After a courageous battle with cancer, Pauline entered eternal life on Monday, August 31, 2020, with her husband and sons by her side. Her spirit lives on through her loving husband Kevin Hruska and their three children Sawyer (Bailey), Cassidy, and Austin; her brothers and sisters, Wayne Hirkala (Diane), Christine Busch (Victor), Dale Hirkala (Terri), Kenneth Hirkala (Debbie Clarke), Gail Jordan (Rick); mother in-law Annie Hruska; sister in-laws, Monica Langevin (Marcel), Wendy Lamontagne (Sheldon), and Rhonda Knull (Les); numerous nieces and nephews and a number of great-nieces and great-nephews. Pauline is also survived by an extended family of relations and friends too numerous to list but not forgotten. She was predeceased by her father Leonard Hirkala, mother Monica Hirkala, father in-law George Hruska, and two precious babies before she had the opportunity to meet them.
Pauline was born in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan on October 19, 1966, at St. Anthony’s Hospital. She was a born fighter, which became evident within the first few hours after her birth. After showing signs of distress she was airlifted to Regina General Hospital. By the time she arrived at the hospital her vitals were fine, and her love of flying ingrained in her soul. Pauline grew up on a farm near Gerald, Saskatchewan. At 5 years of age she attended the school in Spy Hill, where her mother taught, and later attended school in Esterhazy. As a child she enjoyed figure skating and developing her artistic side. She was always drawing or doodling something and later moved on to include painting.
Pauline was the youngest of six children, and very devoted to her family. She became an aunt at a very young age and took this role very seriously. She is fondly remembered by her older nieces and nephews as more of an older sister, their protector, teacher, and always by their side. She spent a considerable amount of time with Christine’s children, and could be found walking Scott to school, protecting him from a school yard bully. Her love of children grew as she spent time creating scavenger hunts, playing games, and teaching them a song or two. Not all of those songs could be shared with the adults, but she bought her way off the naughty list by dressing as Santa Claus for the kids and handing out presents. As a teenager Pauline also grew very close with Dale’s three children. It was then that her role started to evolve from big sister to a more motherly role.
As the kids grew this role came to include teaching them to drive and taking them on trips. Pauline was a natural care taker, and was always found tending to others. These tight knit relationships continued throughout her life, and extended to her great nieces and great nephews as well.
Pauline’s love of children was undeniable and her desire to have her own children was evident. On July 1, 1989, at the age of 22, Pauline married Kevin Hruska. Kevin always said it would take a special woman to be married to someone with a strong personality like his, and that she was. Together they built their first house on the farm in which they welcomed three boys. First Sawyer, then Cassidy, and finally Austin. Pauline’s children were her life. She loved to share with them her desire to travel, they took many family vacations. It was important to Pauline that her boys got to experience different cities and cultures. Cassidy and Austin both shared her love of flying, so much so that they later studied to become pilots. Pauline loved being a farmer’s wife, and never complained of the long hours Kevin put into growing the family farm and business. A legacy that will be carried on by the boys, grown with lots of love, patience, and hard work.
As the family business grew the opportunity came to build their dream home. Clearly inspired by her love of the farm house she grew up in, Pauline designed her dream house with characteristics of the farm house, although on a much grander scale. Pauline loved designing their home, and decorating, which included shopping and more shopping. It wasn’t long before Kevin had to build an additional shed to store her Christmas and Halloween decorations. Pauline enjoyed the finer things in life, including dining out and trips to their Phoenix home. But even more than that, she loved to share those things with the people she loved. Before her passing she talked fondly of her husband Kevin and their three boys. Thankful for the wonderful life she got to share with them. She was very proud of her boys, and the men they have grown to be. She was also very thankful to have been blessed with a daughter in-law, Bailey.
Pauline was a devoted wife and the best mother, mother in-law, sister, aunt, great-aunt, and friend that anyone could ask for. She was a fighter from the beginning to the end, and her love, strength, courage, pain, determination, and beauty was felt by many. Pauline’s family and friends were precious to her, and knowing and loving each one of them was the success story of her life. Her life was lived with incredible joy, felt by each child who held her hand. Her legacy of love will live on in all of those who were blessed by her presence.
A Tribute to Pauline by Kevin Hruska
Greeting and thank everyone.
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. What a profound set of promises. I never thought we would be tested on that so soon in our lives. As men, we take it for granted that our wife will have to suffer the loss of their husband. Now, I find myself staring at the wall and wondering what just happened.
Pauline was raised downstream from here, on top of the Cutarm valley. Her love for the valley was evident as each morning after she woke, she gazed into it. She even designed a window seat at the highest point of our house to do just that. However, today it is not the Cutarm valley – Pauline’s spirit resides over the Valley of Tears. As we weep, the river below carries our tears away. The hearts of the entire community and many friends and acquaintances have suffered along with us and share in the grief of losing such a wonderful friend, wife but most importantly mother.
Today, the banks of that river may overflow. I want to share a little experience I had.
