She wasn’t born in the happiest circumstances, but you would never have known. She was one of those people who radiate a glow, and recount life’s difficulties with gracious acceptance. Bullets whizzed by as she fled war-torn Lithuania as a child. She witnessed the bombing of Dresden from a nearby refugee camp where, as a mischievous imp, she survived three years of prescribed full glasses of cod liver oil and lice-killing DDT showers. Old WWII photos show a thin little body and a big grin.
Lately, hobbling with various canes and walkers, she questioned the wisdom of further public investment in new body parts. Parkinson’s disease had stilled her crochet needles. And somewhat unexpectedly, with cabbage rolls already made for a granddaughter’s birthday dinner, Aldona Žalnieriunas (née Ropyte) died early February 11, 2019.
“But I died in my bed, in my own home,” she would have happily said. “Just what I wanted.”
Aldona was clear eyed about death, torn between leaving her children and their offspring (she was happiest with a well-stocked fridge and family crowded around her dining table), and joining the love of her life, Victor. They met at a wedding in the 1950s, danced all night, and never parted until Victor died from cancer, stretching out his life as promised until the eve of their 55th wedding anniversary. They were a romantic, through thick and thin couple, dancing to scratchy records, scrimping to pay the mortgage, cuddling on the sofa. Victor liked to bring her fresh-cut roses from the garden.
She arrived in Canada, thanks to her brother Algis paying for airfare, with little more than being able to sing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” Undaunted, she worked nights for many years in a plastics factory to help provide for her three beloved children, Rimant (Ray), Vida and Paul. Later she welcomed their respective spouses, Colette, Richard and Naida, with open arms, and many food offerings. Grandchildren were her biggest delight: Anna (who offered tremendous home support) and Alix; Daiva and Žara; Rhea, and her children, Nathan, Wyatt and wee Aria.
Aldona, who would have turned 86 on February 26, was a champion cake baker (she set a record of 14 cakes for Daiva’s and Graham’s wedding and was particularly known in the Lithuanian community for her Napoleonas cake), she starred in the film Lewis, set a high standard for doing things right even if it meant exhausting herself, loved the colour purple, fine crystal glasses, classic pearls and amber jewellery, getting lost in a book, cheeseburgers, Gamay Noir, and touring her flower gardens. She was loving and much loved. Aldute, gero vėjo!
Visitation will take place Friday, February 15, 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm at Ward Funeral Home, 2035 Weston Road. The funeral will be held Saturday, February 16 at noon at Lithuanian Martyrs’ Church, 2185 Stavebank Rd., Mississauga. Donations to Parkinson Canada will be gratefully accepted.