Mike Vavrek had four principles in life – give to the Lord, love your wife and family, always say a kind word and give back to your community. Though he passed away at the age of 80 in 2004, Mike’s family has ensured his legacy lives on through the Mike Vavrek Memorial Fund with the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta.
Mike first came to the Sexsmith area with his parents, John and Anna Vavrek in 1930 when family moved north from Blairmore, Alta., to homestead. Graduating from Grade 8 at the age of 12, Mike was unable to continue his education because of the cost of room and board in Sexsmith, so he remained working on the farm to help support his family.
At the age of 16, Mike and his dad John purchased a two-ton Dodge grain truck and helped haul grain for the farm as well as some of the neighbours in the community. Growing up enjoying sports such as baseball, curling and hockey, work on the farm always came first for Mike.
In 1942, however Mike, then 19, along with his brothers Johnny, Joe and friend Arlene McGowan started a band they called the Vavrek Orchestra. They played many weekend dances in the community and surrounding areas receiving $5 per person. It was not too many years later, that Mike met the love of his life, Agatha Grotkowski. The two married in Webster in 1949 and bought land on the Emerson Trail where they raised six children – Larry, Ann Marie, Andy, Joyce, Theresa and Michael. To this day, youngest son Michael and his family continue to farm the family homestead.
Working and raising a family over the years never stopped Mike from being involved in his community. He was a director with the Bear Lake REA for almost 50 years, served on the Sexsmith Catholic School Board for more than 25 years, and was involved in a number of other organizations including the Sexsmith Seed Plant, QEII Hospital Auxiliary and Volunteer board to name a few.
For more than 50 years, Mike curled in the Sexsmith Farmers Bonspiel, as well as volunteered to do whatever needed to be done each year to make it a successful event.
In 2002, Mike received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, an award presented to Canadians who made a significant contribution to their fellow citizens, their community or to Canada over the previous 50 years. It was a true testament to Mike’s amazing passion for giving back to the community that he loved.
In establishing the Mike Vavrek Memorial Fund with the Community Foundation, the Vavrek family continued the connection with the Sexsmith Farmers Bonspiel to honour Mike and his dedication to the community.
You can make a difference in our community – not only for today but forever. When you make a donation to the Mike Vavrek Memorial Fund, we invest that gift into a permanent endowment fund and the original gift is never spent. Earnings from your gift are directed to the Town of Sexsmith & District Community Foundation, which distributes funding amongst recreational projects and supplies that provide positive impact on local youth sports. Donations can be made online here – https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/41048 or by calling the Community Foundation at (780) 538-2820.