I lost a friend a couple of years ago, and I was seeding his field just a few weeks after that. I noticed tracks from his quad while he was out checking for drainage, at that moment it hit me that he will never leave a track again. I actually put the tractor into neutral and found myself sobbing in the middle of the field. After a few minutes I carried on. One year later I was in the same field, seeding of course, and I caught my reflection in the cab’s mirror and I noticed a smile on my face and I realized that I was reminiscing on all of the great times we had.
Many, many years ago I overheard one wise aunt talking to another wise aunt. After a terrible tragedy in the family, she said “Remember, grieving is a selfish emotion.” That was decades ago, for some reason it stuck in my mind and now I search my soul and wonder who I’m grieving for. Because Pauline is finally at peace.The lesson I see in this is we must quickly put the sorrow behind us and start to reminisce on the abundance of good times we had. Kids I’m talking to you – that was an order from your mom. Her life was to make your life fulfilling and happy. There were no bad times. It was all good. We were blessed. Our relationship started here.
Pauline being from Gerald was always around. I occasionally saw her walking on the sidewalk, with her big smile, big teeth and big hair. All five feet of her. I always had one eye on her.
One of Pauline’s brothers woke up one morning and found himself in a precarious situation, with three kids in the house, one in diapers, and no mother for them. As aunt, Pauline stepped in and fulfilled the role. She described herself as the nanny, but everyone knew she was more than that. After watching this play out, I knew she was special I now had two eyes on Pauline. This little lady was checking all the boxes in what I was looking for. So I scooped her up and we were married. She was so happy, and all of a sudden we had three kids. All boys – small, medium, and large.
While raising our children, Pauline remained a central figure in the lives of her first set of kids, like taking them shopping for school, and taking them to events, as well as so-called baby sitting them. Those three children grew up to be wonderful people and Pauline no doubt was instrumental in steering them down the right path. Even though she was the aunt and the nanny, the phone rang six times on mother’s day, not three. What does that say about her?
Pauline was a central figure and stable force among all her nieces and nephews, heavily involving them in Halloween and Christmas events. Rest assure, they all have their own wonderful stories that involved Pauline. As everyone aged, some of them became more like friends than relatives.
Stacey, for example became super close with her. So close that she smuggled Pauline down to Arizona and helped her get a tattoo – the bugger. There is a reproduction of her tattoo on the bulletin. It ran across her chest, just below her neck with angel wings on each shoulder. The wings represent the two pregnancy’s that ended in miscarriage. Pauline was pregnant five times and if god didn’t step in, we would own our own school bus. Once again, Pauline was a stable force in our children’s lives.
It takes a very special woman to be married to me. Especially in the first thirty years of our marriage. I was an over-driven, goal seeker that never quit. I was busy building the farm and business while Pauline was changing diapers. I sometimes worked 7 days a week, 18 hour days, months on end. And I give you my word, not once did she complain about it. Isn’t that amazing? We took each other completely for granted. We viewed that as a good thing. She loved being a mother, a farmer’s wife, and my partner. Although If I asked her opinion on the business side, she would just say “whatever you think – you know what you’re doing.” But one time I bought 19 quarters of land and forgot to tell her. I think it was Laurie Winzoski who bumped into Pauline at the post office and said, “So you bought some more land” and Pauline said, “No we didn’t.” At that Laurie laughed and said, “I think you did.”Pauline came home and asked me if we bought 19 quarters of land. “Well, I guess we did” – she was pissed. She told me she didn’t care what I did, but I MUST tell her to ensure she was never again embarrassed in the post office.Well, we bought 20 more quarters, about 10 more times until she no longer cared if I told her. More than one way to skin a cat, I guess.
Through all the aggressive years of building the farm and manufacturing, Pauline continued to be the stable force supporting everyone in the family. I don’t know if the boys ever came home from school and she wasn’t there. Without a doubt, she wanted to be a mother. She had no other interests – period. She often told me, “You know if I have to choose, between you or the boys, you know who I will choose.” That’s why I would never board an overloaded boat with the family because I knew I’d be the one who’d get thrown overboard to save the boat from capsizing.
Pauline and I had a common goal in building our business to pass onto the kids, hoping they had the interest and know-how to run it. They have pretty much taken over now. Pauline didn’t involve herself in the day to day business, but if she sensed there was tension between the boys and me, or between the boys she stepped in to mitigate. She did not tolerate us in a heated dispute. She demanded that we get along, and although I think we all work very well together, she had zero tolerance for raised voices.
I found out after she passed away that she took us aside one by one, and basically made us pledge to work together properly, to cooperate and to never let things get out of control. She was fearful that after she was gone, there would be no one to answer to. I thought she told only me that. Well boys, I’m glad she laid the law down for you too.
Along with all our hard work and accomplishments, we reached a point where we had the wealth to build Pauline her dream home. Again, we were blessed. I am so happy we were able to build Pauline that little castle on the hill for the short time she was able to enjoy it. Every castle has a queen and we lost ours. I can’t describe the feeling of despair I felt when I took her to the hospital, never to return. Pauline designed the entire house with the help of a designer. She always loved the old farmhouse she grew up in and a lot of the styling emulates that. She did all of this by herself, while I was harvesting. All along she wanted a house with a wow factor. Well, finally, after I took the time to look at the sketches, believe me when I saw the roof line, I was the first one to say wow. But she had her mind set, so I added a personal shop to one end and away we went. Can you believe it’s only a three-bedroom house?
