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Ilych Tolstoy. His carvings are now in over 10 different countries all over the world including parts of the USA and throughout Canada.
But his passions knew no bounds and from his collection of handmade tools and old farm equipment grew another idea, to start a “Pioneer Garden” in the backyard. All these items were displayed throughout the yard, then surrounded by Lorraine’s beautiful flower arrangements, gazebos were built, birdhouses, ponds, and many other creative displays celebrating nature and Doukhobor folklore. It was truly a royal garden, a sanctuary, a tranquil and peaceful slice of paradise on earth. It was a 5 year labour of love that Paul and Lorraine poured their heart and soul into. But for Paul it wasn’t work, it was a hobby that gave him immense pleasure. Very quickly the garden caught the eye of the Grand Forks Art Gallery and they were invited to participate in the first ever art gallery garden tour. And for the next decade they were part of the annual garden tour every single year. In addition, hundreds of tourists from all over the world began to descend every summer for a walk through the garden and to hear stories of the Doukhobors told by Paul. The unique garden setting also became a backdrop for many weddings and graduations and people just wanting a pretty photo. Paul was in his element sharing his knowledge of Doukhobor history and way of life with any visitors who were interested.
Paul served on many different committees of the USCC organisation. For 20 years he held the position of Chairman of the Grand Forks Branch of the Canada – USSR Association and served as the liaison for the cultural exchanges between the USCC and Society Rodina of the former Soviet Union. Paul made many trips to Russia and took part in several peace conferences. He also travelled to the historic villages of our Doukhobor ancestors, meeting many Russian Doukhobors and criss crossed the Soviet Union to learn more about Russian culture and way of life.
Paul was very instrumental in assisting many of our community’s young Doukhobor students go and study the Russian language in Moscow and other areas in the former Soviet Union. Paul also played an important role in arranging for Russian artists, singers and dancers to come to Canada to our Doukhobor community with their performances for many years. Paul and Lorraine were members of the friendship choir and took an active part in many concerts and festivals, recording of albums, and many other choir activities.
During his adult years Paul had several jobs beginning with Sandner Brothers Lumber Company. Following that he managed their building supply store. Paul used to say, “Sandners were like a second family to me. ” When their business was sold he went on to work for several years at the Sunshine Valley CO-OP. His final work place was in the particle board plant, Canpar Industries. Paul happily retired at the age of 55.
Paul was a lifelong member of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ organisation and devoted most of his life to various activities connected with the day to day running of the organisation. In his retirement he began to officiate our Doukhobor funerals, keeping as much of the original Doukhobor traditions and customs intact while adapting new traditions and styles that were emerging. In the last 20 years Paul had officiated some 230 funerals.
Also, in his retirement he was able to devote more time to his real passions, gardening and running the Pioneer Garden and of course wood-turning. He loved to cook, make sauerkraut and pickle cucumbers and tomotoes. He loved to read books and magazines, enjoyed hockey and baseball on TV. He kept abreast of current events and what was happening in the world around him. He had very strong opinions and never hesitated to express his views or engage family or friends in sometimes fiery and fiesty political debates.
In his later years he had to deal with several serious health issues. In his last few months Paul’s health started to decline and his mobility slowed down considerably.
Paul passed away on Thursday Oct. 4, 2018 in the Boundary Hospital with his family by his side. He was 82 years of age. He was predeceased by his parents Aleksey and Anyuta Semenoff, by his sisters Helen Plotnikoff and Polly Popoff. Paul is survived by his wife of 56 years Lorraine, his daughters Corinne “Kalina” and Nylla “Nadya” Seminoff, his brother Alec Seminoff and many other relatives.
Paul’s life was a life well lived. He was a family man, peace loving and hardworking. A man who loved nature and respect for the environment. He will be deeply missed and remembered by all who knew him. Now his voice is quiet, and his hard working hands are still.
May God accept his soul in to his Heavenly Kingdom and may he rest in peace.