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"POK" 2007 Obituary


POKRUPA o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-10-30 published
POKRUPA, Esther C. (née MANTS,) R.N., B.A.
Passed away peacefully October 22, 2007 in her 90th year. After 57 years of happy marriage, she is survived by her husband, Peter and her sons Ronald (married to Karen M. SMITH) and Paul (companion to Elaine,) two granddaughters, Tamara POKRUPA and Celina NAHANNI (both at Queen's University) and grand_son Taj NAHANNI, his wife Adrienne and three great-grandchildren; Tristan, Russell and Sierra of Montreal. Her brother Jim MANTS of Winnipeg and sister Norah MULLAN of Minneapolis also survive her. Born in Saskatchewan, Esther graduated as a registered nurse. During World War 2 she joined the Canadian Army and tended casualties at the Canadian Military Hospital in Basingstoke. After the war she was one of very few women to study at the Canadian Khaki University in Watford, United Kingdom. She transferred to the University of Saskatchewan where she completed her B.A. and met her future husband. According to her wishes she was cremated. There will be a memorial gathering at the University Club at Queen's, 168 Stuart Street, Kingston, Ontario, Friday November 30 from 4-7 p.m. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the "Pokrupa-Smith Medical Student Bursary" and endowment fund at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6. Thanks are given to the staff of Kingston General Hospital, Saint Mary's of the Lake Hospital and Helen Henderson Nursing Home who cared for here in her declining months.

