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MIKULAK, Shelagh Loretta (nee Neary)

March 6, 1953 – Dublin, Ireland
July 14, 2013 – Calgary, Alberta

I could not stay another day,
To love, to laugh, to work or play
Tasks left undone must stay that way.

At the Calgary home that she loved, surrounded by the family she loved, her heart embraced by the touch of the hand of Murray, the husband she loved, Shelagh Mikulak has passed away after a heroic struggle with the ravages of a terrible disease. She was only 60 years old and her departure was far too premature for her and all who loved her; nonetheless, she lived a full and fruitful personal and professional life.

In 1957, Carmel and Gerald Neary left their home in Ireland to make a new life in Calgary with their daughters, Shelagh and Dara. Two more girls, Geraldine and Donna, were born in short succession. The family embodied the classic immigrant success story in that they prospered and all four girls grew up to embrace the opportunities on offer in their new homeland. In Shelagh, the principled rebelliousness of her Irish heritage fused with the Albertan spirit of pioneering enterprise to forge an ambitious, determined, tenacious character with a zest for life, a strong work ethic, a mighty heart and an enormous capacity to love.

And if my parting has left a void
Then fill it with remembered joy.

She loved books and reading and decided early in life that she wanted to be a librarian. She earned a BA in English (with Distinction) from the University of Calgary, and a Masters Degree in Library Science from the University of British Columbia. She went to work at the University of Calgary library, where she was one of Alan MacDonald’s cadre of feisty, opinionated and clever young go-getters. While she was involved in many U of C initiatives, the legacy she was most proud was the Business Library in Scurfield Hall (Haskayne School of Business).

After 18 years at the U of C she was ready to seek new challenges and she headed downtown to Bennett Jones, one of Canada’s premier business law firms, where she provided energetic leadership. Sometimes willful and always passionate, she was supportive of her staff, providing them with mentoring and opportunities. The last major project which benefited from her vision and hard work was the creation of BenNet, the firm’s intranet which was recognized with the Nielsen Norman Intranet Design Award in an international competition. In 2012, in acknowledgement of her formidable leadership abilities, the Calgary Law Library Group dedicated a Leadership Award in her name to be awarded annually.

A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss
Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.
My life’s been full, I’ve savoured much
Good times, good friends, a loved-one’s touch.

She was married to Murray for 39 happy years. Like all couples they faced their trials together, not least of which was the ten long years they waited for their son Sean to enter their lives, bringing with him joy and love. More fulfillment came three years later with the arrival of Kevin. She loved her boys profoundly and was immensely proud of the fine men they have become, and her family was enhanced yet again when Kevin married Alexandra.

Shelagh loved Calgary and retained a strong affection for her Irish roots but her favourite location was the family retreat at Duck Lake, Montana, which became her sanctuary and the place to which she removed herself to read, to rest, to contemplate and to become reenergized.

A devout feminist, she worked assiduously to promote the ordination of women to priesthood in the Catholic Church. She was a devoted member of the Saint Brigid of Kildare Catholic Faith Community and a supporter of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an international group seeking to reform the Church. Implacably opposed to injustice and unfairness, she was a formidable campaigner and she encouraged others to question misguided allegiance to the status quo.

Tragedy struck in November 2010 when she was diagnosed with ALS. This was the most daunting challenge of her life but she stepped up to the plate and confronted her fate with resilience, courage, grace and true grit. She was supported magnificently by her family, friends, colleagues, the Adult and Palliative Home Care teams from Alberta Health Services, and most notably, the ALS Society of Alberta (especially Jane Rivest and Megan Blomfield). Special mention must go to the wonderful Tina Lorenzo, Shelagh’s constant caregiver, for her professional skills, her unwavering devotion to duty and her unstinting kindness.

Shelagh faced her final days and hours with her customary consideration for loved ones and with a fortitude that was inspirational.

Such was her life and such was her death.
She will be missed.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief
Don’t shorten yours with undue grief
Be not be burdened with tears of sorrow
Enjoy the sunshine of the morrow.

