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A bright light was extinguished Thursday, May 13, 2021, when Carol Joanne (Gessell) Kolybaba unexpectedly died at Yorkton Regional Health Centre of complications following surgery. A resident of Crooked Lake in the Qu’Appelle Valley, she had just turned 75 on May 6.
Carol is survived by her husband, Wilmer (they were married for almost 55 years); their daughter, Tanya Cameron (James) of Weyburn; granddaughters Taylor of Calgary and Jayda of Weyburn, brothers Paul of Chelsea, Que., and Wesley (Connie) of Regina; and sister Marilyn (Ed) of Regina. Marilyn is known in the family as Carol’s twin sister. They were both born May 6 but 16 years apart. The sisters celebrated their last birthday together in the Yorkton hospital. Carol is also survived by nieces, nephews and other beloved relatives from the extended Kolybaba and Gessell families.
Carol was born in Grenfell in 1946, becoming the first child for Gordon and Dorothy (Chambers) Gessell, who farmed north of the town. The family moved to Strasbourg in 1955, where Carol’s father ran the Pioneer Grain elevator. In Strasbourg, Carol took most of her schooling and met her future husband who, newly arrived in town from Foam Lake, moved into a boarding house just a few doors from the Gessells’ and immediately started courting Carol. Following a year of teacher’s college in Regina and a year of teaching in Fort Qu’appelle, Wilmer and Carol were married August 20, 1966, and moved to Esterhazy, where Carol taught elementary school until her retirement in 1998; she continued to substitute teach for years afterwards. After both Carol and Wilmer retired, they moved to their dream home on the shores of Crooked Lake.
Teaching was not just a job for Carol, it was a vocation. From the time she started Grade 1 in the tiny one-room Sims School north of Grenfell, she wanted to be a teacher and would come home every day to teach younger brother Paul what she had learned that day. Paul played pupil for awhile and then switched to playing cowboys. Carol usually ended up teaching the pretend cowboy’s children.
Teaching was in her genes. Carol’s mother had taught at Sims School and Carol’s daughter Tanya has also enjoyed a successful career teaching in Weyburn. To upgrade her own education, Carol took university courses during the summer and at night for several years to earn her Bachelor of Education. In her later years, she took great pride in the accomplishments of her granddaughters’ academic excellence and memorable theatrical performances.
Carol also had many extracurricular activities of her own, including involvement in the Lutheran church and the Evangelical Lutheran Women. She was active in the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, curled, bowled and golfed for years and thoroughly enjoyed travelling the globe with Wilmer and accompanying him to numerous bonspiels and golf games in which he participated.
Carol was not someone easily defeated. As a young woman she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She immediately vowed to remain as physically active as possible, continuing her full-time teaching job, maintaining a spotless house, being a devoted wife and mother and never complaining about the pain and discomfort of her illness. Upon her retirement at Esterhazy, the school board noted: “She’d be very wealthy if she were paid for sick days not taken during her career.”
Carol Kolybaba will be missed terribly by her family and many friends and former colleagues at Crooked Lake, Esterhazy and beyond. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, a small private funeral was planned for Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Melville.