Once we were finished building, we walked in the front door and she never came out again. I couldn’t get her to go anywhere with me anymore, but that’s how we rolled – we were both happy. She could now host her family’s Christmas party and my family’s the next day. We had 42 people on her side all sitting at the kitchen table at one time. That was one of her biggest joys.
Another passion of Pauline’s was to travel. While at our vacation home in Arizona, Pauline wanted to take a road trip to Sedona where we stayed in a haunted hotel. FYI she liked stuff like that. Everywhere we travel to, we bump into someone I know, and sure enough we did again. I chatted on the sidewalk for awhile and as I wrapped up the visit I noticed Pauline was nowhere to be found. Looking around, I didn’t spot her, but the friends we visited with said she went into the jewelry store. I said to myself, “Oh no, let’s get her out of there, or I’m going to be looking for a second job when I get home.” But when I went into the store, I couldn’t find her. I went into the next store over, and she wasn’t there either. Now I wondered where she was, I wasn’t worried, I’m sure no one kidnapped her, she’s too stubborn. Then she walked out of the very store I was looking for her in.
I said to her, “Pauline I went in to get you and I couldn’t find you. It’s a small store?” Then she fessed up. “I was in the back room. I wanted to know something about my mother. I had my palms read.” I looked closer and every one of the shops in that area had jewelry store, etc., in big print, but in small print, things like palm reading and card reading. I was bamboozled, that’s why she wanted to go to Sedona in the first place, and of course she couldn’t tell me that because she wouldn’t get me there. Then she looked me in the eyes as serious as one can be and she said, “I believe in angels, you know.” It was surreal; my body went cold. What she said was embedded in my mind forever. I think she was trying to let me off the hook and prepare me for today. I’m glad she did.
Normally a tribute like this is summed up by the reader making the assumption that god needed Pauline in heaven because there was important work for her to do, and that’s why he took her so soon. But I don’t have to assume that. I know that she is in heaven because she went to hell and back down here on earth. We were all there to witness that.
A Tribute to Pauline by Jade Austin Hruska
Our mom was an amazing woman. Sawyer, Cassidy, and I are incredibly lucky to have had the best mother in the world. Somehow, mom took a group of 4 men with personalities as big as mountains and opinions just as immovable, and she made us a family. She was there when times were tough and always saw our potential even when no one else did, not even us. When I didn’t know if I would find my way in life, she believed in me and knew I would. When I was away at university, she was always there to hear my problems. Mom had an unparalleled devotion to her boys. My brothers and I always came first. She said if there was a burning house and she had to choose between saving Kevin or us, she would pick us without a second thought. Still, after witnessing the immense strength she showed over the past 2 years, not only would she be running out of that house with her three boys in one arm, I’m sure she would be using the other to drag Kevin out by his leg. Mom loved us all dearly, but she also had a sweet spot for all children. When talking about her dream job, she told me that she would like to help less fortunate children in any way she could.
She was not just your normal mom, she may have been small, but all of my friends thought she was a badass and I agree. She would happily drive her boys around in her big SUV with souped-up rims and blasting rap music. She enjoyed driving Sawyer to hockey, and Cass and I to 4h. She also loved giving out candy on Halloween. If there is one thing everyone knows about our mother, it's that she loved Halloween. So much so that I think the creepy decorations were actually pointed towards the inside of the house. Needless to say. With all the faces in the windows and motion sensor skeletons, I decided a midnight snack during Halloween season wasn’t worth a new pair of underwear.
The Tibetan Monks have a ritual. The monks spend weeks pouring small amounts of coloured sand to make a beautiful geometric picture called a Mandela. It takes time, effort, skill, and patience. When the Mandela is completed the monks hold a viewing. People get the opportunity to witness Not just the face value beauty of the Mandela but recognize the struggle and pain that went into the Mandela to make it beautiful. After the viewing, the Mandela is destroyed, it’s gathered up, put into a jar and wrapped in silk. Finally, the jar is sent down a river never to be seen again. This ritual is meant to demonstrate the impermanence of life. How all life must come to an end. But, I think there is more to it. I think the beauty of the Mandela is derived from the effort and hardships in its creation and how it affects us. Furthermore, there is great value in the opportunity to be one of the select few to witness this creation. In that same way I know we are lucky to have had our mother in our lives. She is our Mandela. Her strength and beauty will have a lasting effect on all of us even after she is gone, and So as we gather here today to remember our mother and say our goodbyes, lets not only grieve for the loss of an amazing woman but we should also cry with tears of joy for being lucky enough to have had our mom in our lives. Our mom has shaped us into the men we are today and therefore everything Sawyer, Cassidy, and I do from now on will be in honor of our mother.
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