SAWCHUK, Elsie Polly - Elsie Sawchuk, a true pioneer of Canadian culture, has died. At her passing February 28, 2015, she was 86. Born in Winnipeg to working class parents, Elsie was a powerful mezzo-soprano and after studying voice as a young woman, she joined the Canadian Opera Company during its early years, touring North America twice. In addition to a stint as a member of the company of the Stratford Festival, she also, on occasion, designed for the Canadian Opera Company and when the time came for her to give up her singing career, she pursued her interest in stage design professionally. She became a proud member of United Scenic Artists and served as resident designer for the Ohio Light Opera Company for many years, creating productions of Orpheus in the Underworld, The New Moon, The Student Prince and many others. She also designed many productions for the Royal Conservatory's Opera School and her designs for many Canadian productions are included in the Toronto Public Library's Design Collection. Except for a brief stint on Prince Edward Island, Elsie made her home in Toronto, more latterly in the company of other artists at the Performing Arts Lodge, where she was amongst the inaugural residents. A woman of impeccable taste, Elsie was a gifted painter who treasured her Ukrainian heritage and in a world where many do not suffer fools gladly, Elsie suffered them not at all. An only child, she was predeceased by her parents and by her dear friend Ron Hastings. A private interment has been requested, but remembrances in Elsie's honour will be gratefully received in her name by Performing Arts Lodge Toronto at 110 The Esplanade, Toronto, ON M5E 1X9.
Published in Toronto Star on Mar. 6, 2015.