A Celebration of Shelagh’s Life will take place at 10:30AM, Tuesday July 23, 2013 at St. David’s United Church, 3303 – Capitol Hill Cres. NW, Calgary, AB with a funeral mass celebrated by the Pastor of St. Brigid of Kildare Catholic Faith Community. At Shelagh’s request, please wear bright colours! In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the ALS Society of Alberta, #250, 4723 – 1st Street SW, Calgary Alberta T2G 4Y8.

In living memory of Shelagh Mikulak, a tree will be planted at Hill Springs Park Cochrane by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Crowfoot Chapel, 82 CROWFOOT CIRCLE N.W. Telephone: (403) 241-0044.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Parvin Mohamed :

    Hi Donna & family

    Please accept our deepest sympathy on your loss. May God bless you and your family and give you all the strength and the courage you need in this very sad and difficult time.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Take care

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  2. Kimberley Oliver :

    My deepest sympathy to the Mikulak and Neary families. Shelagh will be greatly missed.

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  3. Kristen Read :

    Murray, Sean and Kevin – your wife and mom had a profound impact on many people, myself included. I worked with her when I was an assistant at Bennett Jones and she encouraged my application to law school. When I was admitted to law school, she gave me a legal research book as a gift, and I was so touched and appreciative of her support. I will always remember Shelagh for her kindness, great sense of humour, intelligence, and enthusiasm. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  4. My colleagues at Bennett Jones informed me of Sheelagh’s passing. I am so sorry Hugh and Carmel that you have to suffer this sorrow. I know the lovely lady she was as did everyone else at Bennett Jones and her great spirit will be remembered by all. God Bless you both, Sheelagh’s husband and children and take care. Kind regards Emer Parte (now in Victoria B.C.).

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  5. Carol Brewis :

    Please know my thoughts are with you and your family during this sad time.
    The wonderful obituary leaves no doubt that your sister was a dymanic, caring and highly accomplished individual.
    Sincerest sympathy,

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  6. Peter & Jean Saunders :

    Murray and family,

    You are in our thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time. May God be with you.

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  7. Our paths crossed briefly as I work for a publisher that Bennett Jones deals with. I had the pleasure of meeting Shelagh once here in Toronto as she was involved in a library committee that worked with vendors. Shelagh was a lovely person to work with and her courage in facing such a terrible disease was nothing short of remarkable. An inspiration to all. I am so very sorry for your loss.

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  8. John Cordeau :

    Dear Murray and family,

    Your beloved Shelagh was one of those special people who others come to know as inspiring for the way they live their lives. I and Board colleagues had the privilege of working with Shelagh for many years. Always an example of class, competence, liveliness, and compassion to others how blessed we were to have her with us. It was always fun to see you Murray and Shelagh attend our firm functions. So many positive memories. You both added so much to a collegial atmosphere. To you children always remember that your mother’s courage and positiveness in facing her illness is the character of legends. It simply does not get any more inspiring. No doubt Shelagh got strength from you all. May the happy memories of your times together sustain you at this time. God bless you all and thank you for sharing your wonderful wife and mother with us.

    John Cordeau

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  9. Ted Mieszkalski and Family :

    Dear Murray:

    Deeply saddened to learn of Shelagh’s passing, but know she is now with God at peace and at rest.

    We keep you and your family in our thoughts, and pray for your peace during this time of grief.

    Heartfelt sympathy.

    Mieszkalski Family

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  10. Irene Pfeiffer :

    Murray my heart goes out to you on the passing of your dear wife. Having lost John 11 years ago I know the loss deeply. Know that you are not walking alone and my prayers are with you.

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  11. Judy Harvie :

    Today is a typical rainy Irish day to celebrate the life of Shelagh, my dear friend and colleague. My heart goes out to you Murray, Kevin, Sean and family please know that I have gained so much from knowing Shelagh. Murray, you and your family have been an inspiration to so many people. God bless all of you. Judy

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  12. Ginny Schultz :

    Kevin, I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. I had the honour of meeting her at your’s and Alex’s wedding and I was charmed by your mom.

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  13. Jennifer King :

    Shelagh is an inspiration to me. Her joyfulness, kindness, patience, determination and courage are rarely seen in this world. My condolences to her family and dear friends.
    Peace be with you. Jennfer

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