Community Builders Awards of Excellence

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As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.
~ Bill Gates

 
 

John and Mary Stefura are a wonderful example to the entire community. They represent the generation that transformed post-war Sudbury into a modern Northern Ontario city.

From the John and Mary Stefura Family Fund for the support of the Art Gallery of Sudbury and the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra (SSO), to the architectural skyline of the city and the vibrancy of Sudbury's Ukrainian-Canadian community, the Stefuras' creative and generous presence is all around us.

John Stefura, an architect, has lived in Sudbury all of his life and quietly pursued the values of outstanding citizenship in ways that have helped transform the city.

Mary Stefura's contributions to Sudbury's Ukrainian-Canadian community, and the community as a whole, are second to none. Her honorary degree from Laurentian University in 1993 recognized her role, especially as the founder of the Ukrainian Seniors' Centre in 1988.

John and Mary met at a Ukrainian event in Espanola as teenagers, and have been one of Sudbury's great partnerships for almost 60 years. Nowhere is that more evident than in the buildings and surrounding gardens at the "Ukrainian Junction" of Notre Dame Ave. and Elm St.

Some may remember that Mary founded the Original Canadian Garlic Festival. It wasn't that she loved garlic, although she might, but she needed a fundraiser for her baby, the Ukrainian Seniors' Centre. Her initiative has slipped under the radar over the years, and we all take the festival for granted, perhaps a measure of how much her contributions have become part of the bloodstream of Sudbury.

Like Mary, John is quintessentially a team player. He insists on giving credit to others, but the fact is that until he retired as an architect in 1993, his was the leading hand in shaping many of the buildings at the heart of the life of Sudbury: churches, hospitals, Tom Davies Square, provincial government offices, colleges, downtown retirement complexes and Science North.

His contributions to the community have gone far beyond those of his profession.

John was an infant when his family moved to Sudbury in 1929. His father came from Ukraine to look for work. John's talent, his vision, and belief in the community, were the hallmarks of his career.

As an architect, he developed a vision of Sudbury along with another pioneer, the late Art Townend. They became partners in 1964 and slowly began to put landmarks in the city. They also gave the city the confidence to use in-town architects, to trust its own talent instead of looking to Toronto or Montreal. And for 15 years, John took his vision of the city to the table of the Sudbury Area Planning Board that created a new city out of the rundown post-war urban core. He would have preferred to keep more of our heritage but that was not the mood of the time.

Many who are newcomers to the city and come to be involved in some way with the growth of the cultural and educational assets of the community have found ourselves where John and Mary have broken trail: the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, the Sudbury Theatre Centre (STC), Cambrian College, and the Art Gallery of Sudbury. John and Mary were there in the early days of them all. John was an early president of the SSO, and the architect for the STC building.

I had the good fortune to meet and work with John in 1980 when Science North became a project. John led the local members of the architectural team with a young junior partner, Blaine Nicholls, whom he mentored into leading the firm after he retired.

Science North was widely seen as an outlandish project, beyond the reach of a blackened, moonscape town. John, however, was a quiet and very firm believer. I slowly came to realize, as I learned of his accomplishments, that Science North for John was another step in the evolution of the city that he has helped envision.

At the heart of the city, St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church, with its unmistakable dome cupolas, the adjacent Seniors' Centre, Barvinok-on-the-Park Garden, and Hnatyshyn Park—named after Ray Hnatyshyn, the first Ukrainian-Canadian Governor General, and built to commemorate the contribution of Ukrainian settlers in the Sudbury area—are perhaps the most symbolic of John's and Mary's contributions to Sudbury. They are a celebration of multicultural Canada, a statement of pride on behalf of Ukrainian-Canadians and demonstrate the vision this couple have for their community and their country.

This profile was written by David Pearson who won the Community Builders Award in the Environment category in 2004.



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