LYSACK, Allan Martin, B.A., M.D., FRCSC, C.M.
March 12, 1933 - February 3, 2021
Dr. Allan Lysack died peacefully in Dauphin February 3, 2021. He was 87 years old.
Dr. Lysack was a pillar of the community. He was a loving husband and a dedicated father to his 6 children and served as a mentor, encourager, and example to all. At the time of his passing his wife Shirley, youngest daughter Elizabeth, and eldest son David were by his side. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends and remembered for his kind and gentle spirit, generous and loving heart, as well as his strong work ethic as a surgeon for 50 years.
Allan Lysack had a good life. In 1929 his family immigrated to Canada and settled on a farm in Minitonas, near Swan River, Manitoba. They arrived with very little, but in time were blessed with a large family, including Allan, who was born to Martin and Dorothea in 1933, the youngest of 10 children in a strong Ukrainian Baptist family. Their Christian faith would carry them through the hardships of immigrant life and this same faith stayed with him his entire life.
Al Lysack loved to tell stories and told many: how his dog saved his life when he got chased by a bull at age 5 by allowing him to scramble under the fence; how he managed, at age 11, to save the preacher’s wife by pushing her high up in a tree when she was chased by a black bear while picking berries; and how he survived a “kangaroo court” in high school when the teacher thought punches thrown on the schoolyard against a bully were unjustified-he was vindicated. These stories remind us of how much he loved animals, being outside, and how he took pride in standing up for and fighting for what is right. Many of his stories from childhood included horses that always came to the rescue when needed, once pulling a heavy wagon load of logs off his own father and saving his life. Dad always admired the intelligence and hard work of horses-things he emulated too. The dangers of his early life provided material for storytelling for the rest of his life.
His stories also revealed his love of the natural world and often, birds, which he found particularly fascinating. A typical dinner conversation, especially over a holiday meal when he didn’t have to run back to the hospital, included interesting “test questions”. While often aimed at his children, it was always more interesting when these questions were directed at a potential suitor or newly married spouse of one of his children-and even better, when sprung on unsuspecting visiting medical students. “Do you know how often a hummingbird flaps its wings in 10 seconds?” ; “What is the top speed of a cougar running downhill?” It was not unusual to have to consult the World Book Encyclopedia or the family shelf of National Geographic magazines to settle the facts of the animated discussions that would always ensue.
Al Lysack loved getting on the land whenever he could, and loved nothing more than to jump on the tractor to plow, or harvest. Many in Dauphin will remember his annual effort to put up “stooks” with an old binder and then harvest those sheaves of wheat with his prized antique Red River Special threshing machine. Those huge piles of straw from harvesting that wheat were a tremendously fun by-product. The Lysack kids-and at various times their cousins and friends, enjoyed building forts and sliding down the huge straw hill. And then, later in the year, to have a huge “burning”-often close to Christmas -- something the grandkids found highly entertaining.
Al and Shirley felt blessed to have grown up on farms. They brought all the good things of farm life to their children and grandchildren’s lives. Choosing to work in Dauphin allowed Allan and Shirley to start their own farm a few miles from town where they have lived together for the past 45 years.
Allan’s education began on the farm and continued in the one-roomed Lidstone School he attended as a boy. Always a hard-working student, he excelled at academics, and after graduating from high school he starting teaching in a one-room school. He often told the story about that year, and how his lodgings were so cold that when he woke up in the morning the water in his glass on the counter was frozen. Perhaps the poorly insulated accommodations and the size of his grade 12 students convinced him that being a country schoolteacher was not for him. Before long he was off to Winnipeg to study agriculture at the University of Manitoba but he couldn’t understand why you would study something you already knew most everything about. So, he promptly quit after two weeks or so. A year later he returned to university and soon found medicine.
Allan Lysack was fortunate to find a career that challenged him and he enjoyed his work immensely. He excelled throughout medical school, graduating from the University of Manitoba in 1960 before choosing a challenging field of specialization-- surgery. Before long he became the chief surgical resident in Winnipeg. On June 15th, 1961 he married Shirley Barkman of Steinbach, Manitoba, and in 1965 the family moved to Dauphin. It was a locum job, intended to be just a few months long. Maybe Dauphin held on to him? Maybe he realized he didn’t want to be in the big city? Maybe he noticed that there were some nice farms in the area? Living and working in Dauphin afforded the opportunity to be a farmer AND a doctor. In 1976 the family moved to a farm in the country and started a new life that included farmland, big gardens, shelter belts full of weeds, tractors, the Vermillion River and wild things in the woods.
