June Gislason 1921-2014
June McKnight, born in 1921, lived on the family farm, and completed her education in Homewood, Manitoba. She moved to Winnipeg where she earned both her teacher's and principal's certificate. Her first teaching position was at Steep Rock in 1940.
She met her husband Thor during her time at Steep Rock. Thor's family was Unitarian. The couple was married in 1943 by Rev. Phillip Peturson, the long time minister of the church. The family moved to several places in Manitoba. In 1954 with their four children they moved to Winnipeg.
June continued to teach and earned her bachelor's degree in 1975 when she was 54 years old. She was a dedicated teacher and was recognized by the Canadian College of Teachers in 1981 as 'Teacher of the Year" in Manitoba. She developed and piloted a number of innovative programs which resulted in her being described as 'The teacher's measure of a teacher."
June was a long-time member of the Unitarian Church. She contributed to the Religious Education Program (RE). In the mid eighties she was a teacher and chair of the RE committee. During an interim between appointments, she also served as Director of Religious Education.
June's most treasured contribution was the founding and managing the Winnipeg Harvest sponsored food bank at the church. She began in 1991 at the Banning street church and continued in the current building. She fought and sought support for the food bank to continue in the new building. Many come to the church on Thursday mornings. Every two weeks up to one hundred and fifty individuals or families currently benefit from the food depot at the church.
She was concerned about social justice and the rights of all but especially children. She worked to insure that all the families with children received milk and began the 'orange appeal' program. Annual donations from the church congregation allow for each family attending the Harvest Depot to receive boxes of oranges, based on their family size, at Christmas time. The program continues to this day. June actively participated in Harvest until she became too ill after her stroke in 2011. Her philosophy is still very much acknowledged in the running of the food bank, which is one of welcoming, mutual respect, and involving individuals in the food bank operations.
She continued her association with Steep Rock and later many happy times with friends and family were spent at the family cottage in Steep Rock.
June was an active member of a book group and continued to participate with the help of her family until her last year. She was devoted to Canadian literature and had strong views on her chosen favourite authors. She loved poetry and had a broad knowledge of it. June especially appreciated poetry being read to her after her stroke. She was also devoted to her garden and flowers.
In 1998, June received the Unitarian Social Justice Award for her contributions. June set an example for all of us for her dedication to social justice principles and her example of living her beliefs. She is missed but the Harvest Depot at the church continues as her legacy.
The author thanks June's Daughter, Beth Gislason Ritcher and Brian Klowak for their help.