ZEMLAK, Gary Stephen

June 28, 1950-May 13, 2020

The Chronicle Herald (Provincial) - - OBITUARIES -

Sadly, on May 13, 2020, Gary Zemlak of Liv­ing­stone Cove, Antigo­nish Co., (for­merly of Camp­bel­lville, On­tario), passed away as a re­sult of com­pli­ca­tions fol­low­ing surgery.

Gary was born in Thun­der Bay, On­tario, and spent his child­hood al­ter­nat­ing be­tween the min­ing town of Beard­more, On­tario, and the farm­lands of Saskatchew­an. A proud Cana­dian, Gary was equally proud of his Ukrainian her­itage. He spent his for­ma­tive years with his pa­ter­nal grand­mother (Baba), whom he de­scribed as one of the most pos­i­tive in­flu­ences in his life, and from whom he re­ceived his per­sonal val­ues and his de­sire to help those less for­tu­nate than him­self. His en­trepreneur­ial na­ture, his need to be of ser­vice to others - and his pen­chant for want­ing to do things his way - led him into self-em­ploy­ment and small busi­ness own­er­ship. Fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion from Cen­ten­nial Col­lege in Elec­tron­ics En­gi­neer­ing Tech­nol­ogy he founded his busi­ness, Tykris In­cor­po­rated (named for his two chil­dren, Tyler and Kris­ten), and fo­cused his en­ergy on the de­sign, man­u­fac­ture and dis­tri­bu­tion of com­plex com­mu­ni­ca­tion aids and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trols for per­sons with se­vere dis­abil­i­ties and spe­cial needs, work­ing to max­i­mize their in­de­pen­dence and qual­ity of life. His in­no­va­tion and lead­er­ship in this field led uni­ver­si­ties, col­leges and larger com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies - such as Mo­torola to seek his coun­sel and to help train their stu­dents and em­ploy­ees. His work was cited in ed­u­ca­tional jour­nals and text­books.

De­spite his suc­cess in busi­ness Gary al­ways ac­knowl­edged his more mod­est be­gin­nings in farm­ing, tramp min­ing and con­struc­tion and their im­pact in forg­ing the in­di­vid­ual he was to be­come. Af­ter 27 years of suc­cess in busi­ness, due to emer­gent life and health is­sues, Gary re­luc­tantly closed Tykris’ doors and sought out other op­por­tu­ni­ties to make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of others.

Gary’s pas­sions in­cluded health care, ed­u­ca­tion, chil­dren and youth, the el­derly and the New Cana­dian pop­u­la­tion. In an ef­fort to ef­fect pos­i­tive change he ran for a seat in the On­tario leg­is­la­ture in 2007. His in­nate fear­less­ness and love of chal­lenge pro­pelled him, as a novice, to take on a 16-year in­cum­bent and while ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful he lost the seat by less than 100 votes. It was only Gail and Gary’s de­ci­sion to re­lo­cate per­ma­nently to Nova Sco­tia that kept him from con­tin­u­ing the pur­suit of a ca­reer in pol­i­tics.

Gary was plagued by ill health which ul­ti­mately con­fined him to a wheel­chair, some­what iron­i­cally given his cho­sen ca­reer. But even from his chair he com­manded the room. He was a big bear of a man with an im­pos­ing phys­i­cal pres­ence out­matched only by his per­son­al­ity. Peo­ple of all ages were drawn to him, none more so than small chil­dren, the el­derly, and the vul­ner­a­ble, who saw be­yond his of­ten gruff and tac­i­turn façade to the soft-hearted, giv­ing and nur­tur­ing man he was. His own life’s ex­pe­ri­ence taught him the im­por­tance of nur­tur­ing, men­tor­ing and cham­pi­oning, es­pe­cially for the young, and he took on those roles ea­gerly when­ever the op­por­tu­nity arose.

Gary was mis­chievous and fun-lov­ing, quirky and ir­rev­er­ent, and took great de­light in shock­ing others, while never in­tend­ing to of­fend or up­set. He could be both rigid and un­wieldy and soft and ac­com­mo­dat­ing, and at any given time one never knew which side of Gary would pre­vail. He had an in­nate em­pa­thy that en­abled him to zero in on and re­spond to the needs of others. Gary met all chal­lenges head-on and, un­til the last few weeks of his life and against all odds, he pre­vailed. He kept to his own coun­sel, al­ways did what he thought was right - de­spite the some­times over­whelm­ing counter-po­si­tion of others - and wore both his virtues and his faults openly and un­apolo­get­i­cally. He was in­deed his own man. And he will be sorely missed.

Gary is sur­vived by his wife, Gail Ri­eschi; his son, Tyler (Danielle); daugh­ter, Kris­ten (Yaun); grand­chil­dren, Mya and Owen; sis­ter, Linda En­ders (Tracy); sis­ter-in-law, Anita Ri­eschi; nieces, Tammy, Tri­cia and Lyn­d­say; nephew, Travis (Amy); and nu­mer­ous cousins scat­tered across the coun­try. A cel­e­bra­tion of Gary’s life will be held; date to be de­ter­mined. Those wish­ing to hon­our Gary’s me­mory are en­cour­aged to do­nate to their char­ity of choice.

The fam­ily wishes to ex­tend spe­cial thanks to Dr. David Cud­more of Antigo­nish and the Plas­tics, Burn Unit and ICU staff of the QEII Health Sciences Cen­ter, es­pe­cially Dr. Jack Rasmussen and reg­is­tered nurse, Staci (with an i). Funeral ar­range­ments are un­der the di­rec­tion of C.L. Curry Funeral Home, Antigo­nish, Nova Sco­tia. On­line con­do­lences: www.clcurry.com

"Like a bird on the wire

Like a drunk at a mid­night choir

I have tried in my way to be free"

-Leonard Co­hen

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