As kids, we all remember lots of days when the boys would be combining or swathing and Dad would be called to the hospital. Dave or John would keep going with the combine. Dad would go to the hospital in his dirty farm clothes and come back wearing the same clothes. Presumably the nurses reminded him to change before going into the operating room! Then he would come back and see how the boys were doing on the farm. He knew he was lucky to have two vocations and he loved them both.
Allan Lysack “the doctor” was a member of the Dauphin General Hospital Medical staff from 1965 to 2015. The epitome of the rural physician and surgeon, he served the citizens of Dauphin-Swan River to the highest standards, and his contributions to health care in rural Manitoba have benefited countless patients over the years. He helped establish the province's first rural intensive care unit and introduced new surgical procedures. He served on numerous local and provincial medical committees over his 50-year career. In 1997 he was awarded the Physician of the Year Award from the Manitoba Medical Association. As General Surgeon at the Dauphin General Hospital and Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Manitoba, he was a role model and mentor to many young physicians. His lifelong dedication to medicine and his community was recognized in 2012 with Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal awarded by the Governor-General of Canada. He also received Canada’s highest honor for national service when he was inducted as a Member into the Order of Canada in 2003, in recognition of his contribution to rural health care, and being one of the first Royal College trained specialists to establish his career outside of a major urban center.
Allan Lysack was a person of honesty and integrity, he never shied away from hard work, he valued education highly and expected his children to always do their best. He gave a great deal to his children. He made it to untold numbers of volleyball and hockey games, musical concerts and graduations. Sometimes, after his rounds on Wednesday afternoon he took us skiing at Mount Agassiz. Al and Shirl figured since “the hill is right there” the kids had better learn to ski. Also, as young kids, we convinced our Dad to take “the doctor’s cabin job” at Clear Lake, Manitoba. Those were fun times with anatomy adventures too. In later years, Clear Lake retained its importance with a family cabin that we have all continued to enjoy each summer. Much laughter and good food have always been found there. And although Al loved the Lake, the same was not true for water. He didn’t like being on the water or in a boat, and he never learned how to swim. Still, he would drive the boat so we could all learn to water ski. He was always there for his children and grandchildren, encouraging and challenging us to explore, learn, enjoy the outdoors, stay healthy and get enough sleep. To the end of his life, no matter the reason or the season, every phone call included “How is the weather there”? and “Are you getting enough sleep”? He was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather to the end.
Predeceased by his parents Martin and Dorothea, Allan will be deeply missed by his wife Shirley and children Dr. Cathy Lysack (and Dr. Stewart Neufeld, deceased), Margie (deceased) and Dr. Brent Kvern, Dr. David Lysack and Lisa, Dr. John Lysack and Dr. Annalee Coakley, Andrea Lysack, and Dr. Elizabeth Lysack and Shaun McFadyen, and grandchildren Allison, Michael, Stefan (deceased), Anna, Daniel, Mark, Jonathan and Baltazar (Balti). He was predeceased by his older siblings Olga, Nick, Kate, and Sophie and Ann, and will be missed greatly by his surviving siblings Maxym, Victor (and wife Elvira), Michael, and Lily. He will also be remembered by relatives in the Lysack and Barkman families, and many friends and colleagues.
A private family service was held February 6, 2021 in Dauphin, Manitoba. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the family looks forward to a Celebration of Life at a later date.
We wish to thank Dr. Mike Penrose and the nursing staff at the Dauphin Hospital for their compassionate care. The hospital was Al’s second home and knowing he passed his final days peacefully with excellent care brings great comfort. If you wish, a donation in Dr. Allan Lysack’s name can be made to the Dauphin Hospital Foundation. Allan Lysack dedicated a significant part of his life to the Dauphin community and taking good care of people was central to who he was.
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Dauphin General Hospital Foundation
Palliative Care 625-3rd St. SW, Dauphin MB R7N 1R7