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POKRUPA o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-11-09 published
She served in wartime Britain and attended the Khaki University
Raised in the dustbowl of Depression Saskatchewan, she tended to the wounded in Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps hospitals and then took up the study of economics
By Noreen SHANAHAN, Special to The Globe and Mail, Page S8
Esther POKRUPA found her way out of the swirl of Saskatchewan dust during the bleakest days of the Depression by paying careful attention to a future that led her to nursing, enlistment in the Canadian army and a degree in commerce and economics whose beginnings took shape in a unique institution called the Khaki University.
She had begun her life as a farmer's daughter in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Her parents were homesteaders from Norfolk, England, who had crossed the Prairies by train after arriving in Halifax in 1905. Her father, Jack MANTS, kept a travel diary and, upon arriving in Saskatchewan, he wrote a succinct description of the landscape: "There are a lot of train wrecks here."
Farming in southern Saskatchewan was never easy. Land that had previously been disturbed only by grazing animals went under the plows of thousands of farmers. The top soil, made dry by drought, became airborne in immense black clouds of dirt so that dust lay thick on the kitchen counters during Esther's childhood. Later, in the bleakest days of the Depression, she was sent to work as a 14-year-old au pair in Edmonton. It was fortunate that her employer was also her high-school principal; she was able to stay in school as well as hold down a job.
Esther weighed her prospects. As she saw it, she had two choices: nursing or teaching. She chose nursing because it paid better. She attended Edmonton nursing college and, after graduating in 1941, started work as a public-health nurse in a town called Bonanza, near Peace River, Alberta. She lived alone in the bush and travelled from community to community but decided, after a while, that her nursing skills would be more useful elsewhere. By then it was the middle of the Second World War, so she enlisted in the military alongside her younger brother, Jim, who became a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
In 1944, Ms. POKRUPA joined Canada's Nursing Sisters and went overseas to serve in Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps hospitals. First, however, she was sent to work for a short time at a prisoner of war camp at the exhibition grounds in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The camp housed more than 12,000 Germans, many of whom were ardent Nazis who that same year famously court-martialed and executed fellow PoWs for expressing defeatist views.
Once overseas, she ended up working in two well-established British army hospitals, one near Basingstoke, in northeast Hampshire, and the other near Horsham, in West Sussex. Basingstoke was the site of the No. 1 Canadian Neurological and Plastic Surgical Hospital.
"In Basingstoke, she worked with burn victims from airplanes used in [the air war mainly over Europe]," said her husband, Peter POKRUPA, a retired economist with Shell Canada. "After the D-Day invasion, she was in another hospital near Horsham, where the casualties were brought in."
As well as keeping up with the frantic pace of an army hospital in wartime, she also had to contend with peculiar restrictions placed on officers - some of them with a particularly repressive twist reserved for women. As a lieutenant, she was not permitted to marry; nor could she socialize with enlisted men.
After the war, she stayed in Britain and attended the Khaki University at Watford, just north of London. Established and managed by the Canadian Army in Britain at the end of the First World War, the school was revived in 1945 to help prepare servicemen for their return to civilian life.
While there were few women among the student body, and most of them women studied home economics, that was not for Esther POKRUPA. With a shrewd eye towards a career and financial independence, she took up economics. Her husband described a school photograph of her from that time: "There were hundreds of men and three women. [The women sat] with crossed legs in the front row. It was an incredible picture, very unusual to have women in university at all in the 1940s - especially in England - so it was quite unique."
Unfortunately, her studies were interrupted by a serious bout of tuberculosis, contracted while nursing at Basingstoke. She was sent home on a troopship and at Halifax she was carried down to the dock on a stretcher. There, someone in the crowd reached out and placed an apple on her blanket, a gesture she found deeply touching. She spent long months in a sanatorium before she could return to her books.
In 1948, she was finally well enough to resume her studies. She transferred her credits from the Khaki University to the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and pursued her interest in economics. "Her reason for going into nursing… was not a hard-felt passion," said her son, Ronald POKRUPA, a neurosurgeon in Kingston. "She wanted to do something more than be a registered nurse."
While at University of Saskatchewan, she met Peter POKRUPA. By all accounts, he was first smitten with her because of her independence - and by the fact that she owned her own car. He was a war refugee from Czechoslovakia, also working towards at degree in economics, and they shared some classes.
They were married in 1950, the same year she graduated with an economics degree. The couple moved to Toronto and their two sons were born a short while after. A few years later, she suffered a serious relapse of tuberculosis. In 1956, she spent nine months in a Toronto sanatorium. "That was during the early years of chemotherapy for tuberculosis," Doctor POKRUPA said. "Before that it was a death sentence. She was in one of the lucky groups that got the drugs, and so she recovered."
Dr. POKRUPA remembers being six years old and visiting her at the sanatorium. Years later he realized the illness cost her dearly. "I always suspected that her having had tuberculosis damaged her ambitions… [it was a] sobering, frightening experience to go through, and had an impact on her attitude toward her children as well. She had been a doting mother, but for months she couldn't have contact [with us] for fear that we'd catch tuberculosis."
Later, she applied her nursing skills to her younger son, Paul. In 1970, while living in Tucson, Arizona., he was shot in a robbery and spent several weeks recuperating in hospital - with his mother nearby.
In 1971, Ms. POKRUPA moved to England with her husband for two years and spent some time travelling. One of their trips was to areas where she had nursed during the war to try and locate the actual hospitals. Sadly, she was disappointed. Some of the hospitals were large stately homes that had been pressed into service. At Horsham, the hospital was said to have been the home of the Duke of Wellington, victor of the Battle of Waterloo and later a prime minister of Britain, and that his horse was buried in the yard.
"We tried at Horsham," Mr. POKRUPA said. "We asked people and they said, 'Oh yes, there was a military hospital here, long ago… not exactly sure where it was.' "
After returning home, Ms. POKRUPA continued to work as a public health nurse in Toronto until she retired in 1984 but her joie de vivre continued long after. "Esther was interested in everything," her husband said. "Women's clubs, the Canadian Club in London&hellip she even went to tea at Buckingham Palace. She was interested in history, music; whenever we could, we would attend extension classes at the University of Toronto, York, Elderhostel." In a last gesture toward the living, Ms. POKRUPA and her husband planted 20,000 pine trees on the rocky stretch of the Canadian Shield north of Kingston.
Esther POKRUPA was born Esther MANTS in North Battleford, Saskatchewan., on August 3, 1918. She died peacefully in Kingston on October 22, 2007. She was 90. She is survived by her husband, Peter POKRUPA, and by her sons Peter and Ronald. She also leaves her brother, Jim MANTS, and her sister, Norah MULLAN, and by numerous grandchildren.

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