Helen Genik
Helen Genik
Birth: 18 March 1913
Paulson, Manitoba, Canada
Death: 5 January 2021
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Age: 107 years, 293 days
Country: CanadaCAN

Helen Genik (née Sawchyn; 18 March 1913 – 5 January 2021) was a Canadian centenarian who was one of the oldest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Early Life

Genik was born on 18 March 1913 in Paulson, Manitoba, Canada to Ukrainian immigrants Paul and Alphonsa (née Halasowska) Sawchyn. She had five brothers. In 1917, the family moved to Sifton, Manitoba where they farmed and raised sheep. Genik's grandmother taught her how to knit from the wool she would clean, card, and spin into yarn, and by the age of nine she was knitting socks, sweaters, scarves, and toques.

Genik finished school after the eighth grade, and spent the next two years working on the farm, picking stones from the fields, tending the vegetable plots, and canning and preserving food. As a teenager, she would sneak out of her parents’ house to attend local dances. It was at one of these dances in 1929 that she her future husband, Stephen Genik. They married in 1930 and had a daughter, Ariel, in 1931.


During the Second World War, while her husband was away building ships in Vancouver for the war effort, Genik ran the post office in Sifton, Manitoba, and also knitted socks for the soldiers. After the war ended, because of her talent for knitting, she was asked to test knitting patterns for the Mary Maxim Wool Company before the patterns were released to the general public for sale. She did this for many years before becoming a knitting consultant for the company.

Genik's job required her to travel all over Canada, the United States, and Europe, seeking out new designs for knitting patterns for the Canadian market. She would attend the Canadian National Exhibition each year in Toronto to demonstrate new patterns for the company. When Mary Maxim relocated to Paris, Ontario, Genik and her husband also moved there so that she could continue her work with the company.

Later Life and Death

After her retirement, Genik and her husband travelled to Lakeland, Florida every winter. After her husband's death in 1996, Genik continued to travel to Florida with family, and also went on several Caribbean cruises. She enjoyed knitting mittens, hats, and scarves for her family members.

Genik spent the last 11 years of her life in a nursing home in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She died due to complications of COVID-19 on 5 January 2021 at the age of 107 years, 293 days, making her one of the oldest victims of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of her death, she had two grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren.


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